Departed Friend Newsletter no. 52 – December 2013

SEASON’S GREETINGS

52.  Mumia

This is a “Bumper Edition” as there was no newsletter   in September.  From now on, it may not   be possible to produce regular 3-monthly newsletters, but they will continue   on a slightly irregular basis.    However, the service remains the same, so please do get in touch if   you need help.  Details available on   request

Tribute to MUMIA

It is the end of an era.  On 12 September 2013, we had to say goodbye to Mumia, the last remaining sister in the litter of 1995, from my son’s cat.  (See also Newsletters nos. 46 and 47 for tributes to her sisters, Poppsy and Krishna).

I always thought Mumia would go first, as the others seemed more robust, but she outlived them all.  (Her sister Prissie went first, aged 12, then Poppsy and Krishna aged 16).  Mumia reached the grand age of 18 years and 3 months, about 88 in human terms.

When she was very young, she had those round, staring eyes that some kittens have, and she was very cheeky.  I remember repeatedly spraying her with a soft jet of water to discourage her from eating my plants, but she just stared at me, getting wetter and wetter; I rather think she enjoyed it!  She did not stop eating the plants till she grew out of it of her own accord.

She was one of the glossiest and most prettily-marked cats I have ever seen.

She was quiet but managed to get her own way by subtle means.  Like her sisters, she objected to being picked up but condescended to be stroked and made a fuss of.  I think there might have been feral blood in them, as they were rather manic – and affectionate only on their terms.

As she grew older, she remained beautiful but developed some health problems, including hyperthyroidism, for which she had tablets.  I managed to persuade her to eat them by disguising them in cheese spread or vegetarian yeast pâté, both of which she loved.  She got wise to this, however, and sometimes refused to eat the mouthful which had the tablet in.  I then had to resort to the ‘old-fashioned’ way of shoving the tablet down her throat.  This did not hurt her, but was an affront to her dignity.  She Was Not Amused.

In her later years she gradually developed a habit of miaouwing constantly, for no apparent reason, which vets believe is characteristic of a condition equivalent to a kind of dementia in humans.  She also required feeding, instead of twice a day, ‘little and often’ – very often.  Five minutes after nibbling at her tea, she would demand more – and five minutes after that, virtually all evening – starting up at exactly the same moment as particular television programmes we wanted to watch! (We could not leave food down for her to browse at leisure, as Henry and Sammie would vacuum it up and they need to watch their weight).

52. Mumia blanketed

Hyperthyroid cats feel the cold, so Mumia was delighted when we got her 2 heated blankets – one for upstairs and one for downstairs.  Imagine her outrage when she discovered one day during the Summer heatwave that I had Taken Them Away! Her angry miaouw demanded that I reinstate them – at once.

Gradually her appetite began to diminish and she grew quieter.  She took to sitting on the settee with her front half raised and her front paws on the armrest.  I wondered afterwards whether this was an indication of the beginning of the end.

Her breathing became laboured and we had to take her to the emergency vet one expensive weekend.  While in the surgery, her breathing returned to normal.

To our relief, tests showed nothing untoward in her lungs and heart, and no tumours were felt. The vet advised a check-up at our usual practice, so we took her the following day.  Her thyroid levels were found to be raised, and we were advised to increase the tablets and bring her back in a week for further tests.

But it was not to be.  Her appetite did not improve; she was unnaturally quiet and her breathing got worse, till it was laboured all the time.  On that final appointment, the vet said she thought there might be fluid in her lungs.  There was, sadly, only one thing to do………………

*

The young ones, Henry and Sammie, both seemed to miss Mumia in the very early days, especially Henry, as he was close to her in her declining weeks.  (He would lie down near her and, when she allowed it, he would lick her head).  Since she has gone, he has also been doing strange things like looking at things    I can’t see, sniffing the floor, and on occasion darting from front door to back door, looking puzzled, not exactly scared but rather wary and surprised.  It would indeed be wonderful if he could tell me what he was seeing.

The other day I heard a miaouw which I am sure was not Henry or Sammie; Peter didn’t hear it, though he was nearer to where it seemed to be coming from.      I like to think it was Mumia, letting us know that she is still around in a house that seems now to be unnaturally quiet.

 

Debby

52  Mumia plaque 

 As with all our cats who pass, we buried Mumia in our garden and, as always, I rang to place an order for a memorial plaque [pictured above] from ‘Pets in Paradise’ – a small family business run by Carol and Ian Wallace (See DF32 for short article about them). Carol mentioned that she also had suffered a recent loss –  of a remarkable goldfish, who was responsive and with whom she had had a long-term relationship.  She had suffered the all too common lack of understanding from people she knew – who could not understand how she could be so affected by his loss.  She has written the following tribute to him for Departed Friend, and also to two other special friends she has loved and lost.  All these tributes appear below.

Pets in Paradise have a large range of memorials, caskets, coffins, etc. to help ease the grieving and commemorate our lost loved ones.  But above and beyond all this, they offer a sensitive, caring service from people who truly understand.

*

Pets in Paradise

(Carol & Ian Wallace) 27 Naunton Park Road, Cheltenham, Glos. GL53 7DG.  U.K.                                  tel: 0845 643 1891.                                            www.petsinparadise.co.uk                            info@petsinparadise.co.uk

Tribute to PATCH

52.  Patch 1

Back in 1994 a friend of ours whose pond was rather over stocked with fish, told our two children that if they could catch a fish each they could keep them. This was how we came by Patch and Ruby, two very large fully grown beautiful Fantail Goldfish. We took them home in a large hay bucket half filled with pond water in the boot of our car, not having a clue how to look after them. The following day we went down to our local aquatic centre to get advice and to buy all the necessary equipment to set them up in an indoor aquarium, and at the end of the day our two ‘free’ goldfish had cost us £160 !

Wanting to give our two newly acquired pets the very best we invested £20 in a variety of real living plants to make them feel at home, and it was all looking good. But the next morning when I looked in on them I was just in time to see the last of the plants being woofed down by Patch – roots and all –gulp – gone!  The greedy pair had eaten all the plants overnight, resulting in the water turning a dark murky green colour. It took a week of daily water changes to sort things out, after which we replaced the plants with imitation plastic ones, but the two guzzling gourmets didn’t seem to mind.

Sadly Ruby died suddenly three years later and we half expected that Patch would soon follow. As things turned out we were to be very wrong in our assumptions, as Patch stayed healthy and perky for another sixteen years or so despite his solitary life. We had no idea that goldfish could live so long and although we loved him dearly the regular partial water changes and tank cleaning were a chore.

As the tank was rather large and heavy we placed it on the floor in an alcove where it would be out of direct sunlight. When it came to tank cleaning time we’d prepare the water by filling the big hay bucket with tap water, leaving it to stand overnight so the new water could reach  room temperature and the chlorine evaporate. Despite our being careful there were many occasions when one of our nosy cats let their curiosity lead them a little too far over the edge of the bucket. This inevitably resulted in a soaked and shocked puss and a very wet carpet!

Both our cats were fascinated by Patch swimming around and would regularly sit on the lid of the aquarium looking down over the side to watch him. I had to be vigilant when the lid was open during cleaning as one of the cats would always try to sneak in and either chance their arm at a bit of fishing, or lap the tank water – yuck!

Over time though I found less labour intensive ways of cleaning the tank and its contents – such as putting the ornaments and plastic plants through a short rinse cycle in the dishwasher to clean them. This was just as effective as, and a lot quicker than, scrubbing them with a nail brush which I‘d done for the first few years.

When cleaning Patch’s tank he’d swim back and forth rubbing round my hand just like a dog rubbing round your legs. This worried me as I knew a fish’s scales shouldn’t be touched as it can burn them, but he was keen to do it anyway.

As Patch grew older we noticed that he’d have a regular afternoon nap where he’d appear to hang in the water as if suspended, letting his fins fall limply and giving only the occasional wiggle. Then all of a sudden he’d be all alert again, swimming around giving his fins an elegant flourish like a peacock showing off, as if to say he felt quite refreshed after his doze.

As the years rolled by Patch has usually found himself recorded somewhere in the background of a photo. At Christmas and on birthdays he’s be there with wrapping paper piled up on the floor near his tank. When the children have been photographed with birthday cakes, Easter eggs or certificates Patch has been there. That is until this summer; when Patch had what we think was a stroke. It was all very sudden and alarming as out of the blue one evening, shortly after being fed, he just sank to the bottom of his tank and lay on the gravel.

I was sure it was the end, and felt it best to let him go naturally, so I was stunned to find him still alive in the morning. In such circumstances you expect, and hope, that nature will take matters out of your hands. For over a week I came down every morning expecting to find Patch gone – but he just hung on in there.

After a while, as he was still unable to swim, we decided to prop him up on a sandbank of gravel near the front of the tank so he wasn’t lying flat. He responded to my presence when I came in the room and would give a wiggle like mad as if trying to shake himself back to normal, making heroic efforts to get off the gravel and swim. But despite all his efforts he just couldn’t do it, and he’d end up falling back looking disheartened and exhausted.

Patch was a lovely old boy and we’d had him 19 years, so we had to give him a fighting chance, so for the next ten days we made almost daily visits to our local aquatic centre for advice. The staff were very kind and encouraging, checking the water samples we took in and suggesting various treatments. One of these was to add salt to the tank water which acts as a pick-me-up for fish. Patch certainly responded well to this initially; perking up and becoming quite mobile when he heard my voice though he was still unable to swim.

By this time I had to feed Patch by hand, which was tricky and required lots of patience. At first he seemed keen – rooting round for the food when offered. But by the end of the week he’d lost interest and despite my getting the food into his mouth he’d spit it out again. On the Friday when he was still with us but with no quality of life, we knew we had to end his suffering.

We’d been told about the special anaesthetic drops available which were for calming down Koi Carp when being moved, and how much to use to put Patch permanently to sleep. The drive with my daughter Rachel to buy these from the aquatic centre was tearful though resigned, as we knew it was the kindest thing to do.

Rather than prolonging the agony we did the deed as soon as we were home again. It was dreadful having to lift Patch out of his tank into the bucket laced with the drops, but it seemed that almost instantly – as soon as he touched the water – he was gone.

We buried our dear Patchy in the garden under a little weeping willow, marking the spot with a statue of a moon gazing hare, and every time I pass or put out the washing I say hello to Patch, our lovely old boy.

52.  Patch 2

 ROXY

In 1972 aged seventeen I left home to go to Art College in Eastbourne. It was a big adventure and I took full advantage of my new found freedom. It wasn’t long before I acquired a boyfriend and moved out of my shared bedsit (which my parents had carefully chosen for me) and rented a house with a bunch of student friends.

The boyfriend told me how a friend of his in Brighton was having problems homing a kitten, and as I now lived in a house with a garden couldn’t I give it a home? Despite my misgivings, particularly as I’d only just started learning how to look after myself, I agreed to go and see the cat owners. The kitten was the runt of the litter and very small, and since the other kittens had been homed the mother cat had lost all interest in her.

You can guess the rest, but on the bus back to Eastbourne I soon realised that this little bundle of fluff was going to be very special. The kitten was unhappy in the cardboard box I’d been given to carry her in, and eventually I relented and she clambered out and up on to my shoulder. She sat there for the rest of the journey gazing contentedly out of the misted up window, quite relaxed. She was a lovely short haired tortoiseshell with clear patches of black, white and ginger. I named her Roxy (after the band Roxy Music) and she was to grow into an elegant sleek cat with long legs and tail. She was very spirited and had a confident and self possessed manner who despite never once uttering a meow in her life always made herself understood.

Living in student digs I didn’t like leaving Roxy on her own too much in case she was lonely, so I would regularly take her out and about with me – including in to college. Everyone loved Roxy, who was quite self contained and no trouble, though one of my tutors got a real fright one day when she unexpectedly spotted Roxy sitting stock still – staring up at her from under the desk.

As much as possible I would let Roxy out to explore the neighbouring gardens, but I was always worried that she might find herself a new home – perhaps a family who were always at home to make a fuss of her. I didn’t need to worry though, as she would always come bounding back across the garden fences when I whistled for her.

Like all cats she loved to play, but her favourite game was ‘fetch’ which she could keep up for hours. This would involve my throwing a length of curtain cord for her to retrieve. She would race around jumping up on shelves and wardrobes to find the cord, gathering it up and bringing it back to drop at my feet ready for me to throw again – just like a dog.

While in Eastbourne Roxy usually travelled with me in a wicker shopping basket, on a collar and lead for safety, though I rarely needed to restrain her. We’d go everywhere together, and when in a pub she’d sit under my seat glaring out at any dogs that showed an interest in her, giving them an imperious unblinking stare that said ‘just you try it and I’ll give you what for’ – the dogs always backed off.

When I was offered a place at a college in Cheltenham my mum and I decided to make the 4 ½ hour drive up from Sussex to look for a suitable flat for me and Roxy. A week’s stay in a hotel was too pricey, so we decided to camp and found a local site on the fringes of the town. The camp site was a field on a farm, and although pretty basic by today’s standards it was fine for a week and the weather was lovely. Roxy came with us, and to allow her some freedom I tied her to the car bumper (parked up by our tent) by a long cord so she could wander round without risking going off and getting lost.

As it turned out by 10 o’clock on the first morning we’d found a nice little flat becoming vacant that September, and luckily the landlord allowed pets. Having succeeded in our mission I guess we should have gone back home, but decided that as we were in the Cotswolds we’d spend the rest of the week sight seeing. Roxy came too of course and, although we always checked first, she was welcomed into many a museum and teashop. She even came with us to the Wildfowl Park at Slimbridge, but she had to be content with the view only from inside the car!

Wherever I went I’d take Roxy with me if I could, and she soon became a seasoned traveller. When I went out on my old butcher’s bike in Cheltenham she’d often accompany me, her front legs stretched out to lean on the front of the basket near the handle bars. She clearly enjoyed the thrill of the ride, the air gently ruffling her ears and whiskers. If she was outside and I hadn’t planned to take her with me, then she’d run beside my bike till I stopped and picked her up.

One evening, without my realising, she followed me up the street and across a busy main road and into a pub. The first I knew of her being there was when she appeared through the off sales hatch behind the bar!

On long journeys Roxy would lie languidly round my shoulders, taking in all the sights and sounds, tucked safely between the back of my neck and my rucksack. I always kept her safe on a lead when we were out which she never minded as she probably felt she could get away if she wanted to. Going on coaches and trains never seemed to faze her, even going on the London Underground. When we did this she usually caused quite a stir as we’d constantly be stopped, particularly by American tourists, as people were fascinated to see a cat travelling on a tube train. They would come up and talk to Roxy and stroke and admire her, amazed at how calm she was, though often ignoring me!

During my early student years we moved quite a few times between shared houses, bedsits and flats and Roxy and I would travel by public transport back to my parents for the holidays. During this time I was the only constant in Roxy’s life, and this may have been the reason we formed such an unusually strong bond.

We spent our first three years in Cheltenham living in a spacious flat in one of the old grand Regency houses near Pittville Park. Our flat looked out onto the old park gates and some big trees and up the busy road lined with shops leading into town. We had high ceilings and floor length windows, and from the kitchen window you could step out onto the walled flat roof covering the pillared front door. Roxy enjoyed the freedom this outdoor space gave her, safe from the very busy streets below but where she could see what was going on while keeping a look out for when I came home.

