Departed Friend Newsletter No. 23 Mar ’06

MISSING…..

 This is Julipuss.  He went missing in 1968, when I was pregnant with my first child.  When I first got him, I thought he was a girl and I called him Julie.  When I took him to the vet for spaying, I was told he was a boy so I named him Julian – which soon became Julipuss.  He was a very special character, with one of the loudest purrs you ever heard.  He was playful, friendly and utterly adorable.  He used to lie on his back and demand that you tickle his tummy. 

One day, without warning, he failed to come in. I did everything I could think of to try and find him: asking everyone if they had seen him, walking the streets and knocking on doors…..

I wondered if he had been run over; by this time I would have been relieved to find his body.  I wondered if he had found a new home – but he had been so happy with me.  I wondered if evil men in white vans had stolen him for vivisection – the thought of him lying on the pavement inviting such people to tickle his tummy – and then the betrayal – was too much to bear.

Weeks, months and then years went by.  I had strange dreams of him, and there are a couple of popular songs of the time that I will always vividly associate with him.  When the time came when he could no longer possibly still be alive, I felt sad – wondering afresh what had happened to him.  Did he have a good life somewhere else?  Did he get run over? Or was his fate to be tortured in a lab somewhere, never knowing any more joy?

I do not think about him all the time; I live mainly in the present and more recent past.  But a year or so ago, I scanned this photograph on to the computer.      I tried to use it as a ‘background’ filling the entire screen, but that did not last very long.  Even after all this time, it was still too painful.

Jullipuss

Julipuss

Even when an animal goes missing for only a short while, we worry and cannot relax.  Our imagination goes into overdrive; we feel we must drop everything and search and search until s/he is found.   And then, the relief when they eventually wander in as if nothing had happened!

But sometimes the animal does not come back. See DFs 1,2 and 9 for accounts of disappearance and how it affected those left behind.  This kind of loss can be particularly distressing and hard, if not impossible, to accept. 

  • You cannot prepare for a loss that is sudden – totally without warning
  • You never got to say goodbye
  • The absence of a body to lay to rest
  • You don’t know if the animal is alive or dead
  • You imagine all kinds of possibilities
  • You cannot come to terms with what happened because you don’t know what happened – there is no ‘closure’  
  • Some part of you is always waiting for a miracle to happen and the animal to come back

Then hope gradually fades as you begin to accept the inevitable, that you will never see your friend again.  Some people find that the passage of time does ease the pain, while others may find it helpful to hold some kind of memorial ceremony – perhaps burying something that belonged to the animal, acknowledging that, after X number of years, he or she has died.  Though the physical body was absent, the animal has now symbolically been laid to rest.

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If your pet goes missing, there are a number of things you can do:  

  • Put notices in shop windows, your own window; ask neighbours if they will display one for you
  • Alert local vets, friends, neighbours, etc.
  • Put notes through doors describing the animal and leaving your contact details
  • Ask people to check their gardens, sheds, garages, etc.
  • Search the area and get people to help
  • Knock on doors and ask people if they have seen your animal.  Leave contact details.

There are now various websites which can help.  If you are on-line, visit one of these.  If you are not, see if you can enlist the help of someone who is.

Websites that can help find missing pets.  Here are details of three:  (see Resources section for how to get in touch with them).  

Tim Bristow and Jane Hayes founded an organisation called DogLost 3 years ago, after their own pet was stolen from a back garden. (Thankfully, they got him back 6 weeks later).  According to an article in The Guardian, 30.01.06, robberies are on the increase.  Jane says:  It gets busier every week.  Everybody seems to know somebody whose dog has been taken…. We think it’s safe to let our dogs out in our gardens, but mine was stolen when I answered the phone. 

