Issue No. 14 Jun ’04

SENTENCED TO DEATH

 “When we told how Diesel was put to death for attacking a toddler, we received one of our biggest, most vehement postbags ever.”  So begins a sensitive article about pet bereavement in ‘Take a Break’ magazine.  They invited people to write in – and received a flood of letters revealing a ‘sea of secret sorrow’ as readers shared their experiences of love and loss.  Congratulations to ‘Take a Break’ for the respectful and compassionate way they treated the subject.

 It is bad enough losing an animal who has committed no ‘crime’ – we all have to tread warily to avoid the ridicule and lack of understanding from people who think we are over-reacting when we grieve deeply for a friend who was ‘only’ a cat, or a dog…. but what if the animal has savaged or even killed someone?  The law then decides, rightly or wrongly, that in the interests of public safety the supreme penalty must be paid.  Perhaps the condemned creature had brain damage, or maybe s/he was in perfect health.  Either way, there is no choice for the owner and, for the animal, no reprieve.

 Feelings on all sides run high.  Public sympathy will almost certainly be overwhelmingly with the human victim and their family.  What does the animal’s owner feel?  Some or all of these, perhaps – and more:

 – Helplessness: from the start of the nightmare when the attack first took place, events spiral out of control – out of your hands, right up to the time when the Court decides and the vet carries out the sentence of death.

– Guilt: for your real or perceived negligence in not preventing the attack in the first place; for the distress and injury caused to the victim and their family; for loving your animal and wanting to preserve its life; for grieving over its fate when the world and his wife are, in your eyes, baying for its blood.

– Fear: of condemnation from the victims and their family and from the world at large; of the lack of sympathy you think you will get if your story is known.

– Embarrassment: in this highly charged emotional situation, do you feel you even have the right to grieve?  Who will you turn to in your own distress, when public sympathy is so totally focussed on the victims and their plight?

‘Take a Break’ readers were split 50:50, some sympathising with the dog, others with the child.  Many readers were moved by the injured boy’s mother’s pleas to prevent a future attack, but an equal number were deeply upset by the trauma suffered by Diesel’s owner, Gloria, when he was taken on his final, one-way trip to the vet’s. This kind of situation is deeply distressing for everyone involved – and there are no easy answers. DF does not take sides, but we do acknowledge, and we ask for public recognition that, in these tragic circumstances, everyone suffers and everyone is entitled to all the help and support they might need. If you have lost an animal in this way and need help, don’t suffer in silence – contact Departed Friend or check out the resources at the end of this newsletter.

Please note that the Departed Friend e-mail address has changed:  It is now

departedfriend@btinternet.com

If you have a DF link in your website, please could you make the necessary amendment as soon as possible. 

Thank you.

———————————————————–

DF Catwork0001

It Would Never Be Enough

My Tyger, my beautiful every colour in the cat-world cat, I miss you. We first met when I took a friend to a cattery for her sake, I had no intention of getting a cat of my own. But near the house was a small hutch with a kitten in, I thought you belonged to the house? But no, you’d been found wandering round the grounds of a British Telecom Depot. You were 8 months old and as I approached your hutch, you purred loudly! I felt a strange tingle go down me, unlike anything I have felt before or after. I asked if I could take you ‘on approval’. ‘Oh yes’, said the lady, ‘we want her to go to a quiet home’.

 You purred again when we drew up outside my front door in June 1985 how did you know we were home?

 You loved the garden. In Summer, you would spend hours outside, fighting off every cat who dared!   Only one ever got the better of you. You would sleep under next door’s hedge or in my garden. At times, you would watch birds and butterflies very closely, but you never caught anything. You would love it when I came home from work and we would play for ages with feathers and coloured balls, I would throw these upstairs and you would run and catch them.

 Once you broke one of your toes, trying to jump a very high, old fence. We shouldn’t have laughed, but you were so amusing the way you walked around kicking your poorly leg, which was in plaster, up in the air. 

 When my friend and I had holidays, you would sometimes stay at the Cattery where I had you from or at my parents. You used to sit on Dad’s chair back, longing to go out.