It was when living here that I met Ian who was later to become my husband. Ian was more of a dog than a cat person and he and Roxy didn’t take to each other at all at first. It was only after Ian offered to do some decorating for me and the two of them had spent several hours alone together that they became friends – Ian soon coming to appreciate that Roxy was far from being your usual kind of cat.

We eventually moved into our first house, a Victorian mid terrace in a quiet road, and Roxy soon settled into a more conservative life patrolling the back gardens.  My parents in Sussex would look after her when we went away on holiday, so she still travelled regularly but this was now usually in the front seat of mum’s car. She would be the perfect passenger until on the return journey they reached a mile or two from home. Roxy would then become suddenly very alert and restless and start to yowl – obviously she could smell home!

Roxy was eight when we acquired another tortoiseshell; a kitten we called Amboise who was desperately in need of a home. Roxy wasn’t happy about this at all at first and was very frightened of Amboise even though she was so tiny. Soon after getting Amboise we moved house where the two cats had more space, which probably helped them settle as the house was new territory for them both. There were plenty of distractions like the park and wild gardens to entertain them, and soon they were enjoying mad friendly chases up and down the stairs. I did try once to put Amboise on a collar and lead, but this was a big mistake as she went berserk nearly strangling herself. It was clear from the start that despite Amboise being a very sweet and affectionate little cat, Roxy had that very special something.

Later they had to share not only their home but also our attention when the children came along, and both Roxy and Amboise were very protective of the babies. When taking the children over the wide open playing field to the swings on the far side of the park Roxy would always follow. She’d keep a discreet distance and sit down every now and again, bolt upright, keeping an eye on us. Various dogs would tear up to her looking for some sport, but she would hold her ground – giving them very short shrift until they would back away nervously.

Although the latter part of Roxy’s life was more conventional she never travelled by cat basket. By the time she was 17 years old she succumbed to kidney failure and eventually we had to make the decision to have her put to sleep. Roxy had been treated by the same vet for most of her life and she had been an extremely difficult and feisty patient. On one occasion when I took her for her annual vaccination it took me and two veterinary nurses to hold her down so the vet could give her the injection, and even than she managed to scratch him quite badly!

Roxy had no need to be on a lead for that last trip as she lay quietly on my lap in the front seat of the car, and if she knew where she was going she showed no interest. Roxy offered no resistance and seemed almost grateful when the vet gently administered the final injection, leaving us almost instantly. It was devastating, we couldn’t imagine life without her, but it was some comfort to us when the vet said he thought Roxy the most extraordinary cat he’d ever known.

52.  Roxy & Carol 1979

Carol with Roxy

BOMBER

We have acquired several pets over the years, and one such pet was Bomber; a fully grown hamster found wandering in a friend’s garden late one September night. Bomber lived with us for three years and was a very remarkable creature. We named him Bomber as he loved charging around in his clear plastic ball. This daily activity was quite noisy as he’d usually disgorge a mouthful of dry food into it which then rattled loudly as he rolled around. But when he stopped rolling and it went quiet – then this usually meant trouble! If he wasn’t playing ‘skittles’ by making a bee line for drinks left carelessly on the floor, he was on the look-out for anything that looked suitable nesting material, such as the Radio Times, the bottom of a curtain or the tassels of a rug.

One evening when engrossed in a television programme I felt a tug on my long cardigan – and realised that a great deal of it had been pulled into the hamster ball, and despite it almost filling the ball a now obscured Bomber was still determinedly dragging it in!

Bomber’s house was like a two storey metal bird cage, and through the gaps in the bars he and our cat Amboise would touch noses in greeting, and often curl up next to each other either side of the bars keeping each other company.

It was heartbreaking to have to take Bomber to be put to sleep that Christmas due to cancer – and to discover ‘he’ was in fact a ‘she’. The vet didn’t do a very good job I‘m sorry to say, and it was the only time Bomber ever bit me- but at least she’d had a long and happy time with us.

52.  Bomber the hamster & Rachel

Rachel with Bomber

Tributes to Patch, Roxy and Bomber by  Carol Wallace of Pets in Paradise.

Sympathy cards – for pets

Over the years it has been hard to find sympathy cards specifically for people who have lost their much-loved animals, though this situation is now steadily improving. Up till now, I had never seen cards intended for pets.

Sally Ivins started this venture on 10 October 2013 on Etsy – an on-line facility which allows you to shop directly from people around the world: there is a variety of goods of all kinds – handmade, vintage, etc.

Sally explains:

“Like me you are probably on Planet Busy so I will be brief. The story so far- I was in a local shop when someone asked for a pet sympathy card. Sadly there were none so I made my first card… and it went into the shop.

Then I made another when someone asked for a birthday card for a cat and that went too.

Now you can choose from Sympathy, Get Well, Happy Birthday, New Home, Congratulations and Just To Say.

I also write all the poetry myself and my cards are hand-made from recycled materials.

I make cards for any pet that needs one from dogs to tortoises.

As every card is handmade each one is unique. Your card will therefore not be just a copy of what you see on line but will have some individual variation in the design.

I also compose all the poetry myself and I am happy to offer individual poems appropriate for a particular pet. I will always try and include up to two specific aspects for each bespoke poem.

If you would like a card sent out by us to someone please attach details of name, address and any personalised message-

All cards are sent out First Class Royal Mail.”

The cards are most unusual and very interesting; a delightful concept.  Here is one designed especially for a dog:

52.  Sympathy card for dog

http://www.etsy.com/ripets/

Your Letters …..

We often talk about the pets we have had and lost.  We have a cupboard containing lots of caskets with their ashes –  we would like to have these with us when we depart this mortal coil.

When we adopted Kitty and Khush (see DF51 for tribute to Khush – ed.) the sanctuary people told us that they were dropped off like shopping.   They were promised a donation which didn’t materialise.  The people who previously owned them were professional, the husband a professor.  The sanctuary people were told “the children have gone to university, our lives have changed, let someone else enjoy them”.   I’m so glad we took them in, we gave them love and security and we were with them at the end which we feel is very important.  Some of our cats have ‘returned’ to us in spirit.

The oldies seem to be overlooked probably because people don’t want to spend money on vets’ bills (but they still want their exotic holidays etc).

I’ve also put dedications onto this link

http://www.gratefulness.org/candles/candles.cfm?l=eng   Not just for my pets but also animals that have suffered abuse at the hands of humans.

 Best wishes, Sharon

 Thank you Debby for the news letter, they are so lovely to read and a comfort as well.

Thanks again.

Love, Angie Bean xx

The passing of a pet that we have loved and cared for always seems to leave such a feeling of emptiness somehow. I think the saying is very true that “cats leave pawprints on our hearts”.

I had the most beautiful dream about Carling. It was so vivid and real.  I suddenly found myself in an old farmhouse kitchen.  I was wondering how I had got there when Carling walked in through the door and came towards me.  I couldn’t believe it!  His fur and eyes were so shiny and he looked much younger than he did the last time I saw him.

I picked him up and stroked him – he felt so real and solid, but his body seemed weightless somehow.  I woke up with such a feeling of elation – I knew it had really happened on another dimension.

I feel sure that other animals always see our departed pets when they come back to visit us.  Just lately, Amey is behaving very strangely when I put out her food.  She keeps looking all round the kitchen and on several occasions, has refused to eat it unless I bring it into the lounge.  Then she eats some of it and covers the rest of it with the hearthrug. It’s almost as though she thinks someone is going to take it off her.  The strange thing is – she never did this when Carling and Jasmine were alive.  Could it be that she can see them and is making sure they can’t steal her food?

I often think it would be nice if our pets could talk to us and tell us about these things.

Helen Constance

(See DF49 for tributes to Carling and Jasmine -  ed.)

52. Carling

CARLING

Carling – he was the darling

Of everyone he knew;

A gentle, loving, feline friend,

So faithful, loyal and true.

Carling – he was our darling;

Though a cat of humble birth,

His happy, joyful presence

Brought sunshine to the earth.

Carling – you’re still our darling,

Though you walk in Heaven now.

As we fondly remember you –

Please remember us somehow.

Carling – you were our darling

In sunshine and in rain.

We’ll always hold you in our hearts –

Until we meet again.

Helen Constance

 Antifreeze – a WARNING

We have just lost a much loved little cat Billy* through antifreeze poisoning, we are so upset and angry that somebody could do this or leave it lying about to kill our little cat, who was so sweet and gentle, if he had been ill we could come to terms with it, but knowing it needn’t have happened and shouldn’t have happened has left us all bereft and with a mixture of emotions that we can’t explain…..”

*Name of cat changed to preserve confidentiality – ed.

This tragic story is replicated time and again, because domestic animals – and also wildlife – like the taste of antifreeze.  However, it is highly toxic and has caused the deaths of many animals.

All credit to companies like Comma Oil, which supplies antifreeze to companies including Halfords.  Comma has added an ingredient to make it unpleasant to animals to swallow the product.

However, there is currently no legislation to make such additives a requirement.

ANIMAL AID has a petition to call on the UK government to add bittering agents to antifreeze: you can sign this online:

www.animalaid.org.uk/h/f/ACTIVE/blog/ALL/1//?be_id=423

or ring them for a copy: +44 (0)1732 364546

Animal Aid

The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge, TN9 1AW

www.animalaid.org.uk  info@animalaid.org.uk

 

No way to say Goodbye

A devastating loss made headline news in our local press in October 2013:

Dave and Victoria lost their two-year-old tabby and white cat, Yoley, when he was tragically run over.  He had been wearing a collar with their phone number on, and had been microchipped, when he was seen at the side of the road by local residents.

Victoria and Dave were led to believe that his body had been collected by the council, but imagine their horror when they contacted Central Bedfordshire Council to try and get his body back – and were told to speak to ‘General Waste’.

CBC said that none of its contractors had collected Yoley, but that its waste contractors are expected to check for ID and scan domestic pets wherever possible.  They apologised for the fact that “this referral did not meet the customers’ expectations.”

Dave and Victoria now campaign for a change in the law to ensure that Councils have to scan dead cats for a microchip as is done with dogs.

Apart from the appalling disrespect and insensitivity of describing much-loved non-human deceased members of the family as ‘waste’ – there is the issue of inconsistency.  As Victoria put it:

“Lots of pet owners that I have spoken to have been shocked that the law about microchipping applies to dogs and not cats.  We were responsible owners and made sure Yoley was chipped and had a collar – but still that didn’t legally entitle us to be informed when he was killed, which doesn’t seem right.”

To lose an animal in this way can be excruciating.  Never knowing what happened can be extremely difficult – or impossible – to come to terms with.  Likewise, if you do discover the fate of your friend, you should never have to bear the pain of hearing your friend described as ‘waste’.  Either way, the absence of a body and the inability to lay him or her to rest, can make it much harder to come to terms with the loss.

I wrote the following letter to the local press, and it is reproduced here below:

52.  LoS letter

IT IS TIME TO CHANGE THE LAW ON DEAD CATS.

“My deepest sympathy to Victoria Whicker and Dave Grimmer who lost their much-loved cat way before his time, and were not even able to make suitable arrangements afterwards because of the callous council policy that treats people’s companion animals as ‘waste’. [Luton on Sunday, 13.10.13].

I have just signed the petition at

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/53894 as they have suggested, asking for the law to be changed so that deceased cats are scanned by the council.  This is urgently necessary, and I have a further idea as well:

There should be an arrangement between councils and local veterinary practices whereby all deceased domestic animals, whether or not they are microchipped, should be taken to a pet mortuary.  If the animals are microchipped, the owners can be contacted. Descriptions of non-microchipped animals should be published every week and any animals unclaimed after, say, 8 weeks could then be sent to the pet crematorium.

This would ensure that at least people have a chance to find out what happened when their pet goes missing, make suitable arrangements and start to come to terms with their loss.”

Debby Wakeham

 

To take the petition to Parliament, it needs 100,000 signatures.  At the time of writing, it has 2,201 signatures. It does not close until August 2014, so please sign it – and please spread the word.

 

Comfort Dogs

 Thanks go to an EASE Friend, Ken Moore, for bringing this news story about ‘comfort dogs’ to our attention. It was reported in several newspapers at the time of the school shooting last year in America, and this article is adapted from one published in the National Geographic News:

 

One boy confided in the gentle-faced golden retriever about exactly what happened in his classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School that day – which his parents said was more than he’d been able to share with them. A little girl who hadn’t spoken since the shootings finally started talking to her mother again after petting one of the ‘comfort dogs’. Groups of teenagers began to open up and discuss their fear and grief with each other as they sat on the floor together, all stroking the same animal.

The dogs are therapy dogs – professional comforters that were brought to Newtown, Connecticut, almost immediately after the horrific shootings on 14 December 2012 that left 20 young children and six staff members dead. Tim Hetzner, leader of the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K9 Comfort Dogs team, travelled to Newtown with nine specially trained golden retrievers and their volunteer handlers. The K9 teams spent several days visiting schools, churches, activity centres and private homes in the community. They only went where they were invited and were careful to let people approach the dogs instead of vice versa, in case anyone was afraid of or allergic to  the animals. The response to the dogs was overwhelmingly positive, according to Hetzner. “Often the kids talk directly to the dog,” he said. “The dogs are like counsellors with fur. They have excellent listening skills, and they demonstrate unconditional love. They don’t judge you or talk back.”

The dogs have also been used to reassure victims of natural disasters in America – most recently Superstorm Sandy – and to brighten the days of nursing home patients. Hetzner said he got the idea after seeing how well students responded to therapy dogs in the wake of a 2008 school shooting at Northern Illinois University. Now, in addition to the core of 15 that make up LCC’s K9 Comfort Dogs team, the group has deployed about 20 other dogs to be based in schools and churches that apply for them.

The human volunteers’ main job is to make sure the dogs don’t get burned out, which means taking a break to play ball or nap after about two hours of work. Some handlers have a background in counselling or pastoral care: “But the biggest part of their training is just learning to be quiet,” Hetzner said. “I think that’s a common mistake people make in crisis situations – feeling obligated to give some sort of answer or advice, when really those who are hurting just need to express themselves.”

 52.  Comfort Dogs - Copy

Reproduced with kind permission from      

EASE News Vol.13; Issue 1, July 2013

Departed Friend Newsletter no. 51 – June 2013

Saying Goodbye

At the end of May, Marie Irvine, Assistant Producer of Channel 4’s 4thought.tv, contacted me say that they were covering the subject of pet bereavement again, and to ask if I knew of anyone who had given their pet a funeral service who might be interested in speaking to her about it. She was also seeking someone who had lost an animal in the very recent past who might be prepared to share that with them.

I don’t know if they are still looking, but if anyone who did not receive my email is interested, please let me know, giving me your contact details to pass on to Marie. 4thought.tv is a 2-minute slot covering interesting weekly topics every evening on Channel 4.

Watch out for the companion animal bereavement topic, on the internet or in television listings magazines.

My email elicited the following thoughts – some identifying details in the second comment have been changed to protect confidentiality:

This is a subject that is important to me. I have not held a funeral service for any of my dogs but they have all been cremated and are still here at home with their photos in front of the urns!

I really do not understand why people think people like me are strange/weird/mad to do this. For me my dogs have been a very important part of my life and my best friends and deserve the best treatment at the end too!

