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Understanding Death

created at: 2010/09/23

Death and dying are natural parts of our life. It is a time that is surrounded with uncertainty and mystery. Death is the cessation of life, of breath, of vital bodily functions. It is also a time of completion, of expressing how much our pets mean to us, what they have given our lives and how we can best fulfil our duty of care towards them and the other animals and people who love them. It is a time to honour and celebrate what our pets have given to our lives, and to provide a foundation from which to grieve them and continue to integrate the end of their lives into the continuation of ours.

Ageing, illness and dying are not always clearly signposted. Often when the dying begins, say with the diagnosis of a certain condition, the reality of the death of our pet begins to register. This is most often a time of anticipation, fear, uncertainty, complex choices and decisions about treatment, operations and time-consuming care. There are often many people involved in the death of a pet all possibly with different needs. Managing varied and contradictory needs is a stressful part of the dying process. One of the imperatives for those of us whose pets are significant others and key members of our family, is to understand the importance of this time in all of your lives.

No one can predict the time of death, how long your pet lives is part of the shared uncertainty of this time. However having a practical guide through this time is immensely useful. Responding to these questions, before or as your pets quality of life and capacities are reduced will go some way to supporting you both as you travel through uncertain territory. 

What does a good death look like for your pet?

What are your fears about their death- for you and for them?

In what ways will you farewell and honour your pet?

In the time after they have died, what will be important to you about how it was carried out?

Author Victoria Spence

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