Emotional Support for You
Information to Help You
Because our pets are such an integral part of our daily life, the grief experienced upon the loss of your pet may even be more intense than grief occuring during the loss of a human family member. I invite you to read an article by Elizabeth Babcock LCSW, LLC at Grief: What All Mourners Need to Know.
A Review and Excerpt from Speaking for Spot by Dr. Nancy Kay
Speaking for Spot: Be The Advocate Your Dog Needs To Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, Dr. Nancy Kay, 2008, Trafalgar Square
During the conversations that I have with families leading up to the decision of euthanasia, we talk about the illness, disease or situation that is leading to the end of their pet’s life. Oftentimes, families struggle with guilt, wondering if they have done everything they “should”. Having this book as a resource would be a comfort during such uncertain times.
“Speaking For Spot” strives to provide anatomy, diagnosis, treatment and outcome information on a number of common canine medical concerns. Dr Kay wrote the book to help pet families understand what is available and possible to treat their dog.
The book details numerous diagnostic and treatment options that are available, helping those of us who are not vets understand what is happening and what can be done. She explains the types of tests and where they are typically found.
She had established a “Ten Commandments of Veterinary Office Visits” that is useful no matter what type of pet you care for and love. Knowing how to maximize the time you spend with your vet helps you leave the office feeling not only that your financial expenditure was worthwhile but that you are an integral part of your pet’s care.
In my experience, families who receive the diagnosis of cancer are both terrified and overwhelmed. While it often appears to be a death sentence, Dr. Kay encourages families to consider their options while keeping in mind that a decision to treat cancer should balance the quality of life with the quantity of life.
When she is working with a family who is struggling with the decision to euthanize a pet, she recommends that they ask themselves the following four questions:
- Does you pet still have an enthusiastic response to something or someone?
- Do the good days outnumber the bad?
- What do your pet’s eyes/soul seem to be saying to you?
- Are you ready to let your pet leave you?
Dr. Kay has coined the phrase “closure time” to refer to the time that exists between the decision to euthanize and the day the euthanasia actually takes place. She encourages families to ignore all the rules that they normally lived by with their pet and enjoy whatever they feel their pet would enjoy – a forbidden food, an off limits activity or just spending a concentrated number of hours laying about and loving them.
She offers information and advice about the euthanasia process which will help a family feel more prepared, knowing what to expect. Thinking about how to incorporate young children into the decision and the process, she emphasizes the need to honestly explain what is happening and reminds us that kids are the best lie detectors.
Finally, she discusses the concept of hospice care as an alternative to euthanasia. Families need to consider the time commitment that this choice entails. In the Pittsburgh area, we are fortunate to have a traveling veterinarian whose practice is dedicated to pet hospice care. (See the Resources page for name and contact information.)
For all the stage of your life with your dog, this book is an invaluable manual that all dog owners should read and keep handy for reference. If you have a pet other than a dog, there are many parts of this book that apply across all types of pets. We can only hope that “Talking for Tabby” is her next endeavor.
There are some incredibly useful charts and worksheets in her website www.speakingforspot.com I highly recommend this book—it is a great place to start when you have a medical question or concern.
Cat Heaven and Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant, two books I regularly recommend
Especially when children are involved, these two books help to explain and ease the pain of loss.