Maureen Shbero

I was so angry at my friend when a few months ago her dachshund had to be PTS. She went with her son to the vet and they left Roley alone at the vet to be PTS. I could not and still do not understand how anyone could do that. This little dog had given so much love and affection and then they just left him there looking out the window to them as they walked away! I have never responded verbally when she has mentioned it, as she did when we were visiting recently. I think if I did I would say something she did not want to hear.

I only had Maxie a very short time when I realised that the surgery had not helped and the kindest thing was to PTS. I stayed with him all the time and my partner was by my side. I wanted Maxie to see me and know that he was going with our love.

Sarah

It is well known that funerals or other kinds of ceremonial ritual and commemoration of a lost loved one are helpful to the grieving process and it is good to know that there is now increasing recognition that this can be equally true when we lose a companion animal.

Far from being “strange/weird/mad” to preserve the memory of her dogs in this way, Maureen is responding naturally, logically and appropriately to the loss of her best friends. Animals love us unconditionally and – unlike many human friends or relations – are with us 24 hours a day, totally dependent on us for their wellbeing. They bring out our nurturing instinct and interact with us in all manner of subtle (and not so subtle) ways to show us their affection. It is no wonder, then, that the bond can be deep and, when it is lost, it can feel shattering.

Sarah’s feelings about the perceived abandonment of Roley at the vet’s at the end of his last journey are understandable. It must have been heartrending for her to imagine him staring out of the window, deserted by the people he had loved, never to return.

The question of whether or not to stay when an animal is put to sleep is a complex one and there is no “one size fits all” answer. Many people, like Sarah with Maxie, feel impelled to stay – as Sarah puts it so well:

“I wanted him to see me and know that he was going with our love”.

For others, it might be too much to bear and, arguably, if they panicked or became distressed, it could upset the animal and possibly also make things hard for the vet. These people choose not to stay. As George says:

“I want to remember him as he was”.

Some people who choose not to stay do make arrangements for a burial or cremation afterwards, and may collect the ashes from the surgery.

Others may entrust the vet to make all the arrangements and then walk away. This may be because they would find any continued involvement or reminders too painful – or because the animal simply was not sufficiently important in their lives to warrant any further action.

It may be that non-human animals have a more philosophical attitude to death than we do, accepting that their time has now come, especially if they are very uncomfortable, ill or infirm. Many of us will be familiar with that look they give us which says:

“I’ve had enough – please now let me go”.

Whether or not we choose to stay with them as they make the transition, we can be sure that our selfless act, which can cause us so much pain, has given them a peaceful release.


Euthanasia Criteria

The book Absent Friend – Coping with the loss of your pet by Laura & Martyn Lee** contains the following information, which might be helpful when having to make those agonising decisions:

Andrew Edney, a vet and past president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, has suggested a series of questions to help vets and owners to decide when the animal’s quality of life has become inadequate and whether or not to opt for euthanasia. If the answer to any of these questions is “No” and treatment is unlikely to help, euthanasia might be the preferred action to take.

Is the animal

•free from pain, distress or serious discomfort which cannot be effectively controlled
• able to walk and balance reasonably well
•         able to eat and drink enough for normal maintenance without much difficulty and without vomiting
•         free from tumours which cause pain or serious discomfort and are judged inoperable or otherwise untreatable
• able to breathe without much difficulty
• able to urinate and defecate reasonably frequently without serious difficulty or incontinence

and is the owner

• able to cope physically and emotionally with any nursing or medication that may be required.

**ISBN 1 85054 089 6. From CPC, A505 Main Road, Thriplow Heath, Nr Royston, Herts. SG8 7RR. Tel: 01763 208 295. Price £4.45 or £5.45 incl. postage & packing.

KHUSH

Would you please include a dedication in your next newsletter for our cat who had to be put to sleep on 15 April?

We adopted Khush, along with another cat Kitty, 3 years ago. Khush (Hindi for “happy”) was 15 and Kitty was 12. We adopted both from a local sanctuary where they had been dumped by their previous owners. They were in the sanctuary for 9 months. We chose them because we wanted to care for two older cats that probably didn’t stand a chance of being adopted. We lost Kitty about 2 years ago, she was such a sweet soul.

Khush was a difficult cat and hated our other cat Blossom. It took her 2 years to discover the kitchen! She came with lots of emotional baggage but with love and patience she trusted us and eventually loved sitting on our laps.

She developed gingivitis and had to have some teeth removed and after a while her mouth got worse. We had an x-ray done which showed she had cancer of the jaw (she kept pawing her mouth and making it bleed). We made the decision to have her pts while under the anaesthetic, we said our goodbyes and kissed her silken head.

We have her ashes so she’s back with us. I’ve left her bed on the windowsill where she loved to sleep and warm her old bones. Khush went with love – goodbye my beloved ginger girl – forever in our hearts.

Sharon Hopkins, Oxford

Condolences


To Joolz on the loss of her beloved Gizmo,
long-time companion and special cat ~
pts to prevent suffering at the end of a
terminal illness.

Cats, Cats, Cats!

Diane Bramson has compiled an anthology of poems called “Cats, Cats, Cats!” to raise money for Cats Protection – all the poems are original and unpublished. One of the poems is reproduced on the next page. If you would like to receive the anthology by email or post in return for a donation please contact Diane. Her email address is catanthology@yahoo.co.uk and her postal address is 20 Pasteur Close, London NW9 5HQ.

Choosing Kitten’s Name

by Cindy Holland
Dad bought home a surprise one day it was a little kitten,
We crowded round this tiny friend in our nice warm kitchen.
‘What is his name’? asked brother Tom, our faces all looked blank,
‘We’ll have to see what suits him best’, said our cousin Frank.

‘His paws are white so Socks would suit’, said our neighbour Jane,
‘Oh no’, said Mum’ ‘that’s not the one, it’s really much too plain’.
‘Let’s think on it’, said Dad that night giving him some chicken,
So off to bed we all went thinking names for our new kitten.

When I got up I had to laugh at what was there to greet me,
Our kitten curled up snug and warm as cosy as can be,
In one of Dad’s boots he calls shoes at least a size eleven.
‘I know’, said Tom ‘A daft idea’, his face began to redden,

And picking up the partner shoe and checking it for marks,
‘I know the perfect name’, he said, ‘We’ll call the kitten Clarkes’.

 Cartoon cat

It’s good to talk – isn’t it?

Some years ago, a friend and I collaborated on setting up a workshop for people who had undergone a particular kind of human loss that can be difficult to talk about. The idea was that they could come together and share experiences in a safe, non-judgemental atmosphere. The workshop was to be facilitated by my friend, who herself had personal experiences of this type of loss. I did the administration and she spread the word, contacting a number of people she thought would be interested. We sat back to await the response.

To our surprise, not one person signed up and the idea had to be abandoned. We wondered why…………

More recently, the same thing happened when two people, quite independently of each other in different geographical areas, tried to set up support groups for people who had lost companion animals.

People often tell me that what helped them most in their bereavement was to discover that they are not alone in feeling excruciating pain when their beloved companion animal has died. They have derived comfort from reading other people’s tributes to their departed friends (whether in print or by email) in DF newsletters. This has been particularly beneficial for people who are isolated and have no-one to talk to and also for those whose family and friends do not understand.

So, it would be natural to assume that anyone suffering in this way, feeling isolated and / or unable to talk to friends, family or colleagues, would welcome the chance to share experiences with other people who had been through a comparable experience and felt a similar degree of pain – and would therefore respect their feelings and not judge or ridicule them.

Some benefits that people can derive from support groups have been identified by the Mayo Clinic; these include:

•     Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
•     Gaining a sense of empowerment and control
•     Improving your coping skills and sense of adjustment
•     Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
•     Reducing distress, depression or anxiety
•     Developing a clearer understanding of what to expect with your situation

I believe that, in the case of companion animal bereavement, it could be very comforting to meet and talk with people in similar situations and to know that it is perfectly normal to feel such depths of sorrow.

I know it helped me back in 1986, before the subject was much talked about, and before the advent of easily accessible pet bereavement counselling and support. I needed help and I tried to find somewhere that could provide it.

I found out that the Society for Companion Animal Studies is a UK-based membership charity dedicated to understanding how interactions between people and companion animals can improve quality of life and well-being. It had not yet set up its Pet Bereavement Support Service, but its members would certainly understand the pain and be able to offer comfort.

So I attended a SCAS conference, where I met warm, empathetic people – veterinary surgeons, scientists, pet-owners, who reassured me that what I was going through was normal. I no longer felt isolated, surrounded as I was by people who had themselves experienced comparable pain.

I will always remember the lady who hugged me as we cried together over the losses of our respective pets (she for her dog and me for Tiger, my cat). I am also indebted to the vet who told me she had never had a cat recover from dropsy and that euthanasia had indeed been the right decision for Tiger. Up till that time, I had been only 99% certain and she gave me the extra 1% that I needed in order to ‘move on’.

Tiger and me

Why, then, might some people be reluctant to attend a pet bereavement support group?

•     Ease of access to the internet might play a part; there is no need to be apprehensive about meeting total strangers and you can access the support from the privacy of your own home
•     Even if a group is local, transport might be a problem for people with low income and/or mobility issues
•     Lack of trust: people who are not used to socialising, or who have suffered insensitive reactions to their loss, might fear    ridicule or breach of confidentiality even in this situation
•     Shyness or self-consciousness might play a part
•     Isolation: some people might be so isolated that they do not hear about the group
•     The publicity might not reach everyone who could benefit
•     Some people simply prefer to get through it in private, or by means of one-to-one support

There may also be other reasons why support groups do not appeal to everyone. But I believe they have the potential to offer a tremendous source of comfort to those who are willing to give them a try.

What do you think? Would a support group be helpful to you in time of sorrow? Have you ever accessed such a group? Have you ever run one?

Please let Departed Friend know your thoughts so that there can be a follow-up discussion of this topic in a future edition of the newsletter.

Tam

Departed Friend Newsletter No. 50 – March 2013

DF is on FACEBOOK

It seemed fitting, as Departed Friend reached its half-century (in terms of the number of newsletters) to drag ourselves into the 21st century and join Facebook. As yet, I am very inexperienced and would welcome some tips from those of you who know more about it.

Please visit the link, and if you like what you see, click on the “like” icon. – Debby

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Departed-Friend/134723346702908

Two tributes ….. By Mrs M.C.

                  Becky

50. Becky 2

She was a very sweet gentle little cat with really soft fur, and on the Sunday at lunchtime when she was put to sleep I cried so much and felt heartbroken; as for lunch my husband, myself and my adult son could not eat anything at all…..

I had one cat with kidney failure; her name was Becky. She stopped eating on a Friday. On the Saturday she drank a little water. On the Sunday I had to rush her down to the vets. The vet said: “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.” She was put to sleep.

She was ginger, semi-long fur, very gentle. My husband used to bring me a cup of tea in the past; Becky would walk up the stairs with him. She would jump on the bed and settle in the crook of my right arm.

She always sat with me in the day and evening, lying in the crook of my arm like a baby, although she was grown up.

                               Susie

50. Susie

I   enclose the last photograph of her taken the same day she was put to sleep on   Wednesday 5th August 1999.

Susie – my tortoiseshell whose ad appeared in a local pet shop.  She was a lovely kitten but her owner normally bred pure-bred Siamese

kittens. However, her owner asked for £5.00 for Susie and we brought her home.

She was a happy little kitten, playing and full of life. I didn’t have any net curtains for long as she would climb them with ease but eventually grew out of this and had a good life until she was nearly 12 years old and then she could not eat properly. Vet said she needed a dental so this was done. After collecting her from the vets, she couldn’t have her tablets as her mouth was very swollen.

She had her operation on the Friday. Saturday she was not well, but Sunday she could not drink water so I returned to the vets.  I saw a new vet who told me a tumour broke down during her op. I wasn’t told this when the op was done, so on the Wednesday, on the 5th day after the op, I had to have her put to sleep to prevent any more suffering.  She had had pain killing injections each day after the op but it was just like giving her water, they had no effect at all to relieve her pain.  I can always remember her courage; she didn’t cry even though she was in pain. I still recall how she tried to clean herself; she was always very clean.

When my son and I go to our   next town called Trowbridge, as the bus leaves the town centre, we see the   turning to the right where Susie used to live, so we always remember those   days when she was a little kitten.

50. Susie kitten 1

Book Review

by Samantha Chandler – ASWA

Reproduced here by kind permission

I was recently sent a book to review by Revd Christa Blanke who many of you will know is the founder of the organisation Animals’ Angels. The book is called ‘With the Eyes of Love’ and is an English translation from the original German. This is one of the most moving books I have read for some time. I sat and read it in an afternoon and was moved to tears throughout.

Those who love animals often find it hard to read about their suffering but it is important that we truly understand the immense cruelty endured by these sentient beings in the live export industry.

“We are there for the animals” say Animals’ Angels and this is exactly what they do. This solidarity with the suffering of these creatures is so important and is in line with the Christian message.

Just as compassionate pet owners will stay with their aged or dying pets as they are euthanized by a veterinary surgeon, so these brave people at Animals’ Angels stay with these animals throughout their journeys and ultimately to their deaths. They may not be able to do anything to prevent their slaughter but they are there for them, often offering water to the thirsty, a kind word or touch to the frightened and to simply make sure that the plight of these animals does not go unnoticed.

Read it and weep – yes you will – but read it you must and buy a copy for your friends too. It is essential that the world comes to realise the cruelty involved in transporting farm animals hundreds of miles to their deaths. Live Exports either by road across Europe or by sea to the Middle East is probably the most pressing animal welfare issue that exists at the present time.

ASWA has offered to sell these books for Animals’ Angels on our website and we have been given a small supply to see what the demand is. If you would like one, you can either buy from the website via Pay Pal (£4.50) or send a cheque for £4.50 made out to ASWA and we will send you one out in the post.

Samantha – ASWA*

AngsocWelAnimals@aol.com

*Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, PO Box 7193, Hook, Hampshire, RG27 8GT, UK

50. ASWA Logo

PUTTING ANIMALS ON THE AGENDA OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

Your Letters

You are doing such a great job helping people through difficult times.  I know newsletters we have given to friends have helped them through sad losses.  I know you have lost quite a few of your cats over the years and have the experience to help people a lot.

Our 4 are doing well thankfully.  Talulah and  Orphan Annie the ginger & whites and the North Wales orphans Evie and Mr B (full name Blaenau Ffestiniog).

All our old friends are never forgotten.

Love from Rob & Becca

Lucky is so lovely, he gives us so much love.  We are sure our beloved Pepper and Benji are pleased we have him. Not a day goes past without talking about them.  (For tributes to Yorkies Pepper and Benji, see DF newsletter no. 39 – ed.)  

I don’t think one ever gets over the loss of a pet.  I still get upset and cry over them both, but I know they are in Heaven and together playing.  We still feel them around us, quite often.

Love from Valerie, Michael & Lucky Lockwood

Local Pet Bereavement Support Group

This is a new service that Angela Garner of EASE Animal Charity  is piloting in her home town, Honiton (Devon, UK) taking the form of a monthly meeting, open to anyone who wants to come along for any aspect of pet loss support. It will take some time for the group to build up, so posters have been placed at various locations and a large mail-shot has been carried out to include all vet surgeries and GP surgeries in East Devon.