They offer an advice service, transferring your details free of charge on to the website; they also offer free advice and support.  They can help with press releases and give you the numbers of local press and radio stations – and are willing to speak to the press.  They create a missing dog poster that can be printed off and also e-mailed.  They automatically e-mail your poster to all their helpers within a 30-mile radius of where your dog went missing.  There is no charge for this service as they rely on donations.    Last year they helped reunite over 1,800 dogs.

Rupert Honywood started The Missing Pets Bureau   6 years ago, when two dogs belonging to his best friends were stolen – they were never recovered.  He says:  The trauma and upset this caused was a life changing experience and I made a commitment then to help reunify pet owners with their four legged friends.  Today, the Missing Pets Bureau has healed many broken hearts by reuniting literally thousands of pets with their owners while offering support, advice and hope to those in despair.

The Bureau operates a national missing pets register and works closely with 12,000 pet care organisations, including major charities, rescue centres, dog wardens, the police and vets. 

Paula and Harry Greaves set up Petsearch UK in 1990.  They offer a totally free service, entering lost and found animals on their register.  Paula says:  Letter in the Daily Mail 24.02.06) We have 306 volunteers all over the UK, (see the website for a comprehensive list) working tirelessly to find people’s lost pets.  We also have several websites, but they are only a back-up to our workers on the ground.  We also have a bereavement counsellor whose services are offered without charge, and a free quarterly magazine.  The site also links in to other websites that can help find missing pets.

Thousands of animals go missing every year, causing untold anguish to the people who love them.  It is a good idea to have your pet microchipped, to maximise the chances of return should s/he ever go missing.  The vet can do this for you.  The animal’s details are then entered on a national register so that, if he or she is found, the details can be scanned and matched to those on the register.

Mediawatch

I was very apprehensive when I learned that BBC2 was to screen a programme on pet loss on 26 January 2006.  I feared that the subject would be treated in the usual insensitive, flippant way.  But I need not have worried; Loved Ones (in the Pets are People series) was all I could have wished such a programme to be, but never dreamed possible.

It starts with a funeral service in a pet cemetery in North Wales, run by father and son team, John and Jason Ward.  As the bereaved stand together by the graveside, John is reading a poem.  He says: “Everyone thinks we’re in a pet business but we’re not; we’re in the people business.”  They offer cremation or burial for all kinds of animals: dogs, cats, mice, horses … and describe their cemetery as a sanctuary where pet lovers can shed a tear and say a final farewell.   It is a very peaceful place, with many a headstone paying unique and beautiful tribute to lost loved ones.

On his way to collect the body of a German Shepherd dog, Jason says:  “We make sure that the respect and the dignity is carried on after.”   The dog’s owner testifies that making the decision to put an animal to sleep is one of the hardest things you have to do.

Sue agrees.  She lost her daughter aged 23 and is on the point of saying goodbye to one of her cats, Zoë.  “…This is going to be the same sort of loss.  The difference being you make the decision when they go.”  We follow Sue and Zoë on the last sad journey to the vet.  Back home, Sue washes her cat, dries her fur with a hairdryer and lays her out.  She is not a churchgoer or a spiritualist – “But I think there is something in the universe where we’re reunited. I would be far more disturbed if I didn’t do this for Zoë….. There is counselling for human grief.  There should be more for people suffering with grief from losing their animal.” 

What many of the mourners featured in the programme have in common is a belief that they will one day be reunited with their loved ones.  They all derive an enormous amount of comfort from their  involvement with the cemetery, whether they choose burial or cremation.  Ritual is proven to be significantly helpful in grief work, and the support given by John and Jason Ward is second to none.

The majority of their clients are not religious.  There is a graveside service of farewell, where John says a prayer or a poem and a lot of people also say things they have written.

For some, the grief never goes away.  Dave has been visiting the grave of his dog Holly every single day  for over a year. He finds it easy to talk to Holly there and thinks he will do it all his life.  His protracted grieving is treated with respect both by John and by the interviewer for the programme.

