Issue No 10 Oct ’03

MEG

 Meg you brought us joy

You brought us love

You brought us sunshine on a dark day.

You were our best friend.

We love you Meg;

You will always be in our hearts.

 Love Mum

                              Celia

DF Meg0001

RESOURCES REVIEW

 THE BLUE CROSS is urging parents, teachers and those caring for children to be aware of the emotional  impact the death of a pet can have.  The loss of a pet is often a child’s first experience of death.  The Blue Cross have produced a guide, Children & Pet Bereavement, which highlights reactions to pet loss and provides useful tips on how to support a child.  Copies available by calling 01993 825539 or visiting www.bluecross.org.uk

Information from ‘Blueprint’ issue 131, Summer 2003

 THE RSPCA have a leaflet called When your Pet Dies which offers tips to help you to cope – sharing your feelings; holding a ceremony; treasure your memories; feeling angry; try not to feel guilty, etc.  There is a section on how to help children, with sound advice like: ‘Tell children the truth.  Encourage them to let their feelings out.  Don’t talk about getting a new pet too soon; your child will need time to get over the death of the old pet.’ Copies are available from RSPCA, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1HG. 

Spend time teaching a child about the importance of gentle care and sensitive treatment towards all animals.

THANET PET LOSS COUNSELLING SERVICE was set up by Mrs Gillian Parry, who also helped with the formation of the national service run by the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) and the Blue Cross. 

The Thanet leaflet recognises that the loss of a beloved pet can cause immense distress which is often not understood, with people trivialising the loss, or perhaps relatives and friends try to help but do not know how and only succeed in making the bereaved person feel worse.

The Counselling Service consists of a group of people who have studied the subject of human bereavement through pet loss and are now offering their services to anyone who needs this kind of help. The leaflet contains a short form (name, address, telephone, type of pet lost, date of loss) which you can complete and send to the Chief Counsellor, 93 Dane Road, Birchingon-on-Sea, Kent CT7 9QT or, if you prefer, you can  ring  01843 845435 and ask for Beatrice. 

NB – this service has now closed, and has amalgamated with SCAS/Blue Cross.   (Sept. 2005)

GOODBYE DEAR FRIEND – coming to terms with the death of a pet by Virginia Ironside is an outstanding resource, whether you are bereaved yourself or involved in helping others through their pain. The book explores many different aspects of the subject and, by quoting many personal testimonies, gets to the core of the suffering, recognising all shades and degrees of grief, from transient pain to long-term depression, mental illness and suicidal feelings of hopelessness.  Paradoxically, far from being a depressing read, it uplifts and reaches deep into the loneliness with words of understanding and, where appropriate, practical advice.  Issues are faced head-on, unsentimentally and with compassion. The introduction sets the tone:

 …Unless you’re an animal lover, it’s difficult to understand how deeply pet death can affect owners.  Because, since grief is the price we pay for loving, you have first to understand about loving an animal. And there’s a kind of taboo about admitting strong affection for another species.  To adore something so fundamentally different is often seen as rather weird. ….I hope that by reading of others’ experiences … we can understand that it’s those of us who can love animals who are the lucky ones – even if the price is a grief that may seem, at times, overwhelming.

 Aspects covered include detailed analysis of:           our relationship with pets; grieving; putting a pet to sleep; burial or cremation; people’s attitudes (it was only an animal), (you can always get another one);     memorials – and comfort; do they go to Heaven? Lost, missing, strayed – or given away and In Memoriam.  Each chapter is punctuated by poems relevant to its theme: (grieving, euthanasia, afterlife, etc.)

 The loss of a pet is made all the worse by tactless remarks from other people.  And the fact that other people seem to think that the number of tears you shed for a much-loved pet is somehow related to the size of the animal rather than the amount of love you had for each other seems to make it worse.  So often, in their confused minds, they seem to argue irrationally that the death of a mouse, rat or goldfish should take you only a couple of days to get over; a cat or a dog – a week; a horse, perhaps a fortnight; and a person a couple of months.

 The wisdom of the insights and the wealth of personal experiences in this book reach out in recognition,  respect and comfort to those who are fresh to this kind of grief and those who have been carrying their burden for many years.  It is impossible to do justice to the book in a short review.  See the Resources section for details of how to get a copy for yourself.

DF Debby with Spirit0001

FINDLAY

I had noticed him a few days earlier: a bedraggled black cat that I could have sworn was a stray – except that he had a bright blue collar on. I mentioned him to my friend, Jackie, so she could look out for him.  She is involved with Feline Cat Rescue and I hoped she would see him as I had an instinctive feeling that something was wrong She might be able to help.

I had taken the week off work and on Tuesday night Jackie and I went to a meeting which had been organised to set up a local branch of Cats Protection.  When we got back I saw the cat again. He was closer this time and we could see there was something wrong with his tail; fur was missing in the middle.  Perhaps he had something tied round it – an elastic band?

Jackie has a humane trap and she baited it with food. Minutes later the cat, starving hungry, was captured.  We took him into my house.  He was nervous so we did not examine him too closely but we were relieved to see that there was nothing tied round his tail – it  was just a bald patch.  He looked quite old; his skin and fur were in very poor condition and his breath smelt.  This indicated painful tooth or gum disease.

I agreed to keep him overnight, shut away from my own cats, and Feline would make a vet’s appointment as soon as possible.  I expected to hear caterwauling and frantic attempts to escape and had mentally prepared myself for a sleepless night. Surprisingly, all I heard was one half-hearted scratch on the door at     2 o’clock in the morning.  My cats did not even seem to know he was there. I am glad he had a comfortable night; it was raining outside.

Meanwhile, we made extensive enquiries in the neighbourhood; no-one was missing a cat fitting his description, but one lady recognised him as a cat she had been feeding for a couple of years. Jackie and I wondered who had put the collar on him and why they had let him get into such a bad state.

I had a closer look at him in the morning.  He had eaten several hearty meals and urinated in the litter tray – nowhere else, so he was obviously house-trained.  He was frightened and did not like being picked up, but he was not vicious and made no attempt to scratch or bite me.  He liked it when I stroked his head. I made the mistake of naming him – Findlay: after Arthur Findlay, one of my favourite authors.  Though I had said I did not want any more cats after Spooky died, I found myself thinking ahead to when Findlay regained his health and, just maybe, he might fit in with my five. He would be company for Eric, who is the only boy – outnumbered 4:1 by the girls.  ‘Before and after’ pictures went through my mind – a thin, bedraggled stray who would become a sleek, contented old cat in good condition.  First he would have to be neutered.  I was surprised to find he was un-neutered as his urine did not have that characteristic tom-cat stink.  I was rapidly becoming very fond of him. 

Findlay’s skin was poor so, on Jackie’s advice, I removed the blue flea collar in case it was causing irritation.   We noticed pus was oozing from his mouth so we decided he needed to see the vet as soon as possible. Jackie prepared me for the worst.

 She was almost certain he had Feline AIDS (FIV) and that, because there was so much obviously wrong with him, the disease had now come out and there was nothing that would make any difference.  Antibiotics would have little or no effect if his immune system had broken down.  He would live a miserable, short life and die slowly and uncomfortably.  He would also infect other cats.  An appointment was made for that afternoon for Findlay to have a combination test (for FIV and Feline Leukaemia – FeLV).  If the result were positive, the kindest thing would be to have him put to sleep.  If it were negative, treatment could begin and he would be booked in for neutering.

But it was not to be.  The FIV test was positive.  The vet said he was on the downward slope and had, at most, 12 months to live.  She suspected he also had kidney disease.  The decision was made.  Jackie and I stayed with him and the end was very peaceful. 

I did not take his remains home for burial in the garden, for risk of infection.  I have nothing to remember him by – except the blue collar.  I have no photograph but I think the picture below has a look of him and captures something of his spirit. I am sad that he has gone.  It is amazing how attached one can get in such a short time; I had known him less than twenty-four hours.

Debby

 

DF Black Cat logo0001

Those who love cats which do not purr,

Or which are thin and tired and very old,

Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur

And rub their ears and smooth their breast, and hold

their paws, and gaze into their eyes of gold.

 Francis Scarfe

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

BELIEFS AND EXPERIENCES

 A few years ago, when I lived on a caravan site, I adopted a beautiful, white cat with deep emerald green eyes, called Tina.  Her owners, friends who lived a few doors away, for various reasons, had to leave the site, and their new landlord was allergic to cats.

 Despite all my efforts to make her feel at home, Tina refused to stay with me.  The moment she had eaten or drunk, she would run out through the cat-door and  back to her old home, which was still empty.  She even slept under her old caravan home.  I began to wonder how on earth I was going to tell my friends, Mick and Ruth, about the problem.

 After that first reunion with them, Tina never went back to her old home again.

 About 18 months later, my friends were due to come for another visit.  As I prepared tea for them, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness and desolation which I couldn’t account for.  When they didn’t come, somehow I knew that something was terribly wrong.  (In those days I didn’t have a telephone.)

 That night Tina, who normally slept in my bed, seemed unable to settle, and kept walking across my pillows at intervals all night long – almost as though she was trying to tell me something. 

 The next day my worst fears were confirmed, when Mick came with some tragic news.  He told me that Ruth had suddenly passed away the night before, after suffering a heart attack.  I felt devastated, especially as I had not been able to say goodbye, but I found a lot of comfort in looking after Tina.  She was such a loving cat.

 Two years later, Tina suddenly fell ill.  Her back legs became paralysed and she seemed to be in great pain if I touched her spine.  I took her to see the vet, who told me that at her age, (she was 15 by this time), there was really nothing he could do, so I sadly gave my consent for her to be put to sleep.  Mick, who by this time had re-married, agreed that it was the kindest thing to do.

 As I looked at Tina’s little grave in the garden, I felt strangely empty inside, although I had three other cats at the time whom I loved equally.  I decided to take some flowers to church in memory of Tina and Ruth, and chose some white carnations.

 A few weeks later, I awoke in the early hours of the morning to the most exquisite aroma of carnations.  It was really strong, yet there were no flowers in the caravan at the time, and no carnations in the garden.  The perfume seemed to linger for hours.

 Many and varied have been the explanations for this phenomenon suggested by others, but I remain convinced that it was Ruth and Tina’s way of saying they liked their flowers, and telling me that they were happily reunited in another world.

 Helen Constance

 TO LIVE IN THE HEART OF THOSE WE LOVED IS NOT TO DIE

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