Someone who attended the December meeting clearly found the session helpful, saying:

“Thank you so much for Saturday – I have felt so much better since talking to you. You really felt as if you understood how I am feeling.”

So we are looking forward to seeing how this new project proceeds, and will of course keep our EASE Friends up to date through future editions of the newsletter.

EASE News January 2013

If you know of – or would like to see – a pet bereavement support group in your area, please let us know. We would love to hear what you think of the idea and hope to be saying more about this subject in future editions of the newsletter. -  ed.

From the Media

Grateful thanks to DF readers Rob & Becca who sent me an inspiring article from Family Supplement of   The Guardian,, Saturday 02.03.13, entitled  

Malachy’s last days

When I first started Departed Friend over 10 years ago, it was hard to find an article that did not ridicule or make light of the pain we feel when our companion animals die. Thankfully, things have improved over the years and I am pleased to say that it is now some time since I have come across such insensitivity. The media now tend to treat the subject with far more compassion and respect.   

This introduction to the two-page feature in which two authors share their bereavement experiences is a good example of that enlightened attitude:

“When a pet dies, the whole family can be grief-stricken. Maggie O’Farrell mourns her beloved cat and, overleaf, Michele Hanson misses her boxer dog, Lily”.

Malachy was no ordinary cat; he had what the rescue centre called “neurological problems”. He could not jump up or down and he walked with a strange reverse shuffle. “Everything terrified him” and no matter how much they loved him and were consistently kind, he never lost his random fears. Maggie could only guess what his life had been like before.

One day, Maggie found him lying in a flowerbed, in the driving rain.  Next morning the vet confirmed he had advanced renal cancer; there was nothing they could do.

“It felt like the basest treachery to stroke his head” as the vet did the kind deed.  As well as her own acute grief, Maggie had to cope with the reactions of other family members: her small son’s anguish as he noticed that the body “didn’t look like him any more” (as death had wrought its subtle change) and her 3-year-old daughter screaming that soil would get in his eyes, as the towel slipped as they buried him.  The bafflement of the non-verbal members of the family (the baby and the other cat, Moses) who looked for him and called for him longer than seemed possible.

Maggie observes: “The angel of death seemed to hang around for a long time after.”

Lily came from a family in which “A cheery dog has always been vital”.  When Lily died in August, Michele says, she cried much more than her other dog, who only cried briefly, then headed for dinner.  Michele tends to cry in advance when her dogs get to about 9 years of age, because she knows what is coming.  She has had four dog deaths to cope with, “all utterly horrible, and they leave an enormous gap behind – a big hole in the family.”

Towards the end, there was the inevitable roller-coaster emotional ride, with Michele wondering how she would know when to take Lily to the vet for the very last time.  Michele thought she knew when Lily was desperately poorly at night, but the next day she perked up and Michele didn’t know any more.  But the time inevitably came, one day when Lily could not get up to greet some family members who had come to visit……

As Michele wisely concludes:  “Every dog has its own individual character and is an irreplaceable member of the family, so it is sensible not to ask a bereaved dog owner, ‘When are you getting another one?’  And never say, ‘It was only a dog.’”

Spotting Signs of Pain in Cats and Dogs

Can you tell when your cat or dog is in pain? Unfortunately, there are several reasons why it can be very easy to miss signs that a beloved pet is suffering. Firstly, many animals hide pain and may behave overall quite normally when they are in pain. Studies with hidden cameras have shown that some cats will act fine when people are around, but then show signs of pain – such as licking at a sore area or hunching over – when they are alone.

Why do pets hide pain? Well, remember that cats and dogs originally lived wild and, in the wild, a sick or injured animal is vulnerable to attack, so survival can depend on the animal’s ability to act as if everything is fine even when something is terribly wrong. Dogs also rely on the strength of the pack, and perhaps have a deep instinct to prevent other members of their ‘pack’ from knowing that they are vulnerable.

The fact that animals don’t always vocalise their pain has led people to erroneously believe that cats and dogs don’t feel pain like humans do, or at least that they don’t feel it as much. But it is now well known that cats and dogs do indeed suffer from pain in nearly exactly the same way as we do, even though they may not show it in obvious ways. So just because your pet isn’t acting as if he or she is in pain or isn’t crying, it doesn’t mean they’re not in pain.

Treating pain in animals can significantly speed their healing and recovery. Although pets might not show signs of distress, pain can have both immediate and long-term detrimental effects on their health.

Unmitigated or uncontrolled pain is a major biological stressor and affects numerous aspects of physical health, including wound healing and resistance to infectious disease. Studies have shown that animals whose pain is prevented or controlled recover faster and better from surgery than animals whose pain is not properly treated. And we know that if sudden onset pain – such as that experienced from surgery – is not managed properly and effectively, it can lead to pain that can last for some time. And of course – it’s the humane thing to do. Can you imagine having surgery of any kind and going home without pain medication? Or having a painful disease or condition, such as cancer or arthritis, and not taking anything for the pain? Naturally we all feel that our feline and canine friends deserve to have their pain treated, just like we do.

How to tell if your pet is in pain

Determining whether your pet is in pain can sometimes be rather like playing detective: you must observe and evaluate all of the evidence presented to you. Remember: just because your pet isn’t crying or showing any other overt signs of pain doesn’t mean he or she is not hurting.

Firstly, if your pet has had a surgical procedure, or is suffering from an injury, disease or condition that would be painful for you, assume that it’s painful for your pet, too. Having a tooth taken out hurts! So does any incision or serious injury. And cancer and other diseases can cause tremendous pain.

Secondly, strap on your detective’s hat and closely observe your pet’s behaviour. Changes in a cat or dog’s behaviour or normal routine are often the first signs of pain or illness – but those changes aren’t always obvious. Often, especially early in the course of illness or if your pet is experiencing only mild to moderate pain, these differences can be quite subtle. So the better you know your pet’s usual way of doing things, the more likely you are to pick up on clues that your pet may be in some sort of discomfort. Here are some signs that your cat or dog may be in pain:

  • Lack of grooming
  • Sleeping a lot and/or sleeping in only one
  • position, especially if this is a change from past weeks/months/years
  • Lack of interest in food, water or their surroundings
  • Decreased personal hygiene, particularly in cats
  • Wanting to be left alone
  • Growling, snapping, crying or hissing when stroked, touched or moved or when approached
  • Non-stop purring in cats – purring does not necessarily indicate contentment but can actually be a sign of stress, fear or pain
  • Licking, biting or hiding a particular area of their body
  • Abnormal body postures, such as a hunched-back or head-in-the-corner stance
  • Restlessness, pacing, repeatedly assuming different positions
  • Excessive panting
  • Limping
  • Change in food preferences, sleeping spots and/or litter box habits
  • General irritability or crankiness
  • Reluctance to jump to favourite spots, such as window sills and beds
  • Reduced social interactions with owners and/or other pets at home
  • Hiding or seeking isolation

There are also clinical signs that veterinarians look for that tell them that an animal is in pain. Dilated pupils, increased heart and respiratory rate and higher blood pressure indicate the presence of pain. Sometimes signs are not well correlated with pain since, like people, cats and dogs have varying thresholds for pain tolerance.

What can cause pain in your pet

Pain is generally grouped into two categories: acute (sudden onset) and chronic (ongoing). Acute pain usually is easier to recognise, and causes of acute pain can include:

  • Surgical trauma – even routine surgeries, such as spays and dental extractions cause considerable pain
  • Limb or other bone fractures
  • Feline urinary bladder obstruction – this extremely painful condition is more common in male cats than females
  • Feline lower urinary tract disorders not associated with obstruction – this occurs in both males and females
  • An abscessed tooth
  • Blow-to-the-body traumas, such as being hit by a car
  • Kidney infections
  • Soft tissue inflammation from animal bite wounds

Chronic pain can be more difficult to recognise. Two of the most common causes of chronic pain are the pain that occurs secondary to arthritis and pain associated with cancer.  Other causes of chronic pain can include:

  • Trauma or surgery, such as a limb amputation or head surgery
  • Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Chronic wounds
  • Chronic interstitial cystitis in cats (chronic feline lower urinary tract disease)
  • Other medical conditions

How to relieve a pet’s pain

Don’t ever give pets human medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, without specific directions from your veterinarian. Dogs and cats metabolise drugs differently from most other species, so human painkillers can be toxic to them unless they are given in the proper dose and at the proper intervals. This is especially true for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which can be deadly.

That said, your veterinarian can provide a number of medications, from pills to patches, to safely help your dog or cat feel more comfortable. Multiple drugs may even be used to enhance the effects of each other. In some extreme cases, drug therapy is not enough to result in a good quality of life for the pet. Additional treatment options that can be employed along with drug therapy to alleviate pain and improve quality of life include acupuncture, laser therapy (use of light energy to reduce pain and enhance healing), physical rehabilitation and massage therapy. Your veterinarian can talk to you about these options as well.

When treating pets following surgery – both inpatients and outpatients – vets should be very proactive with pain management. It is far better to prevent pain before it begins than to wait until it is present to treat it. Pain medication can also be administered pre-emptively when it can be expected that a pet will experience pain, so don’t hesitate to ask your vet about this if appropriate.

Remember, you are your pet’s guardian and carer and will know better than anyone else of changes in their patterns or behaviour that could indicate pain. So do ask about proper pain-relieving care when you feel it may be needed.

Reproduced from EASE News January 2013, with kind permission.

50. Dog postcard

With thanks to Valerie Lockwood for this beautiful picture

Departed Friend Newsletter no. 49 – December 2012


SEASON’S GREETINGS 

Multiple losses close in time

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent such kind messages of condolence on the losses of Poppsy, Krishna and Daisy, all during the course of this year.

It is always sad to lose a companion animal, but sometimes we lose two, or even more, close in time. This may because (as in my case) we have several animals all growing old at the same time. Such loss is almost inevitable and it hangs over us in advance, though we try not to think about it too much.

Or it may be by sad coincidence, that our pets fall fatally ill or become the victims of accidents …..

Many of us have had to endure two or more losses close together, and the following people have kindly allowed me to share their experiences with you:

Asia and Harry
~ Fay Van Dunk ~

Asia and Harry
A tribute

49. Harry and Asia

Some cats are like the voiceless
not heard, not seen
some humans don’t care and leave them to their own devices
left to fend for themselves against the odds
this is both Asia’s and Harry’s story

They came from the same shelter
one year nearly to the day, apart

I found Asia forlorn, hunched over and left by herself
in a dog basket

I found Harry forlorn, unable to communicate
left outside on a flat roof

Both came with severe gingivitis, infected with the calici virus
both had been abandoned and both had lost their sisters

But both were found by me
and I knew I could never leave them behind

Asia came home the next day
and Harry came home one year later
I fought long and hard
and finally the day dawned
and my friend brought him out

Extraordinary cats
both loving and trusting
loving and giving
despite all they had endured

Both beautiful in their own right
who did not deserve such a hard road
to walk along
but love, warmth and security
they found towards the end

Our time together was so short
but our time together was simply precious

2012

49. Purplewhite wreath

Asia

49. Asia

She was my Asia girl
pert and wee
huge amber eyes
button nose
golden tufts of fur on her forehead
and one set of whiskers

She came, shorn to the skin
some days before I saw her
forlorn, hunched over and sick
lost in the middle of a dog basket

Asia, a Persian Tortoiseshell coat completely shaved

Shocked and indignant
for her I was
Asia was a Persian Queen
stoic, self contained and beautiful
the sweetest nature
and a joy to love

Together for seventeen months
until it all became too much
she lost the will to maintain,
her bleeding mouth and gums
got the better of her
and so she quietly left this earth
helped along one Sunday night

Left only with her memory
Asia was my first girl cat
she died 30 September 2012

Written in loving memory
by her Mum

49. Asia 2

Harry

49. Harry

Harry and I met one May day
he came across on the flat roof which was his abode
one tiny mi-ow was all he could muster
I remember his little black heart shaped nose
his beautiful green eyes
and thus the battle begun
He was held hostage for one long year and fourteen days
living out in the elements
afraid to set foot inside a shed in case he was kept prisoner
as in the past for eight long horror filled months.

Harry is happy and well according to Debbie Heath trustee July 31 2011

A miracle brought Harry home
he learnt to trust again
to respond to human touch and generosity
he was the most gentle and generous of cats
turning a blind eye when Asia was crotchety
patient and undemanding
grateful for his soft basket and clean dishes
and for his soft brush and tummy rubs
but most of all still able to receive love and give back tenfold

Harry was an exceptional cat
we were together fleetingly
five months and ten days before I gently laid him to rest
that dark, sad day
His heart stopped against my heart and the angels were there
to take him upon his way
where no pain, no fear exists
Harry is free again

Written in loving memory
by his Mum

49. Harry 2

Carling and Jasmine
~ Helen Constance ~

My beautiful black and white cat, Carling, passed away on the 10th August after a short illness. Carling used to live upstairs but his owner couldn’t really cope with him and his dog and anyway, Carling preferred to be with me and Domino, who used to invite him in. (Domino left this world on 3rd June last year.) For poem tribute to Domino, see DF no. 44 – Ed.

Carling was very fit and well until he suddenly had what the vet thought at first was a urinary infection, but it turned out to be something much more serious. He spent 5 five days and nights at the Petaid hospital in Coventry (10 miles away from here). He was on an intravenous drip and had a catheter, due to his water crystalising. He was also on strong painkillers.

The staff were very good at the animal hospital and thought at first that they might be able to save him, but in the end his illness was just not curable and the vet said it would be kinder to put him to sleep, so I sadly gave my consent and stayed with him and stroked him as he took his last breath. In spite of being heavily sedated, I’m sure he knew I was there.

He was such a beautiful cat. My 2 female cats, Amey and Jasmine, don’t really seem to miss him, but I keep thinking of him and can still feel his presence sometimes.

He touched the lives of so many people. Everyone in this block of flats seemed to know him.

49. Carling

My sweet, little rescue cat, Jasmine, passed away on 23 October at the age of 17.

Jasmine came to me when she was about 18 months old, having been rescued from a home where she had been ill-treated. She was very nervous at first and painfully thin, but she soon settled in and became very contented.

After living with me for a month she had 5 kittens! I had no idea she was expecting them. The sad thing was – I had managed to find homes for them all, but something was going around then called “fading kitten syndrome” whereby kittens were either stillborn or died soon afterwards.

When they were one month old, one after another they all died. Poor Jasmine kept looking for them as though she couldn’t believe they weren’t coming back.

A few years later Jasmine had to have an emergency hysterectomy, due to an infection in her womb. She also had a lot of teeth removed and was treated for sinus trouble from time to time. She always seemed to have such a strong will to live.

That was how I knew something was very wrong when she suddenly stopped eating. (She normally loved her food.) The vet told me she had renal failure and it would be kindest to put her to sleep. She had had a good life and was very ill, so I sadly gave consent.

49. Jasmine

Amey is her usual mischievous self. She is full of life and doesn’t seem to miss Jasmine. She never really had much to do with her, as Jasmine tended to lie in her bed in the corner towards the end.

49. Candle

Tribute to SUSIE
by Mrs M.C.

I have wanted to write this letter about Susie, a black Labrador who my husband and I adopted from a rescue centre the year we got married in 1961. She was 3 years old, very quiet and affectionate, no trouble at all.