North Wales Chapel holds a Pet Blessing Service presided over by the Pet Padre, Rev Thompson.  The chapel is packed with people and their (living) pets: sheep, dogs, cats, chickens – Eric the Owl.  The service is lively, informal.  Rev Thompson starts by telling the congregation not to worry about the noise –   and every animal or bird present receives an individual blessing from the Padre. 

For the bereaved, the Padre conducts a religious service at the pet cemetery with readings from the Bible; he blesses the coffin with holy water and he blesses the grave.  While the people who knew and loved Ginger mourn at his graveside, Rev Thompson says these words as the little cat is interred:  “Earth to earth; Dust to dust…. In sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.  Paradise…. Peace at the last.”

He believes all animals are spiritual creatures with a soul.  “To imply they haven’t is absolute nonsense.  Many animals are more attuned to the spiritual world than many humans. If there were no animals in paradise when I get there, I’d be tempted to choose the other place.”

The programme ends on a happy note.  A child and a dog play in the cemetery.  It is not creepy with all those ghosts.  It is good to think of all the cats and dogs playing there.  In the final shot, a white Scottie bounds towards the camera. 

(See Radio Times 11-17.02.06 – they published my short letter praising the programme.  – ed.)

 Thanks to Patricia Thomson for sending us this poem:

 You can shed tears that she is gone.

Or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back,

Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,

Or you can be full of love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone,

Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind,

Be empty and turn your back,

Or you can do what she would want;

Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

                                                                   Anon.

Harish and Rikesh Shah have expressed their gratitude to  Departed Friend for the tribute to a beloved wife and mother, Chandni, which was published in DF22. They also wish to thank DF readers who sent them condolences in their time of sorrow.

YOUR LETTERS ……” * 

Dear friends,

I’ve just read in your latest edition the sad piece describing the plight of a pigeon you found and were kind enough to take in.

Suddenly becoming the unexpected carer of a bird in such circumstances can be a daunting prospect, particularly the first time around.  Fortunately help is at hand – at least for those with internet access!

If you’re unsure what to do, go to www.pigeon-life.net. There, on the home page, you’ll see a link to “pigeon talk”.  Click “I found a pigeon – now what?”  Browse the messages and whatever your patient’s problem – from a broken leg to being too young to fly or eat – you’ll almost certainly find that another kindly rescuer in a similar situation will have posted a message asking for help and you’ll be able to benefit from the replies they received.  Or you can post your own message asking for help – you’ll need to register first but it’s free and takes seconds.

If all else fails, try calling me on 07984 368179 and I’ll see what I can do to help.

All the best, Niel Hansen  –   Savethepigeons.org

 To a Dunnock Fledgeling

 Cold and alone, you are destined to die,

The cold earth your grave, as shivering you lie.

Yet, fate lends a hand; our paths they do cross,

I’ ll give to your body the warmth of soft moss.

To your beak, very gently, warm fluid, I’ ll give,

Your last hours on earth, with some comfort you’ ll live.

By my side you must stay, ‘ till your last fading breath,

Then gently I’ ll bury you and mourn for your death.

I’ ll place on your still breast, a flower of blue;

A tiny forget-me-not, in memory of you.

I’ ll pray for your spirit, as upwards you fly,

And although our paths crossed, you were destined to  die.

Young wings, never opened, are folded at rest,

As my tears like soft raindrops, fall on to your breast.

 Linda J. Bodicoat  

 Copyright: May 14th 1984  (Reproduced with kind permission of the author)

  To a Sparrow

 Born to fly free - high on the wing,

Hauntingly graceful, well does he sing.

He fell from the sky, the morning was chill.

He’ s broken my heart, I think of him still.

He lay in my arms and fed from my hand,

Why he should die, I cannot understand.

I hoped he would visit me year after year,

No cage for my sparrow – his heart need not fear.

He died, as he lived, free, on the wing.

I love him and miss him – no more does he sing.

Now only his spirit is born to be free

And when all is calm, he whispers to me . . .

