A Day We All Will Face


Choppity!- (means, 'Hurry- up! Let's go!')
Barked: Sat Feb 3, '07 8:19pm PST 
This is an article written by Dan Green and is reprinted with his permission.

A Day We All Will Face
by Dan Green

There is a day coming that as pet owners we all will face. I hope for everyone reading this that day will be 100 years from now. My intent is not to diminish the joy of having your own special family member, but rather to help everyone who will eventually lose their pet. Whether it is a Greyhound, AKC-registered breed or plain old mutt, they are all an important part of our family, and the loss of them can be devastating. The grieving process affects each person differently and the timeframe for each is very different. I have had the pleasure of having Greyhounds as part of my family since 1997, when I adopted my first, Agatha. Since then, Snowflake, Kona and our most recent addition, Sin, have joined our family. With the passing of Agatha and Snowflake, I had to make some very difficult decisions, decisions we as humans should not have to make, but are forced to as these beautiful, loving creatures depend on us from their most basic needs to taking care of them up to the time of their death. This article is written in honor of Agatha, Snowy, and all the other hounds out there that have crossed the bridge. Its purpose is to explain the choices and difficult decisions you may be faced with and provide you and your family with information that you may find helpful in the future, when you are faced with these difficult choices.

Dignity and Quality of Life
Coming from a family where my Dad was a Funeral Director (mortician), I am not new to death or the preparation of the family member that has passed. In the funeral home industry, first and foremost, the importance of preserving a person's quality of life and dignity while they are alive is stressed. After the loved one's passing, dignity becomes extremely important when handling the body and memorializing the person who has passed. When it comes to our beloved pets, we all should be concerned with their quality of life and their dignity.

In the few short years that we had Agatha and Snowy, we were faced with each of them getting sick and having to make the choice to have them euthanized. This is one of the most heartbreaking, guilt-ridden, and difficult decisions we have ever had to make, and I hope that your babies live to a ripe OLD age, peacefully crossing the bridge in your arms or by your side while they sleep. Many people will tell you that your pet will "let you know when they are ready to go." You will always want to keep them longer, because you love them so very much. With Agatha, we probably kept her around longer than she wanted to be here, but she did most certainly "tell" us when it was her time.

Agatha's quality of life had suffered to the point where she could no longer go outside by herself and had to be carried. She had lost a considerable amount of weight and would no longer eat. We literally would feed her anything we thought she would like-from chicken to filet mignon-we tried everything. She was simply too sick to eat. In having to carry her outside to go to the bathroom I feel, and now know, that her dignity was compromised. Of course, we tried everything medically to keep Agatha with us, and to giver her time to heal.

With Snowy, it was a little different. He was diagnosed with Lymphoma, but appeared to bounce back after his first few chemo treatments. Unfortunately, the chemo also took its toll on other parts of his body, and once he had completed all of his treatments, he slowly started slipping away physically. Both Agatha and Snowy were mentally alert and cognizant as to what was going on. This is why both times the decision was so hard to make. I did know that we could have kept Snowy around longer. I also knew that whatever was attacking him had paralyzed his rear legs, and he would not be able to run and play-something Greyhounds love to do. Once again, quality of life and dignity entered into play. The choice to euthanize your baby is hard. Your love wants to keep them forever. However, it is the love that we had for both Agatha and Snowy that ultimately helped us make this most difficult decision.

Please, when you have a pet that is suffering, know that the ultimate love for your baby is shown by releasing them from pain and suffering and a poor quality of life. Give them back their dignity by letting them once again be whole by crossing the bridge. It is one of the hardest choices you will ever have to make, but they will be free of pain and will be waiting for you at the bridge.

Choices in Death and After Death
Each person's choice is different when it comes to having to choose to euthanize your pet. Some would like to be there to comfort and love them up until the last second. Some would not like to see them pass because it is too painful to experience. For me, I wanted to be there to hold Agatha and Snowy; to tell them one last time that I loved them, and make sure they were not alone for the start of their journey to the bridge. It is a personal choice you alone will have to make if and when you are faced with it. I learned a lot from Agatha that helped me in dealing with losing Snowy. The most important thing I learned was what to do with your baby after his or her passing.