We were living in a small house in a village in Wiltshire at the time. We were happy there to start with, but this house had a cold feeling even on a hot day. This also may sound odd but we could hear windows banging and there was no wind blowing at all; also, the sound of china smashing. I went downstairs to check and everything was still the same as when I put it away. I am a practical person not given to imagining things but, even so, we felt we had to leave the house. We took Susie to my parents’ house to be looked after, while my husband and I moved temporarily into Rooms. This did not work out for Susie, who stopped eating and was pining for us, so my Dad suggested we ask our landlord if she could stay with us. He said yes, but when he saw her he changed his mind and said he would not allow her to stay.

There was no Boarding Kennels so all we could do was to take her back to the Rescue Centre. This was a heartbreaking decision but I had no-one who would take her for the time being.

I felt so guilty and upset about this and in the morning I telephoned the Rescue Centre and asked if they would board her temporarily until we could have her back.

I was devastated to be told she was put to sleep the same evening as we took her back. I will mention no names, but it was one of the big charities.

I think without me, she would have pined and no matter who she was with it would not have made any difference. I ask myself, could I have done any more to help her?

I have wanted to tell someone about her for a long time but I know you will understand my feelings. She was so quiet and clean in all her ways. Worst of all, I haven’t got a photo of her but I can still see her in my mind. I have written this poem:

Time passes and the years
go by but in my heart
you will always Stay
Loved and Remembered.
Every Day
my Very Dear Susie

 

COINCIDENCE…….?

Many of us have uncanny experiences in our time of grief which may – or may not – have a perfectly natural explanation, but which bring comfort; the kind of experience a good friend of mine used to call a ‘non-coincidence’.

Fay Van Dunk writes:

‘Yesterday a little miracle happened as I was feeling quite down and a young tabby appeared from no where in my garden. He was around 8 months old. When he saw me he came immediately and without hesitation into the house! He stayed the day, curling up on my knee, lots of purrs, played with some toys I still have, and when I went out shopping he was on my duvet asleep! I came home at least a couple of hours later and upon opening my front door nothing. I thought he must have gone through the cat flap and back home. I went up stairs and there he was curled up fast asleep!! At 5.20pm he decided he wanted to leave and so off he went. Today he didn’t come and probably he’ll never return again. Was it Harry and Asia sending me some comfort I wonder? What struck me was he was so full of life and fearless, I remember thinking he’s never been hurt by a human being as he was so confident and trusting and that’s how a cat should be. He was a joy to see.’

A similar thing happened to me as I was burying Krishna (see DF no. 47) when a strange little black and white cat I had never seen before wandered into the garden to see what I was doing. She never returned. Fay’s cats had known hardship and ill-health and the tabby who came to see her was the embodiment of well-being and contentment. My Krishna had been old and fatally ill and the little visitor to my garden was young and the picture of health, just starting out in life.

Several years earlier, I had lost Argentina, whom I had rescued, pregnant and starving, from a family who had thrown her out. She lived to a ripe old age, and her two kittens were homed together. When she died, the vet said she was about 90 in human terms. Not long after, I was walking in the high street feeling sad, when I heard the strains of piped music coming from the shopping centre. The song playing was ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina…..’ Apart from the coincidence of hearing that song at that particular time, the strange thing is, I have never heard it played there before or since.

Bestselling American novelist Dean Koontz wrote a beautiful book about his life with Trixie, a remarkable golden retriever with whom he and his wife, Gerda, had an exceptionally strong bond. The book: ‘A Big Little Life’ is well worth reading and I thank the DF reader who so kindly lent it to me.

Three weeks to the minute after Trixie died, Dean and Gerda were walking on their lawn when they saw a brilliant butterfly swooping down from a tree. It was bright gold in colour, bigger than a man’s hand and had wings which were too thick to be aerodynamic. Gerda described them as ‘almost edged in a neon rope’ and to Dean they seemed to be ‘like stained glass with a leaded edge’. Neither Dean and Gerda, nor anyone else who works there, had ever seen anything like it before or since. The butterfly flew around their heads three or four times, brushing their faces and hair, at the very minute Trixie had died three weeks before.

Dean and Gerda (who is the most level headed person he has ever known) are both convinced it was Trixie letting them know that she was all right. Dean says:

‘In sharing this story with friends, I have heard of others who, after losing a particularly beloved dog, had uncanny experiences quite different from ours but which also seemed to be intended to tell them that the spirit of their dog somehow lived on.’

49. Dean and Trixie

Dean Koontz and Trixie

Departed Friend Newsletter No. 48 – September 2012

DAISY

She was found in a cat basket, in the middle of nowhere, on a common in Birmingham.  She was young but mature, in good condition and wearing a collar. When she was taken by her kind rescuer to be spayed, the vet said she had already been done……….

Her kind rescuer had dogs so she could not keep Daisy and she asked me if I knew of a good home.  The inevitable happened and Daisy came to us towards the end of 1999, just before the Millennium.

She was scared at first, hiding in the wardrobe but soon became confident with us, though still very wary of strangers.  Then one day, when the Avon lady came round, Daisy ventured out and made friends with her – interacting for the first time with someone outside the family.  The woman said she was pregnant (it did not show) and that cats can sense this…..

Daisy’s confidence grew quickly after this, and she used to amuse us by getting into funny positions, the best one being to lie on her back, sticking her arms out, straight above her head!  She loved having her tummy tickled and was very affectionate, though terrified of the vacuum cleaner, plastic bags – and belts.  She would cringe when Peter threaded a belt through his trousers.  We wished she could tell us what had happened in the past, and we promised her  that nothing like that would ever happen again.

She loved her food, at one stage putting on too much weight and having to go on a diet. She hated going to the vets in a cat basket – perhaps thinking that history was about to repeat itself and she would be abandoned again.

She had very long whiskers and beautiful friendly eyes and was very vocal, being fluent in many feline expressions, especially the famous ‘Silent Miaouw’ which she employed to great effect when she wanted attention.  She loved sitting on me in the evening and lying on me, or on the pillow, at night. Friends and visitors loved her, several of them saying that, of all our cats, she was their favourite.

I called her a Healer: she always knew when something was wrong and I will never forget her affectionate ways as she tried to cheer me up.  In 2009, the vet practice I was then with ran a competition for people to write about their pets.  The following entry, a true story, was published in their newsletter and won me a bottle of champagne!

Daisy’s healing help

Animal lovers often say “He seems to know when I’m upset; he always comes to me….” or “She always jumps up and licks my face.” 

 My cat Daisy is like that. She is a large, motherly girl who reminds me of Hattie Jacques’ portrayal of ‘Matron’ in the Carry-On series! If Daisy were human, I can imagine her benign presence, presiding calmly over a hospital ward, doing her best to ensure that her patients receive the best possible care.

 She has an unerring sense of when something is wrong and she likes to snuggle up close or climb on top of me –

 I remember the time when I lay on the sofa, inconsolable after the death of Spirit, a beloved pony at the stables where I used to ride; Daisy was there, lying on me at full stretch, using her whole body and her closeness to try and bring comfort.

 Recently I have been suffering from severe back pain. One night in particular, the pain was so bad I got very little sleep.  I could not get comfortable no matter how I lay. Daisy climbed on me, as usual, but she was heavy and the pain was so bad I had gently to push her off. She remained by my side.

 In the early hours of the morning, I got hot and folded the covers back so I could cool down. Daisy very slowly and deliberately came close and, choosing her position carefully, lay herself gently down across my stomach, so that her hindquarters were still on the bed. In this position she was not too heavy. 

 It has been scientifically established that interaction between humans and their companion animals is beneficial to health – reducing stress and blood pressure, and inducing relaxation.  I would have expected, with Daisy lying on me like this, to feel the benefit in the form of gradual relaxation and perhaps relief of some of the tension.  But I have no explanation for what actually happened:

 Immediately, the pain was virtually gone and I was at last able to get some sleep.

 I have no explanation for this and, no, it was not a ‘miracle cure’. The pain returned during the day and it has been a long, slow recovery. But Daisy’s intervention did, for a while, bring instant and complete relief.

 She began to lose weight and developed a thyroid problem; it took several attempts with numerous tests and dosage adjustments, plus a change of tablets, to control it. She slowed down and began to look old.  We did not know her age, but it was becoming clear that she was approaching the ‘home stretch’.  Having lost Poppsy and Krishna in January and March, I was dreading losing a third, but I had a dark and uneasy feeling that she would not last the year.

She had a much-needed dental with a couple of extractions, and at first seemed to pick up well.  Then she went off her food.  Several trips to the vet failed to discover what the problem was.  She ate less and less and got quieter and quieter.  At last a diagnosis was made. She was in acute renal failure. Kidney problems are often hidden by overactive thyroid and, now that this was being controlled, the underlying renal failure was exposed. Tests revealed extremely high levels of enzymes which would have killed many cats.  Daisy was exceptionally strong and we hoped that she could fight this.

It was decided to reduce the dose of thyroid tablets and give an additional tablet, Fortekor, to help the kidneys and stimulate appetite.  She was put on a drip and admitted to vet hospital for the weekend in the hope that fluids would flush out the toxins and give the new tablet régime a chance to work.  At first, the signs were encouraging, but then it became obvious that she was not responding.  She was depressed and lethargic and we were told she felt nauseous.

We took her back to our vet practice, hoping that she could have at least some time back at home.  But it was not to be.  She was obviously feeling extremely unwell and there was no possibility of improvement. It would not have been kind to prolong her suffering.  The vet was very compassionate; she said: “If it was my cat, I would do the same thing”.  By coincidence my friend Jackie (a founder member of the Daisy Fan Club) was at the vets at the same time, and we were able to say goodbye to her together. 

 I always wondered how she came to be abandoned in that way. I imagined some kind of bitter domestic quarrel and one partner taking the other one’s beloved cat, sadistically dumping her in such a way that she would not stand a chance – unless by the greatest of good fortune someone were to come along and find her. Over the years, I have often thought about that person left bereft, robbed of a beloved companion, never knowing what had happened to her. She was, and is, deeply loved, and we did our best to give her a good and happy life.                                           Debby

 

 

HAMISH’S HOPE 

‘A place to go where others know how much you miss your precious pet’

This is a new bereavement resource, set up in late 2011 in memory of Hamish, a very special dog. (See the letter from Yvonne Mulvaney, in the ‘Your Letters’ section of this newsletter).

 Hamish had given Yvonne and her family so much love and joy and, like so many others who have lost a precious pet, their sense of devastation, grief, emptiness and loneliness at his loss was profound. Yvonne says:  “Many times we felt how good it would have been just to be able to meet and talk with others who’d gone through the same experience.”

‘Hamish’s Hope’ was started by Yvonne and Chris as a way of bringing together those who had suffered the loss of a much-loved pet, in friendship, sympathy, understanding and acceptance. ‘Hamish’s Hope’ support groups meet once a month, for a couple of hours over tea and biscuits with the simple aim of people talking and supporting each other in their loss, sharing their memories and honouring the life of their very special friend.

You are welcome to come as many times and for as long as you wish; to share as little or as much as feels right for you. Your loss may be recent or some time ago. Whatever the circumstances are of your loss you will find a kindly listening ear and others who will not judge you. You can feel reassured that your privacy will be respected and no-one will discuss anything they hear outside of ‘Hamish’s Hope’ meetings.

All are welcome; there is no charge for attending the meetings other than for refreshments.  At present the meetings take place in Leeds, but they are hoping to start in South Wales very soon, and branch out into other areas.  To find out more:

Telephone Yvonne 07951 687411

or Chris 07866 510711

email        Yvonne@hamishshope.co.uk

Or you can get in touch by completing the ‘Contact Us’ form on the web site www.hamishshope.co.uk


 ~ FORGET ME NOT ~  

These beautiful credit-card sized memorial cards are of high quality and affordable to most pockets – costing £6.90 each, inclusive of packing and postage.

You can carry them in your wallet as a constant reminder of your beloved companion, and they are a great comfort.

Mike Stennett (see his letter in the ‘Your Letters’ section of this newsletter) produces images on metal for a wide range of purposes and occasions: happy like birthdays and baby scans or sad like baby loss or loss of a companion animal.

You can order a card online at www.4getmenots.co.uk

or contact Mike Stennett at:

3 Pendas Way, Crossgates, Leeds  LS15 8HU

Tel: 0113 2957 321

Mobile: 0791 709 4587

 Your Letters ……

I lost my own beloved little West Highland Terrier, Hamish, last June and the devastation was beyond words and I still grieve and miss him so very much. I feel when he died that my life changed utterly and completely and will never be the same again.  We did give a home to a lovely, gentle little Westie girl who is elderly and had been neglected so at least I feel I am doing some good.

I felt prompted to do something good in his memory and with a friend in Wales have started a Pet Bereavement support group, Hamish’s Hope, where people can come along and meet others and talk and support each other through their grief.  We hold meetings in Leeds, Yorkshire, at present and are hoping to start in South Wales very soon.

We do this completely free of charge but are struggling to get known.  We do have a web site

www.hamishshope.co.uk and I wondered if you feel there is any way we could link in with each other to enhance the support we seek to give those who need help.

Yvonne Mulvaney

 There are some animals who are ‘special’ in a way that defies description. What a wonderful way to commemorate such a one and make something positive come out of the depths of loss. (See p.2 for details about Hamish’s Hope).

*

I’ve had and lost loads of pets – rats, rabbits, even a duck called Des (the last to go was Toffee,  a rescue bun who sadly died a couple of weeks ago).
I’m a small one man (and his wife) band business putting images on metal some of which involves doing memorials for a baby loss organisation who recently asked me if I could make some personalised credit card size metal cards so that people could constantly carry a reminder with them.

Although very sad, these are proving very popular and so I thought it would be a good idea to also offer them to pet owners. I want to get these known because I know they are a comfort to people.

Mike Stennett

See above for details of this delightful and comforting resource, and other items in the ‘Forget Me Not’ range of cards, plus Ashes casket plaque and Slate grave/favourite spot marker.

 *

Many thanks for recent DF newsletter.  I was so sorry to read about Krishna (no. 47).  She was a very pretty cat and it was so sad after Poppsy had the same illness.  I am glad Mumia is well.  I was also very sorry to read about Sandy the dog who came from Greece.  I belong to the charity Greek Animal Rescue who are based in London and Vesna Jones who runs the charity visits Greece and helps a lot of dogs and cats, rescues some and with help of overseas charities rehomes some in various countries including some in the UK.

I am so glad Maureen has another little rescue dog Angel. She looks very sweet. A very determined little dog, and I wish Maureen many happy years with her.  I like to hear of animals rescued from Spain or overseas. I understand a lot have very hard lives and a lot can be abandoned.

Louie a lovely cat but quite sad for him to be without a true home but Celia did all she humanly could. What a good thing he came to Celia when he needed help so badly and she was there for him.  So sad and cruel when a family abandons their cat.  Please pass on my condolences to Celia.  I’m sure he loved her just as she loved him ~ owned by no-one but belonged to everyone is a very true saying.

You asked in the newsletter if anyone knew of the poem ‘The Power of the Dog’ by Rudyard Kipling.  Part of it is used in the book ‘My Dog Rex’ written by Arthur Holman about his famous and courageous police dog Rex the 3rd.  Rex died of throat cancer first and Mr Holman also passed away quite a few years ago.

Mrs M.C.  

Our cockatiel Joey passed away at the end of February this year aged 15 years and 6 months.  He was grey in colour with a touch of orange on his face.He belonged to my husband who passed away on May 29th2008 after suffering a stroke age 80.We had Joey from 2 months old and miss him very much.  His only words were:“Joey Joey quick quick.”We now have a blue and grey budgie aged 4 years whose name is Tim.

Mrs M.C.

It is with great   sadness to report the death of Poppy, during June 2012. Beautiful Golden Persian who reached the ripe old age of 19½ years.Poppy was owned by   lovely people, Pat & David of Lincoln, and was mother to Honey-Baby, featured in a recent   issue of DF (no. 46).Poppy survived her   daughter by 9 months.  Age caught up   with her and there were times when she was unwell, but always seemed to rally  round.Much love to Pat   & David during their sad loss.

Lynn Burman

  

PURPLE POPPY UPDATE

~ Remembering animal victims of war ~ 

Animal Aid launched   its Purple Poppy in 2006 to commemorate the millions of animals who have lost   their lives in human wars. See  

DFs 26, 44 and 45 for features on animals in war, and the Purple Poppy   campaign).

In the first year, Animal Aid sold only 1,000 poppies but received encouraging messages from Army veterans.  Purple poppies have been increasingly well received and in 2011, more than 30,000 poppies were sold – being displayed in vets, libraries, sanctuaries, supermarkets and high street stalls.

Wreaths have been laid at cenotaphs around the country, including by members of Quaker Concern for Animals, in Birkenhead.  For the second year running, a wreath was laid at the Animals in War memorial on 11th November, with Animal Aid’s Director Andrew Tyler, and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell saying a few words; the animals were remembered with a minute’s silence.

Eastbourne MP Steven Lloyd came along to buy a purple poppy and to support local World War 2 veterans who were selling the purple poppy.

 Examples of use in modern warfare include animals being trained as part of bomb disposal teams; dolphins and seals being used at sea for mine detection work.  At least 14 British Army sniffer dogs have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan land wars.  One of these deaths was widely reported in June, when a Springer Spaniel named Theo suffered a seizure shortly after his handler had been killed in a gun battle.  It was widely believed that Theo had died of a broken heart. 

On a happier note, Kilo (pictured here wearing a purple poppy garland) was rescued   by a female British soldier serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  She was looked after by NOWZAD DOGS, which   is  an    organisation  that rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After completing her quarantine, Kilo is now doing really well at home with the mother of the soldier who first stopped to feed Kilo. (See also DF 41 for a feature on Nowzad Dogs).

 Information for this feature from Animal Aid.

For the full article, please see:

http://www.animalaid.org.uk/images/pdf/poppyupdate2011.pdf

 This year, DF reader Caroline Turner is again organising a fundraising and Purple Poppy Awareness stall for Animal Aid in Luton Town Centre, on Saturday 27 October 2012, and Peter and I will be helping.

It is well worth doing a stall, or approaching your local supermarket, vet practice or library, to ask if they will take poppies to display and sell.

To find out more, or to order purple poppies:

Animal Aid

The Old Chapel, Bradford Street,

Tonbridge, Kent TR9 1AW

Tel:  01732 364 546

www.animalaid.org.uk   info@animalaid.org.uk

WORKING ANIMALS

 “Rusty was more than my big dog and best friend; he was also my ears as I’m registered deaf”**

 **(Name and some identifying details changed to preserve confidentiality).

 These were the words of a DF client, after the death of a much-loved companion who was not only deeply grieved for his own sake, but also because of the partial loss of independence that his death caused my client.

For many disabled people dependent on service animals, acquiring a speedy ‘replacement’ is a matter of necessity rather than choice.  If euthanasia is planned, steps can be taken to minimise distress to the owner and ensure continuity of care by involving the organisation that provided the animal as soon as possible, preferably in advance.

However, if the death or euthanasia is unexpected and takes place outside the home, for example at the veterinary surgery, the owner might need immediate practical help – simply to get home.

Vet practices and provider organisations (e.g. Guide Dogs – formerly called the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association) will be aware that any bereavement their client is suffering will be compounded by the abrupt and immediate curtailment of independence and socialisation.

It may not be possible to get another animal immediately and, when the new animal does arrive, the owner may not bond successfully, due to unresolved grief for the one that has died. The partnership will also be completely different and both will have to learn to work together. It may be hard for such owners to reconcile the practical need for immediate ‘replacement’ with the emotional conviction that they are not yet ready to relate to another animal. Vet practices and provider agencies should therefore be able to provide information on counselling or support groups where they can talk through such painful feelings in a supported, empathetic environment.

Guide Dogs has gardens of remembrance, where scattering the ashes or placing a plaque could help owners work through their grief.

By ensuring that any emotional needs are met in parallel with the apparently conflicting practical needs, the mental pain of owners may be softened and they may soon come to appreciate the practical advantages of restoring independence by acquiring another assistance animal before they were emotionally ready.

There is also another dimension to the grief process when the animal has shared a different kind of partnership, such as dogs who help farmers with their daily work and may also compete in Sheep Dog Trials, or horses who have carried their human partners to glory in competitive events, or explored the countryside with them for pleasure and relaxation.  The death of such a one can mean a loss of livelihood and also of socialisation, as well as the sorrow caused by the bereavement itself.

And the loss does not have to be caused by death. I remember some of the riders in the 2012 Olympics saying how they had developed a deep connection with their horses – and then the news immediately after the Games that the horses were going to be sold.

 

And finally……

 Two broadcasts to watch online:

 1)     Man’s Best Friend?

In DF no. 44 I reported that a group called Youth with a Mission had interviewed me for a slot in a short film about a Nigerian man who is used to eating dogs.  He comes to England and undertakes to look after a friend’s dog, Scooby, for a week while she is on holiday. He meets several people, including me, in order to learn more about the concept of dogs as companion animals and members of the family.  The video is now out on YouTube. (The two cats who make a brief appearance are first Poppsy on the floor, and then Krishna on the arm of the sofa).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz3Oyp-lOnA

 2)  4thought.tv – Do Animals have Souls?

For those of you who may have missed it, here is the short (less than 2 minutes) slot shown on Channel 4 in the UK, on 18 August 2012. There was a week of broadcasts on the same theme from people with different views and experiences.

http://www.4thought.tv/themes/do-animals-have-souls/debby-wakeham?autoplay=true

Departed Friend Newsletter No. 47 June 2012

This edition of the newsletter is dedicated to the memory of TINA HUGHES ~ an inspirational lady who shared her life with her husband and numerous companion animals and was driven by deep love and compassion to campaign for justice for those unfortunate animals who fall victim to human cruelty.

 KRISHNA

I wrote in the last newsletter (DF46) of the loss of Poppsy, one of three litter sisters who had shared my home since they were kittens. Poppsy had just succumbed to cancer, and Krishna had had a similar diagnosis (a month to the day after Poppsy’s diagnosis) but was holding on – thin and hyperthyroid but still enjoying a reasonable quality of life.

I had a feeling that, unlike with Poppsy who slowly declined, Krishna’s health would take a ‘nose-dive’ and that is what happened, just after I had finished printing the last newsletter.

One evening she took a while to recover from a vet check-up appointment, lying around looking exhausted when she got home; however, she picked up somewhat over the next few days. Then on Sunday 18 March, she cried out and then lay in unnatural positions, trying to get comfortable and not knowing what to do with herself. It was obvious she was suffering so we had to take her to the emergency vet. After examining her and doing some quick tests, he said he thought the cancer had spread to her heart and that she might be in acute heart failure, so there was only one thing to do. As with Poppsy, it was very quick and she was gone before the injection had finished going in……

She was always the odd one out and I believe she was the runt of the litter.  She was active and healthy but quiet and aloof and it seemed she had not learned how to purr; she did eventually, becoming quite adept, especially when she was playing “bouncy castle” ~ sitting on Peter’s stomach and kneading with all four paws.  (He has countless t-shirts with little holes in, not to mention the rash of marks, like measles, that kept appearing on his stomach and thighs!)

Though she became friendly, she always hated being picked up and would become extremely vocal in protest if anybody tried. I wondered whether her father had been feral; her mother was a stray from Harlesden, taken in by my son Richard.

My other son David nicknamed her “Gold Spot Girl” as she had a smudge of ginger on her tabby head, as if someone had accidentally spilt a drop of bleach on her.  She was petite and enigmatic, keeping her thoughts private; this was enhanced by her large, slanted eyes which looked as if they belonged to a being from another planet.  They reminded me of the illustration on the front cover of “Communion” – Whitley Streiber’s book about aliens.

For a while she lived with our friend Graeme but came back for holidays when he went away.  She lived in a 2nd floor flat and was rather nervous of going downstairs to go out.  She loved to climb and sit on high places, and one day she decided to investigate the open window.  Whether she was trying to get out, or whether she accidentally fell, Graeme did not know. Fortunately a bush broke her fall and she was unhurt!

Though she and Graeme had got on very well together, it was mutually decided that she should come home for good, as he went away a lot.  She would only have to go out of the back door to get into our garden. She settled back in immediately, becoming once again part of the family.  She always preferred Peter, but I was a more than adequate second-best when he was not around and I felt privileged when she started (comparatively late in life) lying on my stomach when I was reading in bed, gently kneading and purring until “Daddy” appeared ~ at which point she would promptly get off to go to him and I would be abandoned!

She loved margarine.  Every time one of us went to the fridge, she would loudly demand that we give her some. Even though we use soya margarine, with no trace of dairy, she loved it.  Sometimes we put dollops on the side for her to eat; sometimes she would take it from the end of a finger, licking with enthusiasm but always leaving a little bit behind.

Another of her endearing habits was what I called “doing her nails” when she would carefully bite each claw, flicking off the old shell, like a snakeskin.

We have photographs to remember her by and David took videos of her on his phone which he forwarded  to me, so I can still see her and listen to her.

She leaves one sister, tortoiseshell Mumia, (her other tortoiseshell sister, Prissy, having been the first of the sisters to find a new home and, sadly, also the first to pass away, a few years ago).

She also leaves a gap and a sadness that endures, underpinning our busy lives. Apart from the poignancy of losing two so close together, there is something else.  I was convinced I had taken some of her fur some weeks previously, and placed it in a special pendant ready to wear when the time came.

When I opened it, I was horrified to find there was nothing there. I searched to see where I might have stored the fur and found nothing. I then got some tweezers and, like a forensic scientist, carefully plucked tabby hairs from the blanket in the cat-basket in which she had made her last journey. There was no knowing whether these hairs came from her or from one of the others, but by the law of averages, some of them must be hers. I put them in a small plastic wallet, which I then inserted into the pendant.

Two strange things happened while I was digging her grave. The first was that I saw her walking towards me across the lawn, as if she was coming over to see what I was doing. The second was that we saw (in the flesh) a sweet little half-grown black   and  white  cat  who popped into the garden, also to see what I was doing. She had a collar on, and a shaved flank indicating that she had recently been spayed.  We had not seen her before and have not seen her since. I felt that her visit was symbolic and meant to be: she was a young healthy cat starting out in life, just as someone old and very ill had left it.

 ~  Debby

                             

CORRECTION

 I reviewed a book called “Bill at Rainbow Bridge” in DF46. Unfortunately the telephone number for Caroline Davis, the UK distributor of this book, was wrong.

The correct number is 01406 331421 if you want to order a paperback copy.  Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Thanks to the DF reader who pointed this out.

SANDY

by Maureen Shbero 

 On the 17th May I lost my beautiful dog Sandy. In my heart I had known for a few weeks that our time together was getting shorter. We had noticed that she had lost weight too. I guess there are lots of people   like me who just do not want to believe what is happening.

Over the past few weeks I would make sure I said goodnight to her looking into her big brown eyes and telling her how much I loved her. I reminded her of our first meeting. She came to me from Greece and was one of the first to come on the Passports for Pets system. Even with that she had to go to a special quarantine kennel in Chingford to wait for DEFRA to check out her papers which fortunately did not take long. I was sitting with her in her ‘room’ and she put her head on my shoulder and I told her that she was home and that never again would she be hungry and alone. It was of that first meeting that I used to remind her of and that I did keep my promise.

Everyone loved my Sandy. She was quiet and we always said we should have nicknamed her Greta Garbo because she always ‘wanted to be alone’ ! She always seemed so grateful to be loved and cared for. We do not know her life before she was found in a suburb of Athens and taken to the GAR shelter but they reckon she was about 3+. She was 18 months in the shelter and so by the time she came to me she was about 6.  We have a nice park near where we live in South London and she loved to go to the park and run and run and tumble over on the grass. We already had a border collie, Shep, and they both loved the park. Although Shep and Sandy were never ‘lovey dovey’ when he passed away in 2003 she pined for him and my vet had to prescribe some medication.

This past 11 days has been very hard. I miss Sandy so very much and I wonder if my life will ever be the same. I have some wondeful memories and that is what is important. Fortunately she did not suffer too long and I stayed with her until the last moment. I know that the last she saw was me as I stroked her head. I told her I would never leave her!

We do have another little rescue dog (Angel) who has helped us through this very difficult time and I do not doubt that she feels the loss of Sandy too.

It is true that ‘it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all’.

I have attached a photo of my little rescue dog Angel. Can I just tell you her story as quick as possible.

I found her while in Spain.  My husband was going loopy saying ‘not another dog’ as we already had 2 rescues, Sandy and Meg. So after I had her spayed I took her to a shelter. When I left her I was in tears all the way back. I had fallen in love with her ! That was the Friday. On the Sunday a neighbour came to the door with Angel in his arms ! I thought he was going to say they had gone to get her because his wife had thought about it.

No, what had happened was she had been put in the owner’s house where it was quiet because she had only been spayed the day before. Within an hour she had escaped. She had traversed a track to the main road. How she knew to turn left and not right heaven knows. She found her way through the village and heaven knows how she did that because we got lost the first time ! She had walked about 11+ miles. How she survived I do not know because although not a motorway it is a fast road over the hills. She had no scent to follow. I believe that my father had been her sat nav ! I feel that he brought her back to me because it is from him I get my love of animals !

Best wishes,  Maureen with Angel XX

A REQUEST FOR EXPERTISE

Can anyone help make life a bit more comfortable for a dog with a disability?

This is going to sound like a very odd request, but I shall try to make it clear and brief.

I have a dog who had an accident 2 years ago leaving her paralysed in her 2 back legs. She is on wheels and has a good life.

We have learned to adapt most things, but one thing I would like a better solution to is her scratching. Dogs scratch with their back legs and as she can’t use hers we need to do it for her. I have had ideas about creating some sort of scratching mat.

I am hoping to find a group of enthusiastic students that could help me in my quest and help me construct something.

There are a LOT of gaps in the market for things for disabled pets and there are more out there then anyone would think.

I do hope you can help me with this and I would very much like to hear from you.

Kind Regards,  Jessica Clements

*

 

If anyone has any ideas on how to help, please let me know either by phone or by writing/emailing me at the DF address; I will then pass on your details to Jessica. Many thanks ~ Debby

 

 

Annie with her wheels                                                                 

A bit more about Annie:

She is quite a large dog so her care is not easy, but she is happy enough. I have 3 other dogs and she cannot do everything they do, but she copes so well with this. And she does get a lot of special attention!