 When you got older, you didn’t want to go outside unless I was there and you didn’t cope well with the Cattery, you pined.  I decided then not to take holidays, but it didn’t matter, I did it for you.

 Initially, you slept downstairs, but as you grew older, you started scratching the door, so I gave in and you would spend your nights under the duvet or the bottom of a wardrobe. In the last two years or so, you would insist on sleeping on my pillow, how could I stop you?

 You are part of so many memories, my Tyger.

 Two weeks before Christmas 2003, I was so sad. I found a lump on your back and thought it might be cancer.  Tests confirmed it was and the Vet thought you might live 1-3months. I didn’t want you operated on, you were 19 and I didn’t think you’d survive. A blood test confirmed you had some kidney failure too, so an operation was out of the question. We went to see the Vet for check-ups and you had an injection to improve your appetite. I then changed from tins to pouches so you would have a quicker change of flavour, you responded to that. 

 Then at the end of March, you went off your food again. I tried everything – the only thing you would eat was Cottage Cheese, an idea someone gave me on the Petloss Site. Without that, I think you would have failed sooner. But you had also been coughing. I sat with you much then.

 I knew I had to make a decision. You were reasonably comfortable, only squealing with pain if I held you awkwardly, but during that final weekend, you had a worried look on your brow and you were already thinner and your back legs weaker.

 I loved you so much. I found myself saying, ‘on Wednesday, please put her down’. It was an act of will, I don’t think you ever wanted to leave me or I to lose you … I’m crying …but I made this decision for both of us.

 On Weds 7th April 2004, the same friend I had taken to the Cattery all those years ago, came to my home, we had lunch out, then sat with you.  I read my poem, ‘Bittersweet Spring’ and my friend was crying too. Then at 2.30pm we were at the Vets, he couldn’t inject into your front leg, so had to use a back leg. It was awful having to hold you down, I couldn’t explain to you, my lovely Tyger, what I was doing.  Then you left this earth very quickly. I screamed, I hit the wall, my friend held me and she cried too. Then I had to recover in order to drive you home. 

My friend stood by, as I buried you in the grave I had dug in December. Firstly, I put gravel on top and a little oak tree in a pot, then 2 days later, I bought a pot of Alpine flowers, they are so lovely and they are there for you.   

DF Mags flowers0001

It is so empty without you, I keep thinking you’re going to appear at any time. I couldn’t remove all your things at first, I removed your food dishes, then the spare Litter Tray and I’ve managed to clean the blanket you slept on in those last months, but everything else is as it was.  

 While you were ill, I started collecting all the photos of you I could find and took more. I wrote poetry.  I put these and people’s words into a folder, something of you. I also have some of your fur, every colour .. white, ginger, black, brown, sandy. I also put many of your photographs on a page about you on my website, together with the poetry I have written about caring for you. Other people made tributes for you .. they are also on your page.

 So many tributes, so many words … but my Tyger, you have left my home so empty .. if I held you in my arms for another 19 years, it would never be enough.