Today we are fortunate because there are far more options available to us than there have been in the past. You can still bury your pet in a special place, if local ordinances allow it. Cremation is also available at a very reasonable price. For some, simply having the vet handle it will be their preference. Since 2000, a lot has changed in regards to handling the remains of your pet. With Agatha, we chose an individual cremation, with her ashes being returned to us. We purchased an urn for them and have them in our home, where we feel Agatha is still close to us.

Vets also offer a limited variety of choices at their offices. Some of these choices are listed below. Of course, pricing is different for each one:
a. The vet will contact a service who will be responsible for his/her burial in a Pet Cemetery.
b. The vet has an agreement with an independent service that will cremate your pet along with others, and scatter their remains at a Pet Cemetery.
c. The vet has an agreement with an independent service that will cremate your pet individually and return their remains to you.
d. You may choose to take your pet and do what you wish with him/her. Perhaps burying him/her at a family farm, etc.

In choosing the option to have your vet handle your pet after death, the one thing I have learned is that the service they may use does not come immediately to pick up your pet. This is where being brought up in a Funeral Director home kicked in for me. What do they do with your pet until the service arrives to pick them up? The harsh reality is this; they refrigerate
or freeze them. To me, this did not honor the love that my pet gave me, nor did it keep in line with the respect and dignity my pet deserved.

I recently discovered a business in the Indianapolis area that is, for a lack of a better term, a "Pet Funeral Home." The place I am speaking of is called Pet Angel Memorial Center. I found them by a fluke when I was visiting my vet's office before Snowy died. I spotted an article about them on the service counter, and it peaked my interest. After reading it, I wrote down their website information, contacted them, and found out that they do for pets what we do for people. My kind of place! Pet Angel offers the following services:
a. Various Visitation and Funeral Ceremony Options
b. Burial
c. Cremation
d. Caskets and Urns
e. Personalized Art Pieces
f. Remembrance Cards
g. Personalized Notes
h. Grief Support Information

What did Pet Angel do for me that was different from my experience with the vet? Well, the last memory I have of Agatha is the image of her lying on a cold, metal examination table at the emergency clinic. That memory is not how I wanted to remember her forever.

Snowy was euthanized while lying on a towel on the floor of an examination room. I had hoped to have him euthanized in the comfort of our own home. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, things do not always work out as planned. Immediately after Snowy's passing, I had the vet contact Pet Angel. They came to the vet within 45 minutes of his passing and picked him up. They are on call 24/7-just like a funeral home. They handled him in a respectable manner by wrapping him in a blanket and carrying him out to their vehicle, as though he was still with us. They called me that same evening to discuss how I wished to have Snowy taken care of. I chose an individual cremation and urn. I also asked if my wife and I could visit him the next day before he was cremated. We had no idea what to expect. When we arrived at Pet Angel, we received a warm welcome from Coleen, a very compassionate and caring person who had experienced this same type of loss, and could relate to our pain and grief. She led us back to a room to see Snowy. The room was warm and cozy, with an atmosphere similar to that of a family room. Snowy was placed lovingly in a casket lined with a warm, soft blanket. He looked as though he was sleeping peacefully. This is how we wanted to remember Snowy; not on a hard, cold floor at the vet's office. We were even permitted to bring his brother, Kona, with us to see him one last time. We feel this helped Kona know where Snowy was and would stop his looking for him at home. It is never easy to say goodbye, but being able to see Snowy just one more time brought us comfort and peace of mind; It helped us tremendously.

After our visitation, Coleen immediately took Snowy to be cremated. He was returned to us in a beautiful urn two days after his passing. (In Agatha's case, she was not picked up from the vet's office until two weeks after her passing.) I cannot say enough about Coleen and Pet Angel. My family thinks I am nuts (except my dad). He knows that in celebrating life, part of that celebration is in giving respect and dignity at death. I truly adopted that belief from him and will always love, honor, respect, and dignify my pets in life and in death.

If you live in Indiana and would like to contact Pet Angel:

Pet Angel Memorial Center
172 East Carmel Drive, Carmel, Indiana 46032
Office (317) 569-6000 Fax (317) 569-9910