She was 6½ when she had her accident, it was June  2 years ago so she is coming up 9 now.

She had been diagnosed with osteo-arthritis and was having acu-pressure every 3 weeks. This was working well to keep her pain under control and then we noticed some muscle wastage in her back legs so put her on medication for a while so she could build the muscle back up. The day I did this the dogs went out for a walk as normal and they were chasing rabbits in long grass and she ran into another one of my dogs and she screamed.

We got her back to the house, into a car and to the vet. We were there a long time and it was ages before they gave her anything. We then went through hell and back as they told us it was hopeless, then they could do something, then it was hopeless and finally we had options with her. We had to leave her there and we went home. I returned the following morning to be told I should just put her down.  I insisted she be taken to the animal hospital and there I was told she had almost severed her spinal cord and if they operated she had less than 5% chance of walking again. I could not bear to lose her so I had them operate anyway and I was very lucky because my Mum loaned me the money.

It took her ages to recover from the surgery, not least because they left gauze inside her so her wounds would not heal. She went to a physio vet and had hydrotherapy, acupuncture, physio, the works for weeks and weeks. It did no good, but we bought her wheels from America. It took her a while to like them, but now she flies around on them!!

With regards Annie’s scratch mat, I just need to know what material would be best really. I want something I can put in front of her that she can rub her head and face on. She rubs on the sofa and this is not abrasive enough and I brush her face and mouth and ears regularly which she loves. We try to make her as independent as possible.  I have also tried to construct a large cushion so she can rest when she is  on  her  wheels  as currently she stamps her  feet  and we take her off. She is reluctant to rest on anything I build!  I wish there was more help and options for people in my position; it would certainly make it easier for people to make the decision I have.

~ Annie with Sybil

Thank you to everyone who sent such lovely messages and cards on the losses of Poppsy and Krishna.

It is always sad to lose a much-loved friend, and to lose more than one in quick succession is hard.   Debby

 

Your letters

Thanks for the latest DF Debby and the inclusion of my farewell message to Sox.  The photo came out well and the looking at it again brought back memories of when he was a young cat. Boy was he a mouser.  Your tribute to Poppsy made me smile when you wrote about how she stood in front of the computer monitor and trampled over the keyboard and typed ppppttfsh??? and other such cat speak that we humans can’t understand. Sox was fluent in tttiehglk??? too though I too never understood what he typed.  I was never good at languages.

Jeff Kleinman

(Jeff has now acquired Lottie and Millie, two young female cats from HOMELESS CAT RESCUE, a non-profit organisation based in Luton).

They’ve taken to the house and me better than I could have hoped, especially Millie.  She’s been rubbing herself against me and purring and sitting on my lap.  So far she’s had 3 Whiskas pouches, a quarter of a tin of Tesco’s cat food and biscuits.  She’s a little character.  Lottie on the other hand is a cooler character.  At the time of writing they’re both lying next to each other on top of my kitchen units.  I’d forgotten how agile young cats are.  They’re great. I love them both.

 

 

 “Go on you ask him.”  “Nah, I’m too shy you ask him.” “Ok I’ll do it… ehmmm, how long until we can go outside please meow meow purr purr?”

 

Dear Debby

Hello again, another year has passed and I still miss Misty very much although the pain eases, the missing never goes away and some days are worse than others.  You can perhaps note that for your newsletter.

I am going on a family holiday to Miami … and when I come back I am going to consider getting another dog…. I think a dog would be a joyful distraction …

Best wishes from Mary Ryding

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that my sweet little Gretchen has just passed away, she had been ill for a while, but mercifully the end was peaceful.

I vowed not to take in anymore strays after I lost my precious Joey, but Gretchen turned up, obviously unwanted and unloved, and in she came. The last few weeks she was so frail, I was dreading having to make that terrible final trip to the vet, but mercifully it didn’t come to that.

Carol

 

Dear Debby

Thank you so much for the lovely mention of our beloved Benji, Pepper, and of course our Lucky      (in DF no. 46).  It really was so kind of you. It did help us so much.  Bless you.

Love, Valerie, Michael & Lucky Lockwood

 

        

First flight ~ last flight

As with many cat-lovers, there is one thing about cats that I don’t like: their tendency to catch and play with prey. I know it is their instinct, diluted by domesticity, as household cats no longer have to rely on hunting skills to survive.

A few weeks ago, Sammie brought in a little bird who was screaming in terror. I managed to prize it from her mouth and it became silent, gasping for air.  It did not seem to be greatly harmed physically but I did not hold out much hope for its survival.

Nevertheless, I wrapped it carefully in a towel and placed it in a quiet place, away from the cats.  When I checked an hour or two later, it had died.

On examination, it appeared to have been a baby sparrow who still had some baby down amongst the adult feathers. We thought it had might have embarked upon its first flight, only to stumble and fall into mortal danger.

It now lies buried in our garden.                Debby

 

Nurses Movement for Responsible Medicine  (NMRM)

Cynthia O’Neill SRN SCM QN HV is founder member of this organisation, dedicated to total and immediate abolition of vivisection.  As they rightly say:

Due to fundamental differences between species, animals react very differently from humans to medicines – with catastrophic consequences to our health.  Increasing numbers of doctors and scientists agree it is time to abolish all animal experiments and engage in research methods of direct relevance to people.

 Their website contains a wealth of useful information, including a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section that explodes several myths about vivisection, plus documented evidence on the dangers to human health and life itself as well as the cruelty of the atrocities inflicted on non-human animals.

Website:  www.nmrm.org

If you would like to help NMRM and other animal-related causes, you can do so in one of two ways:

1) collect your used postage stamps and send them to Cynthia; she will refund your postage;

2)  buy one of these beautiful cards from Cynthia; there is no copyright and the design is 90 years old. You can buy one for £1.00 with envelope, p&p free.  Or you can make her an offer for the job lot of 50.

Contact Cynthia:  01444 239 044

35 Stonefield Way Burgess Hill W.Sussex RH15 8DW

 

 

HOMEWARD BOUND

________

 (To one of the “Many Mansions”)

 ________

LOUIE

It was a very warm spring morning when you first came past.  You looked happy ~ maybe you had just eaten.  A few days later you came back but this time you looked tired. We gave you a good meal, which got me wondering: Did you have a home? If not, who else feeds you and where do you go?

You came nearly every day after that, but when Autumn came we tried to keep you in but you were having none of that; you would only come in if the door was kept open. So we bought you a kennel; you loved it ~ a place to call yours. You would snuggle into your blankets which in the winter months we changed every day.  Sometimes (not often) you would go for nearly a week then just turn up, look and say “OK what’s all the fuss about?” How big was your territory? There must be other people.

You soon came to your name which was Louie.   I would give you a worm tablet every so often but your fur was always lovely.  Little did I know somebody else gave you Frontline and also you were a lot older than what we thought.

Six years had passed. I knew you were fed up and Winter was on its way once more but you had lost weight and looked tired but you battled on doing your rounds.  I was always watching for you and I hoped and prayed when the day finally came you would choose us.

A few weeks later, it became very cold with temperatures well below freezing; it was very cold, dark. Teatime, we opened the door and there you were ~ your body shaking with cold.  You let us pick you up. I heard you sneeze and I said to myself I would never let you go again.  You ate a little, drank a little.  All your life you never saw a vet until now and you really needed one. He was very kind. It was your liver though.  I said your name and you looked at me I stroked you and you fell into a peaceful sleep.     It was very sad.

What a trail you left behind, Louie! 2 more families looked after you and you had another name; it was Moses. You knew how to cross roads and 14 years ago your so-called family abandoned you when you were very young and you never ever left ~ 14 years ~ You were wonderful.

I think somewhere out there are other people who miss you and wonder where you are but that night you came to us when you needed help. Thankyou, and in your own special way you loved us because we loved you, Louie.  I have your Ashes and when the time is right they will be placed near your kennel. There is a saying:

“Owned by no-one but belonged to everyone”   ~   God Bless darling Louie.    Celia Xx

 

THE POWER OF THE DOG

 There is sorrow enough in the natural way

From men and women to fill our day;

And when we are certain of sorrow in store,

Why do we always arrange for more?

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware

Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

 

Buy a pup and your money will buy

Love unflinching that cannot lie –

Perfect passion and worship fed

By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.

Nevertheless it is hardly fair

To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

 

When the fourteen years which Nature permits

Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,

And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs

To lethal chambers or loaded guns,

Then you will find – it’s your own affair –

But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,

With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)

When the spirit that answered your every mood

Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,

You will discover how much you care,

And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,

When it comes to burying Christian clay.

Our loves are not given, but only lent,

At compound interest of cent per cent.

Though it is not always the case, I believe,

That the longer we’ve kept ‘em, the more do we grieve:

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,

A short-time loan is as bad as a long –

So why in Heaven (before we are there)

Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

                                                           Rudyard Kipling

  

This remarkable poem which expresses so graphically and poignantly the deep devotion that dogs can evoke in their humans has been, over the years, a great source of comfort to those who suffer the pain of canine loss.  I am convinced that the author, Rudyard Kipling, knew only too well this kind of sorrow. 

 If anyone has any information about this, I would be very interested to have it, as I have tried without success to find out what inspired him to write the poem.       Debby

 

 

 

Departed Friend Newsletter No. 46 March 2012

10 Years of Departed Friend

Exactly 10 years ago, the first edition of Departed Friend newsletter came into being.  I had for some time been troubled by the fact that there was a fundamental lack of understanding out there, and, above all, that the average person would not know where to turn in their distress when they lost a much-loved companion. Knowing from personal experience how painful the loss of our animal friends can be, and having had experience in counselling for human bereavement, I wanted to do something about it.

One morning I literally had a Eureka! moment. Like Archimedes, I suddenly sat up in my bath – the idea was born. I would produce a newsletter for people bereaved by the loss of an animal. As far as I knew, this had not been done before. I was aware of helplines, websites, chatrooms and publications which would allow tributes but, to my knowledge, there was no such thing as a newsletter devoted purely to this topic. I quickly decided on Departed Friend for the title and set out to produce the first edition. 

                                                                                                           In March 2002, issue no. 1 was ready. It contained a tribute to a wonderful pony called Spirit who did not belong to me but whom I used to ride and still missed greatly.  It helped to write it down and give her

the recognition she deserved.  This set the tone for the tributes I began to receive subsequently from other bereaved people who wish to commemorate their lost loved ones. 

I sent out a pilot mailing of 50 copies of Issue 1 to people I hoped would be interested: personal friends who owned or who simply loved animals, and those involved with animal welfare; it was well received.

Since then, circulation has grown and people can choose whether to receive the newsletter by post or by email. I have noticed an increased awareness and understanding of this kind of bereavement and am pleased to say that the media are now taking it much more seriously, nowadays mostly treating it with respect rather than ridicule. 

                                                                                                                  There have been some landmark developments for Departed Friend along the way, the first of which was kick-started by the loss of my beloved Eric (pale ginger cat) in 2008.I had been meaning for some time to do a distance learning course on Companion Animal Bereavement Counselling with the Animal Care College,

to set what I was already doing on a professional footing and expand what I could offer, but somehow I had never got around to it.  When Eric died, I decided to make some good come out of that terrible day, 13 February 2008, and wrote the letter of application to the College, intending to dedicate all my coursework to Eric. 

                                                                                            I was accepted and started the course on 1st May 2008 (the 5th anniversary of the passing of my wonderful white cat, Spooky) completing the course in a year.

I got the grades that were worthy of Eric, and thought that he would be proud of me.  I was now a fully-fledged professional, accredited by the National Open College Network.  As well as the newsletter, I offer support by letter, email, text and telephone (7pm – 9pm on weekday evenings).  I have also started offering face to face support in my local area.

The next landmark was the blog.  My husband Peter kindly offered to set this up for DF – and showed me how to edit and update it.  (A long, laborious process accompanied by many a swearword when things go wrong!  But well worth it).  He has also just set up a new website for DF, which is currently under construction and will eventually contain information on all aspects of DF’s work and services.

While I was researching material for newsletter no. 36 (September 2009) Peter accidentally came across the website of EASE – a small charity offering companion animal bereavement counselling by email, and also support in preparing for pet loss. I was so impressed as I had never come across this before, and I contacted EASE to ask their permission to feature them in the newsletter.  They said yes.  They were also impressed with DF and we had a very positive meeting.  I was honoured and delighted when they asked me to become part of the expanding EASE team, and I have been volunteering with them now for two years.  It is good to be able to help people in distress.

DF has grown from strength to strength in the last 10 years, being featured in the local press and on stalls; I also gave a talk to the AGM of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria and have established contact with various organisations and agencies including local vet surgeries.

The growth and development of DF has been in large part due to the support and generosity of our readers, who send in moving tributes, poems and photographs, as well as generous donations of stamps and money to keep the service going.  My very grateful thanks to you all.

Significant developments in DF have been marked by losses as mentioned above, and sadly, this 10-year anniversary is no different.  On 17 January 2012, we had to say goodbye to a gentle and deeply-loved companion of the last 16 years, sister to Mumia and Krishna ……….

POPPSY

On 10 December 2011, we got the news we had been half expecting ~ and dreading.  Poppsy, aged 16  and a half, had not been herself for a few weeks.  The change was subtle, but worrying.  She was still eating, still waking me up at 4 in the morning, “whispurring” in my ear and trampling my hair into the pillow; still “helping” us type (producing words like “fffttttt9999” in the middle of our work ~ I guess this must mean something in Feline but I have no idea what); still standing in front of the monitor, or even pressing the key that turns it off when we were at the computer.  But she seemed somehow diminished, not quite so vibrant, as if someone had turned the volume down. 

The vet gave her a thorough examination and then the diagnosis ~ she had a mass on or near her liver, which was almost certainly cancer.  He gave her 2 months at the most.  Because of her age and the fact that it was almost certainly inoperable, he did not recommend putting her through invasive and useless tests but advised us to let nature take its course. He told us to spoil her and then let her go with dignity when her appetite went; we agreed.  She had 5 weeks and 2 days left….

In 1995, my son Richard’s cat became pregnant, despite my having nagged him constantly to get her spayed.  He said he had good homes lined up for the kittens. When they were born, he invited us to see them; they were beautiful ~ two tabbies and two tortoiseshells, all girls.  Then he changed his mind about the good homes ~ he did not trust the people after all and could I take them on.  I said yes, with the intention of finding them good homes.  They were nine weeks old and I let them have the run of the house during the day and shut them in their own room overnight.  Each morning I woke to the sound of urgent squeaky miaouws and when I went into the room, I would gather the four tiny bundles into my hands and marvel at the loudness of their engines ~ they sounded like little motorbikes.

Prissy, a gorgeous tortoiseshell, quickly found a home, and so did tabby Krishna.  (Krishna later returned because her owner had to go away a lot and did not think it was fair to keep asking us to look after her; we willingly agreed to have her back). That left tabby Poppsy and the other tortoiseshell, Mumia.  They were fond of each other so I wanted them to be homed together.  This nearly happened twice but both homes fell through and by this time I was too attached to them to let them go. 

Shortly after being spayed, Poppsy developed a hormone imbalance, losing much of the fur on her back.  This went on for years, though eventually she was able to stop treatment and the fur grew back. I always wondered if it happened because she wanted to have kittens; she would have been a wonderful mother.  She was the biggest and we think she was the firstborn; Richard had acted as midwife and helped her into the outside world.

She got on well with most of the others, but for some reason disliked our pale ginger, Eric, bullying him remorselessly.  She did not actually fight him but instead she stalked him, intimidating him psychologically, staring him down and forcing him off the bed. I often wished he would smack her one, but he was far too chivalrous and scared of her, even though he was fearless with toms.  I do, however, have a rare photograph of Eric and Poppsy actually sharing a beanbag.

She developed mammary cancer about three years ago and the vet saved her life, performing two big operations called the Mammary Strip ~ removing each row of mammary glands.  Poppsy was very strong and recovered remarkably well, enduring having to wear an “Elizabethan collar” with long-suffering patience. 

When we got Henry, she got on very well with him and he used to lick her forehead as an early morning ritual on the bed; he then lowered his head for her to return the compliment, but she never did, though once or twice we thought she was about to do so.

It was only in her later years that she ever sat on our lap; she learned to do this by first sitting on an upended TV dinner tray, beanbag side up!  From this, she graduated to sitting on laps and decided she liked it.

In her last few weeks, she became thin and wobbly but kept going by sheer willpower: still eating, still purring and still taking pleasure in being brushed.  When she was stronger, she used to like us to use the vacuum cleaner on her, refusing to move when we were trying to do the chair she was sitting on, until we had first vacuumed her!

Those last weeks were a roller coaster; there were times when I thought: Today is the day… then she would rally and demand food and seem to take pleasure in life and I would sigh with relief at the reprieve. I had a silver pendant made of one of her pawprints, by Karan’s Silver (see DF45) with her name engraved on the back. I took photos and short videos of her with my phone and digital camera.

In the afternoon of 17 January, there was a definite deterioration.  She asked for food (it was fish, her favourite) but she could not eat it.  She looked at me in a puzzled kind of way as if to say: “What is happening?”  I thought ~ I can’t make it better, but I can make it stop. 

When she could not eat her evening meal, but instead lay on her side looking rather uncomfortable, I knew it was time to make that phone call…..

While at the vets, by coincidence I saw Lynda, a good friend from work, who herself has cats and knows the pain of losing them.  She came into the surgery just in time to say goodbye to Poppsy and to hug me; she then went into the waiting room to comfort Peter.

It was very quick; Poppsy had gone before the injection had finished going in.  The vet said: “She is in a field, playing with butterflies”.  She then told me about her husband’s dog, who is buried in their garden. She said flowers grew around the grave.  I asked if they had planted them there and she said no, they had come up by themselves. I found this strangely comforting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 We buried Poppsy in the garden, on the opposite side to Eric, and had candles burning all night. 

She still helps and inspires my work, but now in a different way, from a different place.

   

On 10 January 2012, the vet found a mass in Krishna’s stomach.  It all seems unreal ~ like a macabre action replay.  But thankfully, at the time of writing this tribute to Poppsy, Krishna is doing all right.  She is quite thin but still enjoying life, eating well and purring on the arm of Peter’s chair as he sits and strokes her while watching television.

Debby

BOOK REVIEW

 

“The owners of departed pets want to know:

  • That their pets are happy
  • That their own grief is normal
  • That they will be reunited with their pets one day,
  • and that it’s OK to love again.

 Bill at Rainbow Bridge fulfils these wishes.”

 So reads the promotion on the back of this remarkable little book – and it is right; Bill at Rainbow Bridge does all this, and more.

This unusual bereavement resource is written in the form of a story, taking us through the arrival of Bill, a much-loved British Bulldog, at Rainbow Bridge, and the journey through grief of David, the man he left behind.  Enhanced by beautiful illustrations by Peg DuVal, Dan Carrison’s book touches upon difficult topics, such as David’s feelings of shame and embarrassment at being unable to control his emotions and his wife’s concern for him, alongside her thinking David’s suffering is misplaced “and very nearly an affront to her own grief at the loss of her mother”.  These and other issues are raised and worked through in a gentle, positive manner.

The chapters describing how Bill and his animal friends spend their days at Rainbow Bridge – and what happens when a human is suddenly spotted at the Bridge – are interspersed with the steps David takes, supported by his wife, Susan, to try and come to terms with his terrible grief.  He books an appointment with a pet bereavement counsellor who understands to the core his pain as he himself has endured the loss of a beloved cat.  He joins a support group of people who share reminiscences of their departed friends and find this therapeutic.  David also decides, although this at first seems strange to him, to write a letter to Bill.  Eventually he is able to contemplate helping others through their grief and even investing love in another dog, while acknowledging that he is not “replacing” Bill and that the relationship with the new dog is entirely different.

The book is written from the heart and certainly engages the emotions as well as the mind, but it is not sentimental or sugary. The sixty four thousand dollar question of survival after death is assumed, from a scientific point of view.  As a member of the bereavement support group says:

“I’m an engineer. I deal in facts and figures, and I appreciate Einstein’s theory of the conservation of energy.  Basically he showed us that energy cannot be destroyed. The energy that made up our loved ones … doesn’t simply vanish when they die, because energy cannot be destroyed. …. That’s why I don’t think the idea of Rainbow Bridge is far fetched at all…”

The book has been selling well in the USA and has now become available in the UK, as an inexpensive digital copy available on Kindle or to download to your pc, from Amazon.co.uk. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bill-at-Rainbow-Bridge-ebook/dp/B00689JWME/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323105895&sr=1-1

Or you can get a copy from Dan himself, with an inscription of your choice, from http://www.BillAtRainbowBridge.com.

There is also a tab entitled “Friends of Bill”, with links to important pet bereavement services.

The book was featured in the January 2012 issue of Dogs Monthly magazine www.dogsmonthly.co.uk.  One of the editors of Dogs Monthly, noted British author and pet specialist Caroline Davis, was so impressed that she is now the distributor of the paperback edition of the book for the UK. She can be reached at caroline.davis544@btinternet.com or on tel. 01406 331421, if you prefer to have a paperback rather than a digital copy.

Send cheque for £9.50 payable to ‘Mrs. C. Davis’,

Rivendell, Lambert Bank, Gedney Hill, Lincolnshire PE12 0PR.

As a companion animal bereavement counsellor, I unreservedly recommend this wonderful book, which I am certain will bring comfort and solace to people going through the pain of losing a beloved animal friend, giving them the reassurance they so badly need that their grief is normal and that there are people out there who truly understand.

Debby

Goodbye Dear Friend

It wasn’t a protracted illness, it happened quite quickly. I noticed a decline in his appetite and energy levels about a week before I took him to the vet and though I didn’t want to admit it I knew, just knew it was serious. It turned out that Sox, my 18 year old cat who’d been with me since he was a kitten, had a rare form of heart disease that’s known as the silent killer, silent because there’s no sign there’s anything wrong until very near the end. Hard though it was, the decision to put him to sleep was the right one and I was thankful I could be with him at the end just like, three and a half years ago, he was there for me when I needed him.

Sox is buried in my back garden. I will buy a rose bush to mark the bright and sunny spot where he rests and I will think of him often. He was a lovely cat, good natured and affectionate and handsome too. Sox wasn’t my pet, he was my friend and I loved him.

Jeff Kleinman

                                         

 

 

IN MEMORY

OF OUR BELOVED DOGS

SHELLY OUR BEAUTIFUL G.S.D.

SADLY LEFT US 28-12-2001 AGE 13 YEARS

ALSO OUR BEAUTIFUL YORKIE TACE

SADLY LEFT US 1-4-2010 AGE 8 YEARS

MISSING YOU BOTH SO MUCH

LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER UNTIL WE MEET

ON RAINBOW BRIDGE

LOVE MUM, DAD, BEN & TY-SON

 

 

Your Letters ……

Dear Debby

Just wanted to say it will be 1 year on 24 March since my Jessica crossed Rainbow Bridge & went to Heaven. Time passes so fast and I miss her every day, but the pain does heal & life is never the same. She comes to me in dreams when I am upset or in trouble, and her life & love will never die.

I never had anything published, but her death enabled me to write a tribute from my heart, which you kindly published and I returned to the Church, (I am a Roman Catholic) to feel closer to Jessica and heal from the pain, Jessica renewed my faith!

She taught me valuable life lessons on her short time with me and I will never forget her.

Life with Marmalade is one glamorous furry whirl, he is my constant source of joy, devotion, fun & unlimited unconditional love, in fact he gave me an early Mother’s Day present of a poor little Christmas Robin today.

I would be grateful, if possible to mention Jessica in your forthcoming newsletter

Blessings, Hazel Fernandes

We are both OK and our Lucky is so lovely.  He is such a happy little doggie and we love him so much. He has helped us so much over the past 2 years since we lost our beloved Benji

Could you please put a little piece in your newsletter in memory of Benji and Pepper. 

Benji died on the 19-2-10, Pepper 2-11-93.  We love and miss them both so much.

Love from Valerie, Michael & Lucky Lockwood

 

Farewell, MONEY PILBEAM 

                                                                                                                               Money Pilbeam ~ sable tabby, was a bit of an icon ~ a street charmer. Known to many, yet owned by none. As a young cat, he and his buddy – another tabby, wandered      

into a car repair garage in Lincoln ~ and there they putdown roots ~ for the next sixteen years!

Kind folk, who lived close by, fed them and fussed them as they sat upon the pavement, basking in the sun’s rays and searched for any shelter and comfort they could find on cold wintry days. As time passed, one cat disappeared leaving Money alone.

I first met Money some six years ago when homeless myself and wandering the streets.  Most days I looked out for the little guy, who seemed so sad and forlorn, lifted him into my arms, hugging him close to me ~ we gave to one another a touch of solace and comfort.

People were kind and I made lasting friendships within the area and it came to be that when I found a place to live I visited these people most days and Money, for one, was pleased about this.  We two had formed a special bond that was to grow stronger as the years passed.

Most nights I would think of him, worrying he would be out in the cold, foraging for a bite to eat.

Come the morning, I would set off early on the long journey to meet with him and take him his breakfast. Mostly he was there, waiting.

Knowing I would be coming to him, he would spy me from a distance, cross roads and make his way toward me.

We would then spend a little private time together during which he would sit high on a wall or the bonnet of a car, purring loudly and rolling around in his contentment.  We indulged in conversation whilst I groomed and fussed him.

Often I would find him sitting upon a friend’s doorstep – as I entered he would cheekily follow me inside, knowing a treat awaited.

The Corner Shop was another of his places to visit.

Christmas 2008 Money became sick with Cat Flu and came home to stay with me and be nursed and kept warm and, most of all, cherished.  He was not expected to live long but with round-the-clock care, he survived, though many trips to the vet were to come.

He had developed a heart condition and was to take medication for the rest of his life.

By now, he had reached the ripe old age of 17 years.

One day, a few months ago, a little miracle occurred – Money became like a kitten again – agile, running around his room, leaping on chairs and vocalising, not only loud purring but maeows and wows when food appeared or when anyone visited.  He liked to play “Hide & Seek” and grew a touch mischievous.  After all the years, Money Pilbeam had found a life – a happy one.

On the morning of 6th January 2012 I rose and took him his breakfast to find he wasn’t able to stand.  My first thought was he had been leaping around and pulled a muscle.

Off to the vet we went and two hours of tests followed.  The prognosis was grim.  Money had severely hardened arteries and a mass was discovered close to his brain.  No cure for this.

He came home for a final few hours – time to say our Goodbyes.  The shock was enormous, unbelievable.  It couldn’t be for real.  Money ate a last meal and for two hours I nursed him – holding him extra tightly which he had always liked.  His head lay against my chest and I blew warm air into his fur which made him purr all the louder and sweeter….. He lifted his head to look at me, he knew what was happening and did not wish to leave me.

I sang him his song one last time, and he kissed my nose.  After what seemed to be a lifetime, it was time to take the long painful journey.

Tears streamed continuously down my face as I looked upon him ~ remembering ~ not wishing this to be the end.  The bond of friendship we had formed was special, based upon a mutual love and care and respect.

Money Pilbeam had waited some 17 long years for me to enter his life, rescue him and bring him home.

Barely two weeks have passed since my beautiful buddy left and life is lonely, the room he inhabited is bleak.  I miss his presence there beside me and know a long time must pass before the heartache begins to heal.  He was the shining star in a period of my life which was often bleak and lonely.

“Goodnight & God Bless, Money Pilbeam”.  Y X

Lynn Burman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to HONEY-BABY

 

 This is a tribute to “Honey-Baby” – a golden Persian who belonged to my friend, 97 year old  Mrs Winifred Wood.

Honey lived to be 17 years old and was a thoroughly chilled out – laid back kitty with the sweetest nature, except when she was being groomed.  At that time, Heaven help the person who was grooming for Honey kicked up an unbelievable fuss!!

In later years she suffered an occasional fit and went blind during such an episode.

Now Honey had grown up alongside a family of dogs and cats who all loved to play and lounge in their big garden.  The first time I met her she was sprawled in the greenhouse taking in the sun’s warmth streaming through the windows ~ purring loudly.  She was big on purrs was our Honey.

And so it became a pleasant routine that on fine days I would carry her around the garden she loved and though she could no longer see, she enjoyed our times together and would cuddle into me as we took in the warm air or sat side by side upon the garden bench. 

Even though blind she would often make her way down the Pampas grass and play with the long green leaves.

Come September 2011.  Honey began showing signs of another type of illness which turned out to be cancerous tumours.  There was no more the vet could do and so we bid our farewells within the garden she loved – heart-broken at having to let her go.

Our lovely friend now rests beneath the Pampas grass in the shade of the big old pear tree.  White rose petals were scattered upon her grave, as a symbol of the love we felt for her.

Come the Springtime when the garden comes into bloom once again, Honey-Baby will not be here to enjoy it, though we remember her and feel her gentle presence every day.

Lynn Burman 

The Gratitude Exercise

 The Gratitude Exercise can be carried out where and when it feels right and comfortable to do so, whether that be sitting in the sun, by the fire or on a couch together – wherever you both feel relaxed and safe. The main thing is that it is in a quiet environment with no interruption, when you can feel free to speak aloud and where your pet is quietly sitting with you.

Start by simply calling over out aloud the many good qualities of your pet, and the great times you have shared together.  This can be in the way of a storyline of your association, or in whatever way suits your situation and relationship.  Speak of the many good things that have been shared between you, the value and love which you hold for your companion, their importance in your life, and how much you cherish them.

Bring in particular memories or stories if you feel moved to do so, and try to feel free enough to laugh or to cry as you need to. Thank your pet for what they have offered to you in these times, and feel and share with them how much you love them and the gratitude you hold for all that they offer and give to you.

Take the time this needs, whether this be ten minutes or an hour – each relationship and situation is unique. Once you have finished, allow yourself to be fully with the sense of love and gratitude, and imagine it filling up you, your pet and the place where you are.

This exercise can be done as often as feels necessary and beneficial, perhaps broken up into several smaller sessions or repeated at regular intervals, depending on what feels right for your own situation.  It can be done at any time, although it may be needed particularly when the pet is ill, to help healing and to promote well being.

~ Reproduced with kind permission of EASE; this first appeared on the EASE website and can be found at: www.ease-animals.org.uk

 

 

 

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