 

“Weep not for me”, I hear his voice shrill,

“My spirit is free, and I fly with you still.”

 Linda J. Bodicoat.

Copyright:  August 8th 1983 (Reproduced with kind permission of the author)

 Tribute to Shinge

Shinge (22yrs) had to be put to sleep on Friday as she had a horrible week of not been able to eat and find the toilet.

On the Friday before the vets she looked terrible (thinnest I’ve ever seen her), and lost all sense of direction and ended up weeing on her bean bag.

So we knew that we had made the right choice,  later on the vet confirmed it. We also had a horrible time with her mum Rocky 22.1/2yrs this week!

On Thursday evening she lost the use of her back legs and we thought that was it for her as well. The vet gave her an anti inflammatory injection and within three hours she was walking again. The very next day she ran up the stairs to her favourite place for a sleep. So time will tell. The reason she was called Rocky is because she is a fighter.

Shinge was a great member of our family. She never had a thing wrong with her until the last couple of years of her life.

Mark

image002

ANGEL

Angel was a beautiful piebald horse.  She was big and strong and willingly carried her owner, whom I shall call Richard, on fast hacks, galloping tirelessly at the front of the ride.  She enjoyed her work.  Richard kept her part livery at the stables, so she was also used for lessons.

When it came to schooling, she was very comfortable and sometimes very willing – but occasionally she got bored and showed her stubborn streak, flatly refusing to oblige the unfortunate pupil on her back with a canter.

Recently, she was kicked in the field by another horse, chipping a bone in her leg.  She had two operations and her ligaments appeared to be mending.  ….. But it was not to be.

 Angel was only six years old.

Debby

Angel’s death was a tragic accident, which no-one could have foreseen.   But many equine deaths are foreseeable and preventable.  Around 375 horses are raced to death every year.  This year, the death toll at CHELTENHAM RACES was exceptionally high.  We list here the names of the victims – may they rest in peace.

Bayard  –  broken leg

No Where to Hyde  –  broken leg

Holy Orders  – broken left hind leg

Olaso  –  broken front cannon between obstacles

Basilea Star  –  collapsed and died

Millenaire  –  broken back

Mr Babbage  –  broken humerus

Sh Boom  –  died overnight as a result of injuries

Buck Whaley  –  broken neck

*****

The experimental drug, known as TGN1412, was produced using cancer cells and immune cells from mice. Prior to being given to the human guinea pigs, it was extensively tested on animals. Within hours of being injected with TGN1412, the human participants started displaying signs of severe organ failure and extensive inflammation caused by a breakdown of the immune system.

The phase 1 clinical (human) trial had been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency after the animal tests failed to show any negative effects and, in fact, indicated that the new drug had the potential to boost the immune system, reduce infection and improve the control of certain cancers. Scientific journals had also reported on TGN1412 favourably.

  • Before progressing to phase 1 clinical trials on human volunteers, new medicines are tested on two species of animal, typically a rodent or a dog followed by a primate.
  • Adverse drug reactions to correctly-prescribed prescription drugs are the fourth biggest killer in Britain after heart disease, cancer and stroke.
  • Based on its laboratory studies, the manufacturers of TGN1421, German pharmaceutical company TeGenero AG, is reported to have raised $14 million from investors to test the new drug, and to have paid each volunteer taking part in the trial $3500.

Professor Desmond Laurence of University of London was recently quoted in the media as warning patients who volunteer for clinical trials that they do not have any legal protection in the eventuality that things go wrong.

I also got a (slightly edited) lead letter in Metro, 17.03.06 captioned:  “Test Fiasco Proves Flaws of Vivisection” – ed.

animal aid logo

 We are grateful to Animal Aid for information about  the Cheltenham Races tragedy and the recent catastrophic human drug trials.   Animal Aid campaigns peacefully against all animal abuse, and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle.   See Resources for contact details.  Their website is absolutely excellent and well worth a visit. Go to http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/AA/HOME/

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