 Mags Scorey, England 19 April 2004

 ~~~~~

 Notes

My website with poetry on many topics and photographs of Tyger and many other subjects is  http://mags-scorey.myvnc.com   ‘Bittersweet Spring’ is on the site and was in DF13.

 www.petloss.com is a living online community of people who share their stories with each other.   I had so much help from that site and could not believe the ‘explosion’ of grief and support when Tyger died.   I don’t think many people on the site could understand it either, they called themselves the ‘Tyger Gang’.  One friend cared enough to ring me from North Carolina and another made a beautiful picture of Tyger against rainbows.  (I even helped re-home two cats in California!)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

ANIMAL SAMARITANS

 Animal Samaritans are a UK registered charity formed in 1985 by a group of pensioners when a branch of a national animal charity closed down.  They currently operate in south-east London and north-west Kent, re-homing unwanted and ill-treated animals in these regions.  Animal Samaritans operate a non-destruction policy.  Their ultimate goal is to open an animal sanctuary but they do not yet have sufficient funds to do so.  They have sent up the Animal Samaritans Trust Fund solely for this purpose.

Meanwhile, a number of members foster animals until suitable homes are found.  They also help look after many stray and feral cats and arrange neutering and spaying to help control the population of unwanted pets.

 Animal Samaritans also offer a Pet Bereavement Scheme.  This is a telephone service where bereaved pet owners can find help, support and a sympathetic ear.  (See the Resources section of this blog for details).  Their website has a page devoted to this subject, with tribute and poems.

 The website is well worth a visit. You can even make an on-line donation to this worthy cause.  Animal Samaritans say:  Remember, all animals are God’s creatures and have as much right to be happy and loved as we have.

__________________________________________

Pets ‘help hospital patients recover’

Pets are good for our health and should be given visiting rights to hospitals and care homes, a top psychologist says today.  Animal visiting rooms could boost patients’ recovery by cutting stress, said Dr June McNicholas of Warwick University.  She said patients were more likely to catch something from human visitors than from pets. We know people love their pets but it can be dismissed as sentimentality when it may be essential in people’s lives,’ she will tell the Royal College of Nursing congress in Harrogate.

Metro:  11.05.04

Pet bereavement workshops for veterinary professionals

Many vets and vet nurses have received little training on this sensitive topic.  In response to demands from the veterinary profession for training on pet bereavement, Cambridge Pet Crematorium and the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service have created a series of half day workshops – in addition to correspondence courses available from PBSS.  The five workshops during 2004 are:

                April 21                  Hatfield, Hertfordshire

                May 18                   Leatherhead, Surrey

                July 9                      Leeds

                September 8          Birmingham

                October 20             Bristol

The courses, which have all been fully subscribed to date, have been designed to enhance veterinary professionals’ understanding of the human-animal bond and pet bereavement.  Guidance is provided on how to deal with emotional situations, providing support and care to the pet owner. Case studies (focusing on difficult situations) and a video presentation are used to highlight good veterinary practice and scenarios that vet nurses are likely to encounter. Course content has been designed to help understand owners’ emotions and behaviour associated with pet loss and provides guidance on how to talk to them.   The organisers say: ‘Unfortunately society does not generally recognise the depth of grief that arises on the loss of a pet, even though it may have been with its owner – as a special friend – for many years.’  ‘Vets and vet nurses are in the very special position of being in the front line for helping owners to make the farewells they need. This gives them a great opportunity to help ease the pain.’

 If you are a vet or a vet nurse and want to attend a workshop, please telephone 01763 208982 or visit www.cpc-net.co.uk

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How a veterinary practice responds to the needs of the human client can be crucial in coming to terms with the loss of a companion animal – whether the end comes naturally or is a planned event to relieve suffering.   Respect and sympathy from the vet and the staff at the time of death are greatly appreciated by those of us who are left behind – as are the letters of condolence that some practices send out a little while later. Do you have a positive experience that you would like to share with Departed Friend?

 PET INSURANCE – plus bereavement counselling

Directline.com is pet insurance with a difference.  They offer a choice of two policies: the Essential (veterinary fees and a maximum of 12 months’ treatment for each injury, illness and disease) and the Advanced (veterinary fees and no time limit on cover).  Both policies include three helplines:

1) Veterinary emergency helpline
2) Pet bereavement counselling
3) Legal advice line

 If you are unable to contact your usual vet or if you are away from home, Directline advisors can provide details of a practice near you and/or arrange for a vet to give you advice over the telephone.

Directline recognise that it can be difficult to come to terms with the loss of a much loved pet.  They provide a service staffed by professionals offering counselling, advice and support.

The Directline policy gives you access to practical legal advice on any personal problem, whether it relates to an incident or issue involving your pet or not.  Legal professionals are on hand to explain complex legal issues in plain language.

 And additionally, Directline pet insurance customers received one year’s free Petback Protect membership.  The Missing Pets Bureau will provide you with a unique ID tag and store all information needed to reunite you if your pet strays.  If your pet is lost or stolen, its details (including colour photo) are immediately transferred to the national missing pets register.  The MPB works with 10,000 pet care organisations etc, to ensure that you get your pet back fast.  (See the Resources section below for details of how to contact Directline).

 The extremely distressing topic of disappearance will be dealt with in more detail in a future issue of Departed Friend.

DF black dog & cat0001

==================================

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: