Departed Friend Newsletter No. 32 Sep ’08

TRIBUTE TO JESSIE

It was a nice morning but by early evening was a nightmare……

Late August 2002 a lovely big black and white cat was hanging about the garden: it was you.  You were clean, didn’t look very hungry.  You came in, ate and went out again. … We had a kennel we put by the conifers; you slept in there until one morning it was cool I said ‘Come on in then’ and you did. … You settled in; you thought the cat flap was great and the garden, climbing on the garage roof. Sometimes we could not find you  – no need to worry though, you were taking a snooze in the garden. You and Lucy even sat on the bed together.  A lot has happened in 6 years; I lost my dad and Lucy died (read about her in DF 18).

Then I fell and broke my leg and had to sleep down stairs so you did too. And when we moved back up you did too.  I have MS so we thought it might be for the best if we moved somewhere with no steps. The last Summer before we moved you loved it in the garden; we lived near two busy roads but that didn’t worry you. … Two years ago we moved to a pleasant area – quiet with a cricket field just in front, no main roads except for a sneaky lane running down the edge of the cricket field. … After a week you ventured out … you were finding your feet and exploring; didn’t take too long to find that lane …it’s only a narrow lane; we went down a passage there was a fence and over you popped looking mischievous and happy as if to say ‘You’ve caught me haven’t you?’

On a warm night you’d disappear over the lane to catch a mouse, sometimes bring one back to play with or we would watch you chasing flies. The lady next door warned us, she said ‘I hope Jessie is alright, I’ve watched her cross that road.’

Maybe if I myself had just gone to the road and watched for five minutes, things would be different – you would have stayed in. Having come from 2 busy main roads it was quiet here; we didn’t see the danger. …

Spring was round the corner … when you came in you always looked happy and fresh with the wind having been in your fur. We came home about 5pm, you ate your tea; you wanted more but we were watching your weight. You were playful that night and you went to the door to go out about 7pm.  Sometimes you’d go out when it was dark for a while, you’d like that.

It was about 7.30 when I heard a cat calling …never thought it could be you. You were under a hedge crying in the garden.  Somehow you had got yourself through the gate.  We were very careful when we picked you up. We put you on a blanket and took you to the Emergency vet where they gave you pain killers, fluids and oxygen. It was terrible – it wasn’t really happening.  Next morning you had an x-ray but what they found was too bad to operate on; it was your pelvis.  Although I tried for you my darling they said it would be kinder to go to sleep while under the anaesthetic.  It’s awful, nothing seems real.  I miss you so much my big cuddly black and white cat Jessie I love you.  It’s unbearable especially on a morning when I wake up and you’re not there next   to me. 

Jessie  you were a  quiet understanding and very knowing pussy cat.  You kept yourself to yourself a lot except when you wanted attention and you would do Jessie bumps on our legs or paddle the carpet. Thank you for coming into the garden that evening and being our friend. You would have lived to be an old lady but for that road. If a hungry cat comes into your garden feed him or her they could turn out to be your best friend like Jessie.

Jessie we will meet again, this time no cars.  It’s awful without you every day we miss you so very much.  I love you for ever and ever you are always in our hearts. We miss you so very much, you were my best friend Jessie and all I know is my heart is broken.

Love mum, dad and Mark xxxx 

 * * * * * * * * * * *

Our deepest sympathy to Celia Francis and family in their loss, and also to the family of Rosie, whose tragedy Celia personally witnessed less than a week after losing Jessie.

And over the road lives a beautiful little tabby cat called Rosie 1 year old.  I bent down to stroke her; a car came  -it scared her she jumped out in front of the car and was thrown into the air like a rag doll right in front of me.  Poor Rosie, it was awful; she died instantly.  The 2 little girls who Rosie belonged to were sobbing and crying.  We picked her up and gave her to her mum; the man had stopped, he took them straight to the vet but it was too late  – that was just less than a week after losing you Jessie. … When one experiences picking up your beloved injured pet from under a bush and less than a week later to pick up a little pussy cat in front of 2 sobbing little girls it’s a shock to the system. 

Love to the 2 little girls across the road who lost their beloved little Rosie. They are so upset it was awful for them to watch.

BOOK REVIEW

Cat Fables

by Vernon Coleman

Vernon Coleman has produced another delightful book, which will appeal to cat lovers and other uprights (the feline term for ‘human’).  It gives, as Vernon says in his dedication, ‘an insight into the special world cats inhabit’ and much more besides.  This book is the ideal birthday or seasonal gift for the ‘cataholic’ in your life.

Vernon introduces us by means of lovingly crafted words and exquisitely drawn ‘catoons’ to a wide variety of felines, all with different looks and temperament.  Those of us who share our homes with cats will easily recognise the inquisitive Maisy and Daisy (indoor cats who moved to a house with a lawn with heavenly smells to explore – and then noticed that next door’s lawn was even greener….. but was it better?) Kind old Tinker who trained Charlotte in ‘the gentle art of sitting on a lap’ (apparently it’s not as easy as it looks!) Scoobie the ‘calendar girl’ whose vanity almost lost her all her friends; the ingenious Pickles who discovered how to find sunlight on a rainy day in January; Frank the bully; timid cats reluctant to lose face in front of the gang; law-abiding cats like Ollie, whose rebellious streak was encouraged by his friends Hetty and James who showed him that ‘Sometimes a cat has just got to do what a cat’s got to do’ and cats who boast that they have no fear – until suddenly…..?  Each adventure has a different mood, lighthearted, funny, poignant – with a moral to match:

No-one is fearless. Everyone is afraid of something.
If you think you’re going to fail then you will almost certainly fail.  If you think you will succeed…well,
at least you’ll have a chance.

Listening is one of the most potent forms of communication.

It’s not what you cost that matters. It’s what you’re worth.

My particular favourite is ‘Princess Graceful and the Prince of Charms’ – the moral of which is: 

‘The only way to get a cat to do what you want it to do, is to……………’

Sorry, to find out the answer, you will have to buy the book!  (Details in the Resources section at the end of this newsletter).

Your Letters ………..……” *

Following Linda Bodicoat’s sponsorship of the last edition of DF in memory of her dog, Tam, another  reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, sent a generous donation, for which we are most grateful:

Here is the money for the next issue of Departed Friend.  This is just my way of saying thank you for comforting so many people who have lost their animals.  In our sad and sick society today a lot of people don’t even think animals are worth grieving for – but then those people are the losers as they will never have known the joy that the unconditional love of a pet brings.

Anon.

DF is unique and must comfort so many people……         I print if off immediately it’s in my emails and send it on to around a dozen other people and I know that some of them send it on as well.

Lynn R

Canine Health Concern

(Our thanks to CK & A Yoe and Josie Sutherland for  information about this website).

Canine Health Concern was formed in 1994 by Catherine O’Driscoll, after two of her beautiful young Golden Retrievers – Oliver and Prudence – tragically died.  She asked, ‘why?’ and the answers that came back were sufficiently disturbing to make her feel that independent research was necessary – free from commercial bias.  Catherine was sent scientific papers which told her that commercial pet food was nutritionally inadequate, and that many deficiency diseases are the direct result of poor feeding.  She also learnt that the annual shots we give to our pets each year, in the belief that we are protecting them from disease, are actually the largest cause of ill health in our pets today.  CHC advocates real food for dogs.  There is a wealth of information on the website, pertaining not only to canine health and wellbeing, but also of benefit to cats, humans and other animals.  Healing and stress-busting techniques are explored.  However, the purpose of the website is not to preach, but to empower us to do the best we can for our animals and make our own judgements from a point of knowledge.  It is not an ‘alternative’ but encourages us to work with and alongside the veterinary profession.  This website is well worth a visit: 

http://www.canine-health-concern.org.uk

For postal, email and contact details, please see the Resources Page.

St Francis and the Pigeon

In the previous issue of Departed Friend, I told of my experiences in the weeks immediately following Tam’s death . . .

Just when all seemed to be returning to normal . . . I went out into the garden early one evening to find an exhausted young racing pigeon sitting on the picnic bench right near to the house.  It was immediately apparent that he had a superficial neck injury, consistent with a bird of prey attack. I quickly fetched a dish of food and water, and he soon found the courage and strength to venture over to eat and drink, before finally roosting in the guttering of the single story roof of the old kitchen.

Two days later, ‘Winkie’, as we named him, was showing no signs of leaving, so I contacted the Royal Racing Pigeon Association. (RPRA) Unfortunately, they advised that unless I could catch him and obtain the leg ring numbers, there was very little that they could do to help.

Winkie stayed with us for 10 days, watching and learning from the many visiting wild birds, and eventually joining them to feed from the bird tables.  He appeared to be at ease in our presence, and although I was eventually able to make a note of the ring numbers on his leg, he remained sufficiently distant, so as to always avoid capture.  He proved himself to be quite a character and posed for regular photo shoots!  In fact, one of his favourite perching places so amused the RPRA, that Winkie was featured in The Pigeon Racing Weekly! 

Winkie left at first light, one beautifully warm, sunny morning, just 10 days after he mysteriously appeared  . . . His neck injury was healing nicely and he had spent the previous two days meticulously preening his feathers.  When we rose that morning, he was gone . . . Winkie’s owners were eventually traced to their home in Yorkshire, but at the time of writing, sadly, Winkie is still missing;  he’s never arrived home! 

I like to think of him living free somewhere; following his instinct, and possibly helping to uplift the spirits of someone else who is grieving the loss of a special animal friend, by paying them a visit also. 

The photographs I have of Winkie with St. Francis will remain a treasured reminder of a wonderful little friend, who enriched my life by his presence, no matter how brief his stay.

Linda J. Bodicoat

Award-winning American Christian journalist, Ray Waddle, also pays tribute to St Francis, in the following  thought-provoking article which can be found at http://www.raywaddle.com/colview.asp?ID=117

(Our thanks to journalist Kathleen LaCamera for information about Ray Waddle and his writing).

I was on deadline once when a reader called, weeping, with an urgent question: “Do you think my Rudy is in heaven?”  Rudy had died during routine surgery. His death was a shock. Rudy was only 8 years old. Rudy was a cocker spaniel.

We talked awhile. The church he attended was ominously silent about whether pets go to heaven. I didn’t know how to reassure him, but he sounded a little relieved when I noted a verse from Psalms 36: “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens … you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.”

Do pets have souls? This week I wonder again. My ancient cat died Monday — just short of 21 years old. I’m dazed and saddened, but awed at her longevity. Molly lived to 100, in human years. She was queen of her little patch of the neighborhood for two decades. She outlasted the administrations of Reagan, Bush, Clinton and (almost) another Bush. She weathered the ’98 tornado (she was outdoors that afternoon) and condescended to accept a blended family of three other cats and a Corgi.

Next week is St. Francis’ feast day, and a handful of local churches will honor him by scheduling Blessing of the Animals services in October. The services address an overlooked corner of spirituality, the role of animals in the heavenly scheme of things. We took Molly to one in 1994; I like to think the spiritual vibrations she absorbed that afternoon added years to her life. It was, at least, a soulful experience to say official prayers surrounded by furry critters, not just us warring humans.

Do animals go to heaven? I’ve never heard a sermon on the subject. Some Christians will say it’s a frivolous question, smacking of paganism or animals rights militancy or “radical environmentalism.” They say it devalues the uniqueness of the human soul to assign similar value to animals. They protest too much.

The extraordinary life of St. Francis (1181-1226) contradicts these suspicions. He not only started an influential monastic order and spread a message of gospel simplicity across Europe. He not only popularized Christmas nativity scenes. He not only bore the mysterious stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ. He was also famous as a Christian ambassador to animal planet. According to his biographers, he made friends with any number of rabbits, frogs, insects, even wolves. In the Italian village of Pian d’Arce, he once preached to an assembly of crows and pigeons, reminding them to praise their Creator just as people do. This was no sentimental stunt. Francis had an overwhelming feeling for God as the source of all things. Love of creation meant keeping a mystical bond with it all.

It’s as if Francis had just walked off the ark with Noah after the Flood, and was deeply impressed to see the rainbow, God’s sign of a benign new relationship with Earth, “the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.” (Genesis 9)

All were put into the same boat of God’s care. Some people insist only humans have souls because only humans have free will and need salvation. But animals care for their young, they suffer and die. They’re part of the creation story.

In America, 62 percent of households have pets (says the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association), up from 56 percent in 1988. Pets provide spiritual solace in a harsh world — affection, innocence, a link to mother nature. Animals show us grace and beauty; their wildness demands respect. I think of them as refugees from the original Garden, still carrying that aboriginal innocence. The fall of humanity wasn’t their fault, but they keep paying a price as victims of human violence.

Churches honor a saint next week who worshipped a biblical God big enough to include all creatures great and small in the divine mercy — a Creator vast enough to carry everything from past to present to future. Francis called all things his brothers and sisters, part of the family. It was a weary task to bury my loyal little feline friend this week, but I thought of the big family reunion that faith dares to hope for one day. 

Ray Waddle

Do you have any thoughts you would like to contribute    to our “Beliefs and Experiences” series?  These can be  written from your own perspective: whether faith-based, spiritual, non-religious or simply from  personal experience.

================================ 

 GOOD HOME URGENTLY NEEDED

For 2 semi-feral cats from the Luton area

 If you can help, please ring Pam Price – 01582 612257

 + + + + + + + + + +

Louie’s memory lives on in cattoo

 

  Kathy Eustace was devastated when her Siamese cat, Louie, died of cancer and was determined to cherish his memory for ever – so she had his face tattooed on her leg.  ‘Louie was such a special cat’, the 39-year-old said.   
‘When he died I was gutted, I couldn’t stop crying.  It might sound silly but we walked together in life and now we can in death too.  The tattoo artist made such a beautiful job of it.  I feel happy every time I look at it.’ Tattooist Nick Reid, who did the portrait of three-year-old Louie said: ‘Kathy was a lovely person.  It was obvious that she really loved her cat and wanted the tattoo for all the right reasons.’ Ms Eustace, from Islington, North London, now has a new cat called Theo – named after the Arsenal and England footballer, Theo Walcott. Article by Jo Steele, Metro, 14.07.08

PETS IN PARADISE

Pets in Paradise is a wonderful resource owned and run by Carol and Ian Wallace.  They have an astonishing range of coffins, caskets for ashes and pet memorials, of high quality at affordable prices.  As well as the more conventional slate, stone and marble memorials, wood and metal grave and plot markers, they offer portraits of your pet (done from a photograph of your choice) or delightful ‘Paw Print Clouds’ – glass keepsakes with an inscription chosen by you.  The organisation blends professionalism with a very personal service, which is of great comfort at a time of loss.  You can order online or by telephone (details in the Resources section) or if you have a query just fill in the Call Back Request and they will phone you back. They truly understand the needs of bereaved owners:

“The death of a pet leaves few people untouched. As pet lovers and owners, we at Pets in Paradise understand the sorrow and pain of losing a much loved friend and companion.
By choosing one of our Pet Coffins or Pet Ashes Caskets, you can take comfort in the knowledge that your beloved pet will have a dignified and fitting farewell. At a time of loss, a Pet Memorial can help fulfil the need to pay tribute to your pet, and acknowledge the gap that their passing leaves in our lives.”

 

Cynics may scoff at our wish to commemorate our departed friends in this way, or frown with disdain at the whole pet bereavement industry.  But I believe they are seriously misguided.  All species are interconnected and there is an ever-growing  bank of scientific evidence about the benefits to human health of interacting with companion animals, the strength of the bond – and the loss we suffer when it is severed.

Pets in Paradise has a page of poetry dedicated to our lost loved ones and a page of testimonials. 

When Eric died, I ordered a small marker to go in the garden where he is buried.  I was very impressed with the speed of delivery and of its quality when it arrived.  I emailed to express my appreciation, just in case there was a ‘real person’ the other end.  Imagine my surprise and delight when Carol answered in person, saying how pleased she was that I was so impressed with the marker.  I will always remember her genuine concern and thoughtfulness; it brought me a little bit of light at a very dark time.

 Debby.

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Departed Friend Newsletter No. 31 June ’08

TRIBUTE TO TAM

by Linda Bodicoat

Tam hadn’t been well since the end of November, when our vet diagnosed serious liver damage, which, at that time some kind of viral infection was thought to have been the cause.  Personally, I was never convinced that it wasn’t something more sinister, but you have to investigate the obvious and follow a process of elimination in the first instance, and with the use of Samylin powders, (liver blockers) to support his liver enabling it to regenerate, he’d made some very good progress, but never regaining his normal level of activity. 

Tam showed some signs of deterioration on Sunday and by Monday morning he was really ill.  One of the partners at our vets saw him as an emergency and rushed through the blood screening. She also tapped his stomach to determine the nature of the build up of fluid that she’d detected.  Unfortunately, it was blood, which seemed to indicate that the internal bleeding was possibly coming from a tumour, and although we can’t be sure, it’s likely that this was also connected with his liver problems.  We could have had emergency surgery to try to establish what was going on, but in view of the poor state of his liver it was felt that he may not survive the surgery, or the anaesthetic.  In view of his ‘estimated’ age of 12 years, we decided that we couldn’t put him through such major surgery with little hope of recovery.

Once we received the call from the vet, we rushed back to the surgery to be with Tam while he was put to sleep, yesterday lunchtime. (Monday March 3rd ’08)  

Yesterday was such a shock and the house is so very quiet. Today we are just going through the motions and missing him so much.  Being a rescue, Tam had a very difficult first five years of his life and it took quite a number of years for him to settle down into the more happy, relaxed and fairly stable, dog he eventually became.  Investing so much time, effort and emotion into helping him to adjust, makes it all the more difficult to readjust our lives now, but, with time, we’ll get there, just as we did with the other two. 

Both Lass and Meg each have their own tree, which we planted in the garden a few years ago.  Each tree has a brass plaque, engraved with their names and dates. Today, I’ve been to order one for Tam and I’ve spent the last few days writing letters to friends and relatives  (Well, the ones who would care!) to let them know of our loss, this is, in itself, therapeutic and channels the grief into something positive and prevents me from too much time to reflect.

Tam

 

Come Home To Be With Me 

I stood beside your bed last night, I came to have a peep,

I could see that you were crying, you found it hard to sleep.

I whined to you so softly as you brushed away a tear, “It’s me,

I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”

 

I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,

You were thinking of the many times your hands reached down to me.

I was with you at the shops today, your arms were getting sore,

I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.

 

I was with you at my grave today, you tend it with such care,

I want to reassure you that I’m not lying there.

I walked with you towards the house as you fumbled for your key.

I gently put my paw on you.  I smiled and said “It’s me.”

 

You looked so very tired and sank into a chair.

I tried so hard to let you know that I was standing there.

It’s possible for me to be so near you every day,

To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”

 

You sat there very quietly, then I smiled, I think you knew …

In the stillness of the evening, I was very close to you.

The day is over … I smile and watch you yawning,

And say “Goodnight, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,

I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.

I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.

Be patient.  Live your journey out … then come home to be with me.

Anon.

Grateful thanks to DF reader Pauline Edington for sending us this truly beautiful poem.

 

Dear Debby,

As some of your readers will be already be aware, for centuries,  animals have been the hidden victims of war; their involvement and contribution all but forgotten – Happily, over the last few years, a campaign is slowly gathering momentum which seeks to have their sacrifice and suffering more widely recognised and remembered. As a member of ‘The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals’ for many years, and also as a writer of hymns and prayers on a variety of animal welfare themes, I was asked, last year, by a colleague from the Liberal Catholic Church if I would consider writing a special prayer for Remembrance Sunday which focuses on Animals – The Hidden Victims of War. 

In order to offer my personal support for this very important campaign, I have written and produced a brand new ‘Remembrance Prayer’ and also a new ‘Hymn of Remembrance’, which is sung to that wonderful tune, by Gustav Holst, the melody of which is Jupiter, from The Planets, better known as – I Vow to Thee My Country – I have chosen this particular tune because I personally feel it is very inspiring, yet, at the same time, poignant.

I wondered if some of your readers would be willing to help to promote and circulate this new material around the country, via animal charities, relatives, friends, clergy and laity, then hopefully, these new Remembrance Hymn and Prayer Cards will find their way into places of worship. Progress, will, I’m sure, be very slow and we will undoubtedly meet with some opposition, but I pray that, in time, Remembrance hymns and prayers for animals will be used as a matter of course and accepted by all denominations.

I include a price list, should any of your readers feel able to help with this project, and, as always, 20% of the proceeds will be donated to some of my favourite animal welfare charities within the UK.  The remainder will be used to promote ‘Christian Animal Welfare’.

Special Thanks – Thanks to so many dedicated animal welfare supporters country-wide, donations made to animal charities, from sales of my book, cards and hymn leaflets have now broken through the £1,000 barrier!  A heartfelt thank you to all who have so generously supported my work in the past!

Also, thank you, Debby, for so kindly allowing me to promote this special campaign material through Departed Friend.  Having to say goodbye to our 12 year old rescue Border collie, Tam, at the beginning of March, this year, was extremely difficult and we are still working our way through the grief, taking each day as it comes.  Having to focus my mind, in order to write the new hymn and prayer, has been an enormous help to me and both of these new works are dedicated to the memory of Tam.

With every blessing, yours, for the animals,

Linda J. Bodicoat

May 2008

Rose Cottage, Highfield Street, Earl Shilton, Leics. LE9 7HS.
Tel:  01455 846085   Email:  linjbrosecottage@aol.com

“Lest We Forget”

New – Remembrance Hymn Cards & Prayers Cards!

 

Prayer Card Packs – Price List (inclusive of P & P) – UK Only

10 x Prayer Cards = £ 2.50 

25 x Prayer Cards = £ 4.95 

50 x Prayer Cards = £ 8.95 

100 x Prayer Cards = £14.50 

250 x Prayer Cards = £29.50

Prayer Cards measure 10.5cm x 15cm approx & fits into a C6 Envelope

(not Supplied) RRP of 1 x Prayer Card is 25p each

 

Hymn Card Packs – Price List (inclusive of P & P) – UK Only

10 x Hymn Cards = £ 2.50

25 x Hymn Cards = £ 4.95

50 x Hymn Cards = £ 8.95

100 x Hymn Cards = £14.50

250 x Hymn Cards = £29.50

Hymn Cards measure 10cm x 21cm approx (1/3rd A4)

RRP of 1 x Hymn Card is 25p each

Cheques & Postal Orders Only Please
 
IN THE WORKPLACE

Departed Friend no. 2 reported in  May 2002 on the case of the Luton policeman who was refused time off to tend to his sick rabbit – and the  furore that ensued in the Letters Page over the next 5 weeks, some people being sympathetic to him and others downright hostile.  Here are some more examples of attitudes in the workplace:

Some years back, a girl in my office took “sick” leave for two days and when she came back was honest enough to admit that there had been nothing wrong with her but her Boxer had had to be put to sleep – he was the light of her life and fairly young.  The boss went potty – completely OTT – and I said to him that he should appreciate that people mourn for their pets in the same way others mourn human loss.  I asked him to look at her sad little face and to apologise and maybe even suggest she took the rest of that day off and I volunteered to cover her work. I waited for the explosion – but it never came and he went out to buy her a huge bunch of flowers and was really nice to her.  She and I became great mates after that but sadly the situation is even worse now so I guess anyone taking leave because of a pet would have to lie!

Lynne R.

I was fortunate to have a very understanding boss so, when I knew that I was going to have to have my special girl put to sleep, I warned my boss that I might not be in a fit state to make it into work the next day.  It was the quarterly Board Meeting, for which I always take the minutes, but the boss was fine.  I did actually manage to go in to work, as I was in the numb stage and somehow I was able to function.  At the end of the day, my boss congratulated me and said:  “You did very well.”

Kitty P.

I was suffering from a flu-like virus at the same time as Ginger was diagnosed with cancer; we decided not to prolong his suffering.  Mercifully I was therefore off sick when he was put to sleep, and in the few days after.  If I had not been ill myself, I don’t know what I would have done – I could not bear the thought of going into work and explaining it to my manager would have been a non-starter: she has the sensitivity of a bulldozer.

Joan S.

Although attitudes towards taking time off work for animal bereavement still leave a great deal to be desired, there has been an encouraging development in recent years:

The Royal Mail had to pay one of its employees an undisclosed amount for firing an employee who had taken a week off work following the death of his dog:
David Portman took Royal Mail to an Employment Tribunal claiming he had been unfairly dismissed.
The week’s absence, the last in a series of absences, happened in 2004 and Portman was dismissed from his job as a result.

Portman’s lawyer argued that many of the previous absences were a result of workplace injuries, including a broken metatarsal which happened while he was on his rounds and kept him off work for 36 days. Portman also had to have 65 days off after he was involved in a car crash.

The crash was proven not to be his fault and Portman’s insurance company paid Royal Mail for the time he had off.
Plus, Portmans’s lawyer pointed out to the tribunal that Royal Mail’s own procedures say that time off following bereavement is not counted against an employee’s sickness record.

The tribunal ruled Portman had been off for legitimate reasons and that Royal Mail had failed to understand and apply its own policy. It also found that the company had been too inflexible in its interpretation of events.

Source: Workplace Law

Do you have any workplace experiences – good or bad – that you would like to share with Departed Friend?   

Your Letters ………..……” *

I watched David Attenborough programmes.  His tiger programme was marvellous, and I hope it educated people into seeing what a magnificent animal the tiger is and that if it became extinct what a loss to the world it would be.  I was also enchanted by the story of Lobo the wolf who outwitted the bounty hunter set to trap him.  Lobo only succumbed when his mate Blanca was trapped.  His great loss broke Lobo’s resistance and he died of a broken heart.  The story shows the other side of wolves, and humans who flirt from partner to partner would do well to learn from Lobo’s love, devotion and loyalty.

John Cowen

As the weeks have turned into months since Tam left us, the house and garden have been unbearably empty and quiet.  Tam loved being outside and I have found it very difficult to spend time in the garden without his company.

Losing Tam has been especially difficult for me, as for a number of reasons it seems very unlikely that we will be able to consider adopting another dog.  In the past, the thought of being able to offer a loving home to another deserving pet has always helped to ease the pain and loss.  This time, however, I was left with an emptiness that has proved very difficult to deal with.

I have spent several decades working for Christian Animal Welfare, promoting prayer and concern for animals within the church, writing hymns, prayers and organizing services of thanksgiving for animals.  Over the last few years, I have had to give up some of the things which have meant a great deal to me because of family commitments, and now, suddenly, I was also faced with the loss of Tam; a loss that left me overwhelmed with anger, and the feeling that, bit by bit, God was taking away everything that had been so important to me all my life.  Everywhere we went, we saw other people happily walking their dogs, and we would come home to an empty house.

I railed at God, angry for Tam’s illness and sudden death; for the fact that we were no longer in a position to own another dog due to pressing family commitments.  I felt as if, animal welfare-wise there was nothing left for me to do; that I could no longer play an active part in caring for His creatures . . .

Exactly one week following Tam’s death, I found myself having to make an unscheduled visit back to our vets!  I went out into the garden to put out fresh food and water for the birds, only to disturb a Sparrow Hawk with a very newly caught young pigeon.  The Hawk flew off and the trail of feathers led me to the poor bird which looked very shocked and dazed, but still very much alive, in spite of the fact that she looked almost oven-ready!  I rushed to find some kind of container, scooped her up and went straight to the vets.  I half expected her to be dead by the time I had driven there, but to my amazement, she had actually laid an egg, although being such a young bird, it was undeveloped and laid purely as a result of the shock. She was taken in and treated straight away.  The wounds, I was told, were only superficial, but it was 50/50 as to whether she would survive, as many die of shock within a short time of being rescued.

Happily, the pigeon survived her ordeal, and after initial treatment for her wounds, she was taken to a wildlife volunteer who cared for her until her feathers grew back.  She has since been released, but continues to stay around the garden of the volunteer who cared for her.

Just a few weeks later, a large wood pigeon decided to join us for breakfast in the dining room, via the chimney!  After a nerve-wracking few moments trying to capture the sooty, rather ragged-looking bird, without displacing all the china on the dresser, it was placed into the only secure container I had to hand – a budgie cage!  It was rather a tight fit, but once again, I made my way to the vets, the cage draped with old towels.

Sadly this one, in spite of putting up a brave fight, appeared to have some neurological problems and deteriorated rapidly.

I have also recently had to take in two hedgehogs, which regularly pass through our garden.  Blossom, a large female, I’ve been able to release fairly quickly, after giving her bed, breakfast and an evening meal for several days, but the other one, Berry, a male, has two wounds on his back and side; possibly a dog or fox attack, or just a careless human with a garden fork!   

I had to take Berry to the vets and while they don’t charge for seeing wildlife, I had to buy him some gel to put on the wounds, twice daily. He’s eating well and so today, I had to make an unscheduled trip to the shops to stock up on cat food.

In recent weeks, I have also found the strength and determination to write a new hymn, and also a prayer, both on the theme of Remembrance, focusing on Animals – The Hidden Victims of war.  They are both dedicated to the memory of Tam.

So, what I expected would be, just empty days, spent missing Tam, have been filled with many opportunities to be of service to God’s precious creatures. Life really is so full of surprises and there really is always something that we can do to make a difference.

 Linda J. Bodicoat.

Update on Berry

Over the May Bank Holiday weekend, Berry began to give me real cause for concern.  Although he was still eating well, the wounds on his back and side were still showing no signs of healing.  By the Monday, evening I was more than a little concerned about his general condition, so on the Tuesday morning,  as soon as my veterinary surgery reopened, I telephoned to arrange for them to see him.  After a lengthy examination, a third wound was found and the conclusion of the Vet was that, Berry possibly has some kind of systemic viral infection which was causing these multiple skin lesions to erupt.

I came home with some antibiotics, determined to do all I could to save him, but by mid afternoon it was very clear that he was now deteriorating rapidly. I telephoned the Veterinary Centre again and arranged to go back to see my vet right away to discuss the next course of action.  It was decided that he would give Berry 24 hours of intensive care, with fluids and medication administered intravenously to see if he would respond.  Sadly, Berry died peacefully during the night on May 27th 2008.   

 He was such a trusting little character, and such a shame that we lost the fight to save him.  I’m just so pleased that I chanced upon him.  Had I looked out of the window a split second later, I would have missed him.  At least his last days were spent somewhere warm, safe and dry, with sufficient food and water to keep him comfortable.

God bless you, Berry, and grant you His peace and a share in His glorious Kingdom.                                 

LB

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent such kind messages after receiving the sad news about our beautiful boy cat, Eric, in the last issue of           Departed Friend.  Your lovely cards, phone calls, letters and emails really did help.  It does not feel like  3 months since he has been gone; he is still very much a part of our lives – and we miss him so much.We are lucky to have such understanding friends – and   I feel for those who have no-one: people who are alone in the world, locked in silent grief, and those who may be reluctant to speak of their loss for fear of ridicule – from friends, family or work colleagues. Those of us who have personal experience of this special bereavement can dispel misunderstanding and  help  other  people  to  realise  that  those  who are

mourning a companion animal are just as deserving of respect and sympathy as if they had lost a human. Debby  

Departed Friend Newsletter No.30 Feb ’08

Our house move went very well.  Peter and I are now settled in at the new address and the cats made themselves at home immediately.  They now have a catflap for the first time and are enjoying the freedom of house and garden, coming and going whenever they want.  

To all of you who sent such lovely cards and messages, and a very useful year planner – a huge THANK YOU.  I apologise for the delay in producing this issue of Departed Friend, but hopefully things will soon get back to normal.   We have now been in our new home for three months; it is lovely, but now our joy is tinged with a very deep sadness.   On 13 February 2008, we said goodbye to our darling boy ……

 ERIC

The first moment I set eyes on this scruffy, unkempt, half-bald creature, back in 1999, I said to myself:  “This cat will break my heart”.  I loved him deeply, instantly, and I was determined to make him better.

He had been a stray, living outside, when my friend’s Nan had taken pity on him and tried to adopt him.  He refused to come in the house so she fed him outside, separately from her other 3 cats.  Now she was in poor health and about to move house, and this boy needed a home.  He must have had one at some time, because he had been neutered, but now he was in a sorry state, riddled with worms and mange.  I’m sorry to say that his first experience of me was of someone chasing him round the room, trying to get a worm tablet down his throat.  He was always wary of me after that, but funnily enough he felt safe when I was in bed, and would leap up on to me, kneading and purring, and would eventually fall asleep – either on top of me or actually in the bed.  Most of the time, though, he preferred Peter, and liked to sit on him purring while we watched television.

 When we got him home, the first thing we did was to book him a check-up with our vet.  A brief course of injections cured the mange, and his coat grew back – a stunningly beautiful pale ginger.  He put on weight and became a very handsome cat.  I am sure he was a British Cream Shorthair (and he certainly thought he was) and it was a mystery how this possibly pedigree cat had ended up as a stray.

He did not have an altogether easy life, as he was subject to repeated very painful gum disease, and constant bullying by the three sisters (Poppsy, Mumia and Krishna) though he got on well with our big Daisy.  Once the vet had taken all his teeth out, he was much happier.  We did try to rehome him with a friend in the same road, but one of her girl cats also bullied him, so he came back.

Though he was often bullied by the girls, he was a perfect gentleman:  I sometimes wished he would lash out at them – but he never did.  He was totally fearless, however, of other males and would see off even unneutered toms if they ventured on to his territory.

I really do hope he had some happiness in his life.  We did our best for him and loved him dearly. 

The final thing we were able to do for him was to decide not to wake him up from the exploratory anaesthetic. 

Years of varying health and trouble with his kidneys and thyroid had culminated in his going gradually downhill – so slowly that it was difficult, until things had become far advanced, to know exactly what was going on.  Little by little, he lost interest in life, and got thinner and thinner.  No longer did he make his funny noises, that we called his Wa-hoo.  No longer did he bat toys around the room when he had finished eating, and he was eating less than half of what he used to.  Antibiotics failed to improve matters and, while he was under anaesthetic, the vet discovered a tumour in his stomach.  The outlook was grim.  Best case scenario would have been an intensive course of chemotherapy, injections and tablets (he hated taking tablets) – which would have given him only a few months more, a year at the most, with no guarantee of a good quality of life.  We could not put him through all that……

This is my favourite picture of him, basking in the sunshine on his favourite chair.  I am so sad that he will never experience any more sunshine in our beautiful new garden – the Summer will seem very empty without him.  But I hope that, somewhere, he has all the fresh air and sunshine he could want, and that one day we will all enjoy it together again.

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

FROM THE MEDIA

Since I have been producing Departed Friend, I have noticed a definite improvement in the way the media treat animal bereavement-related issues.  There is less mickey-taking and facetiousness, and it seems as though the subject is being taken far more seriously – at long last. The following articles are recent examples of good, responsible journalism:

ONE DOG AND HIS MAN

By Bruce Fogle

This essay in The Independent by recently bereaved vet, Bruce Fogle, best-selling author and TV personality, is a sensitive reflection on the complicated and often heartbreaking relationship between a man and his best friend.  It asks the question: ‘Why do sensible, level-headed people find the death of a pet so hard to cope with?’ His observations of Macy, his six-year-old golden retriever, led him to recognise that dogs have complex emotional feelings.  She was ‘jealous’ when another dog took one of her toys; ‘thoughtful’ before trying anything unfamiliar; ‘joyous’ when she met people or other dogs she knew; ‘contented’ to be left alone; ‘purposeful’ when investigating the natural world around her… and Bruce knew beyond all doubt that she loved him.   Walking your dog is ‘life-affirming’ and Bruce says it’s probably what he misses most now she’s no longer alive.  He writes of the connection they had, the communication they shared, then takes us through her last days – the mysterious, fatal illness and his merciful decision not to wake her from the anaesthetic.  

By coincidence Bruce had, that week, received a book from an American publisher, hoping that he would write a ‘blurb’ for the back jacket.  It was by Ted Kerasote, an outdoorsman from Wyoming, USA, writing of his life with a big yellow dog called Merle.  When the dog died, Ted felt as if what had been holding him together dissolved.  Bruce said he and his wife, Julia, also ‘dissolved’ when Macy died.  Bruce buried her under a favourite tree, with all the lost tennis balls she had retrieved from the park and proudly carried back to the car during the previous month – 11 of them.  Bruce says: ‘The clay was as hard as concrete but this was a satisfying ritual I’d carried out before.  I’ve got two more dogs, Liberty and Lex, buried in their favourite spots in that garden.  It’s a final service, a last “thank you” to an innocent.’

*There were five brief additional Shaggy dog stories – the ones they’ve loved and lost featuring testimonies from Brian Sewell, Roy Hattersley, Philip Treacy, Robin Page and Julian Clary.  Apart from the fact that all these people are well-known, the common denominator in their very different testimonies is the unashamed admission of the depth of feeling these men have for their dogs, and the devastating impact on them when the bond is cut. 

The Independent Extra 31.10.07 

(With thanks to DF reader Caroline Turner for drawing my attention to this article.  Ed.)

Heartbroken dog who couldn’t give up his feline pal

FRIENDS TILL THE END

“It was a friendship that could inspire a Disney Movie.  Oscar the dog and his best friend, Arthur the cat, were inseparable in life.

So, when 17-year-old moggy Arthur died, Oscar was left inconsolable.  Their owners, Robert and Mavis Bell, buried Arthur in the garden.

But Oscar’s love for his friend would not die – and during the night, he pulled the cat from his grave, carried him inside, laid him in the basket they used to share and gently cleaned him up.  Mr Bell found the pair curled up in the basket.  He said:  ‘Oscar had watched me bury Arthur.  They had been inseparable.’ 

Arthur is now buried in a secure grave in the garden at the Bells’ home in Wigan and Oscar has a new playmate kitten called Limpet.  ‘He’s already very protective of her,’ Mrs Bell said”.  Article by Jo Steele: Metro 10.1.08.

* N.B.  Also from Metro  – 9.11.07

DOGS’ FLEA TREATMENT IS KILLING CATS

Jo Steele reported that hundreds of cats have died needlessly after coming into contact with products meant for dogs.  The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) found that 1 in 10 cats given treatments containing the insecticide permethrin – which is harmless to dogs – dies.  Most of the rest suffer twitching and convulsions.  The problem could be far more widespread than the study showed.

The warning follows previous research that shows some everyday foods that are tasty for humans are harmful for pets and can even kill them.

Onion and garlic are dangerous for cats and dogs, chocolate is very toxic to both animals; grapes and raisins are harmful for dogs.

*

ODE TO A FRIEND

When God made the earth and the sky

The flowers and trees,

he then made all the animals

and all the birds and bees.

And when his work was finished

not one was quite the same,

he said “I’ll walk this earth of mine

and give each one a name.”

And so he travelled land and sea

And everywhere he went

a little creature followed him

until its strength was spent.

When all were named upon the earth

and in the sky and sea

the little creature said “Dear Lord

there’s not one left for me.”

The Father smiled and softly said

“I’ve left you to the end,

I’ve turned my own name back to front

And called you Dog, my friend.”

Anon.

BOOK REVIEW

Farewell, My Lovely

Compiled by Susie Cornfield

Illustrations by Sara Rapoport

Foreword by Celia Haddon

This book was born out of pain – the anguish of grief that Susie Cornfield experienced when her companion of some 16 years died – Brains, the MagnifiCat.   She had not expected much sympathy but she was pleasantly surprised, as friends and near strangers shared happy, moving and funny memories of their own special friends.  She decided that a collection of these tales would be a fitting tribute to Brains, and to the other animals, and it might help other people as they mourned their own losses.

The most striking thing about this book is how very different all the tributes are from each other – and the wide-ranging backgrounds of the contributors.  Some are well-known  in areas such as literature or politics        (Jilly Cooper, Anne Widdecombe, David Blunkett).  Other contributions come from people in different walks of life – such as schoolchildren, (Charlotte Middleditch), gardeners (David Crombie) and accountants              (Mary Middleton).  Some are contemporary and others from a bygone age, such as William Cartwright lamenting a sparrow in the 17th century, William Cowper writing in the 18th century his Epitaph on a Hare and Thomas Hardy expressing the aching emptiness he felt on the loss of his beloved cat.  Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Power of the Dog” is also reproduced. 

Tribute is paid to an extremely wide range of departed friends:  cat, dog, horse, donkey, rat, tortoise, goat, rabbit, hen, fish…..

There is even a section at the back for “Your Special Animal” with blank pages where you can write your special memories: words, songs or music which remind you of your animal.

Copyright prevents me from quoting from these many and moving tributes.  I recommend that you get hold of this book and read them for yourselves.  (See Resources section below).  You can take comfort that the anguish we feel when we lose our loved ones from other species knows no barriers – either of time, or age or walk of life.      

*

FOR ERIC

 Dark, dark day of sunshine, at the end of Winter,

– beginning of Spring.

The garden where you sniffed the air lies undisturbed

– for now. 

 

Later, tonight, we will do what has to be done

and then, with love, light candles in the dark.

 

Dark day of sunshine, at the start of Spring,

– beginning of Winter.

Debby, 13.02.08

Your Letters ………..……” *

Stalwart animal advocate, John Cowen, sent this letter to

The Chief Executive
Sports Journalists Association of Great Britain (SJA)
c/o Start 2 Finish Event Management
Unit 92 Capital Business Centre
22 Carlton Road
South Croydon
Surrey   CR2 0BS

Dear Sir

Like all animal lovers I am disgusted at the way the Government have denied the Celia Hammond Animal Trust (CHAT)** access to the Olympic site (2012) to rescue the stray, abandoned, and feral cats, to be found striving to survive among the rubble of the demolished buildings.  This Government refusal of access is totally irresponsible.  Even more reprehensible is the lies they have told to cover up their inhumanity, in the face of many vigorous protests and petitions from cat lovers. Sadly all this has seemingly been of little effect.

My reason for writing to you and enclosing the Your Cat article to give you a clear picture of the facts is to ask you to make them known to all athletes who will be preparing for the 2012 Olympics, to let them know of the innocent blood which was shed and which will be hidden among all the grandeur of the opening ceremony.  I would like as many of them as possible to make strong representations to the Government to let them know their distaste.  I would also be grateful if you journalists covering the preparations for the event would also give it a mention.

As a dedicated cat owner, and cat lover I do hope this letter is of interest to you and that you will be able to grant my request.

John Cowen, Edinburgh

**Celia Hammond Animal Trust (CHAT)
Head Office and Charity Shop
High Street, Wadhurst, East Sussex.  TN5 6AG

Tel:  01892 783367   http://www.celiahammond.org

Reg. Charity no. 293787
Dear Debby,

Just looking again through Issue No. 29 with all the interesting news about Barbara Hunt’s grand work at Nether Stowey.  (CatWork: a special Sanctuary for cats with FIV and FeLV – ed.)

My thanks must go to Pauline Edington for her letter relating to my own anguish concerning our dear old friend, “Tiggy” who we lost last Christmas (2006) and her copy of the poem “God’s lent pet”.

We now feel ready to give a home to another cat and so at the moment we are searching for two tortoiseshell-and-white kittens, but so far, no luck.  However, we shall continue.  Life is somewhat shallow and empty without animals around the house.

Best wishes for now and the New Year (and thank you for your help in dark days of the closing year),

Dennis Martin

APPEALS

Dennis Martin wants to give a loving home to two tortoiseshell-and-white kittens, as stated in his letter above.  If anyone knows where he can find kittens of that colour, please let me know, and I will pass the information to him.  (Dennis lives in the West Country, in the UK). 

2)  Mary O’Brien wants to know if there is a dog rescue organisation in Greece.  A friend of hers lives over there with several rescue dogs.  Due to personal circumstances, he now wants to return to England and needs to be sure that he leaves his dogs in Greece in safe hands.  If anyone knows of a suitable organisation, please let me know, and I will pass the information on to Mary.

             A KIND GOODBYE Z

This is a training video (VHS) produced by SCAS – the Society for Companion Animal Studies.  On the order form it is described as being 23 minutes long – it seemed shorter when I watched it, but that may be because the subject matter held my interest.  The publication date is given as 1993, but the date given at the end of  my copy is 1989.  The issues covered are still very relevant today.  The video consists mainly of discussion between two veterinary surgeons (David Watson and John Bower):

Veterinary practices realise that their responsibilities extend beyond the consulting room.  Vets are seen as ‘killers’ and people are still frightened to bring animals to the surgery.  However, they pointed out that old age is not, of itself, a reason for euthanasia.  There are positive criteria for preserving life – if the elderly animal is free from pain, enjoying food, sleeping at night and not ‘antisocial’ (vomiting or incontinent). 

Euthanasia is devastating for some clients.  It is very important that the whole procedure is smooth and peaceful for both animal and owner.  Dr Colin Murray Parkes, Senior Lecturer at the London Hospital Medical College and well-known in human bereavement counselling circles, explains:  the grieving process  is drawn out because it is suppressed in the West; we are encouraged to have a stiff upper lip and not to cry out, What is needed is

1) permission to grieve and

2) permission to stop grieving. For many, the loss of an animal is their first experience of bereavement and this can happen in early childhood.  Dr Parkes remembers vividly, to this day, the loss of his cat, Timmy, when he was 4 or 5 years old. He says that how parents handle it is crucial. Many parents make mistakes – by telling a story such as the pet has “gone away…..” and whisking the body away.  Two children are seen putting crosses on a grave in the garden, and expressing their grief.  Dr Parkes warns that clients may express anger irrationally, blaming the vet, and urges vets to be understanding.  Dr Mary Stewart of Glasgow University Animal Vet School (and author of the book “Companion Animal Death”) understands; she has been through it herself.  She takes clinical proficiency in vet practices for granted and says that what is needed is warmth.

(I agree.  I am so lucky in the practice I use.  When we lose an animal, they are all to some degree affected. It doesn’t take the pain away but it is comforting, like a soft bandage on a gaping wound, and it also helps greatly that others appreciate just how special the animal was). 

Terminology.  One of the vets always uses the term ‘put to sleep’ to clients, and stresses the importance of consent forms – so there is no doubt about what is happening. (I have heard a contrary argument that, if a child is told an animal is being ‘put to sleep’ there is an expectation that the animal will wake up again – or that ‘going to sleep’ will then be  equated with death.)

To be present – or not – during euthanasia.  The owners should always be given the choice, so that they can see the transition from life to peaceful death.  For euthanasias at home, most owners will be capable of holding the animal and raising the vein for the injection but, if not, the vet John brings a nurse to the house. If it is done in the surgery, clients should also be offered some time on their own with the animal.

Disposal.  The options of communal or individual cremation are discussed, as well as taking the animal home for burial.  Clients should be asked whether they want the collar taken off at the time or later, and whether they want to take collar and lead home.  If the client is unsure, vets are advised to keep these for a few days in case the client decides later that they want them.

Paying the bill.  Choice can be given whether to settle up at the time, or have it sent.

Condolence letter.  Vet John sends a handwritten letter to clients whose animals he has known well and reminds them to remember the good times and not to feel guilty. He thinks that sending a letter in every case is ‘over the top’.  (I disagree: I find the letters very helpful).

Other animals.  All the vets advise getting  a younger animal as the first one ages, a) because it livens up the old one and b) because grief requires something to do – and it helps if, at a time of loss, there is another animal still to care for.  Clients agreed, and it was stressed by all that the new one is not a replacement: this is impossible.  (While I think that this will work for many people, it is not always practical and should not be regarded as a universal strategy).

To conclude:  It is good to see so many issues covered, and the point well made that this kind of bereavement can be every bit as painful as grief for a human.  It should be widely shown as part of awareness-raising in schools, colleges and workplaces, and every walk of life.

Departed Friend Newsletter No. 29 Sept ’07

It was so good to welcome Debby and Peter to Catwork back in June; (see DF 28, ed.) as also lovely to meet  Sue Dobbs who recently told us in DF 26 about her beloved Mr Darcy.

 

Sue Dobbs playing with Mr Chips

(we don’t know who enjoyed the game most!)

Grateful thanks to Debby for telling people through the newsletter of our work here for the FIVs and FeLVs who are some of the unfortunates of feline society and greatly misunderstood. One thing I would like to emphasise following Debby’s account of our work is that FIVs can and do live ‘normal’ lives for many YEARS, not just months (I had written “months or even years” ed.) When properly fed and cared for FIVs can live as long as non FIVs and have no more “health problems” than the average cat.

Many of these cats come to Catwork literally from “death row”- young cats in good health with a life ahead of them if only they were allowed to live it.

Once people started calling the FIV virus “AIDS” – which it is not – many cats were doomed. Rescue organisations are reluctant to take them on believing that they pose a great threat to other cats, passing on the virus through fighting. This is in fact untrue – once neutered, given proper food and veterinary care when needed, they no longer need to “fight to survive”, and they don’t. The Fivery here has approx  20 cats living communally,  and it

would be a battlefield if they were in the habit of fighting all the time. Visitors always remark how peaceful it is here with the cats getting on well, knowing that they each have a place to sleep and are going to get fed, and, being neutered, they no longer have to fight over females.

Over the weekend we talked, inevitably, much about bereavement, and I hope very much that Sue was able to take some comfort from our shared ideas.

With cat numbers always hovering around 40 we have to experience bereavement rather more than most, but each loss is always sad and uniquely different. When it is time to say goodbye to one of our feline family, we at least know that we’ve been able to give the cat a life and it wasn’t killed because it was FIV, as so many others are. How sad that stray cats are being “rescued” by animal loving people and sometimes taken to a vet where the blood test it will certainly be given may be a death sentence!

Our sense of bereavement extends to all those who have been “rescued” only to meet an untimely and unnecessary end. The few who have found their way to Catwork have, over the years, taught us so much. They have made us laugh and made us cry.

Our hope for the future is that a more common sense attitude will start to prevail in the cat world about FIV. It is always sad when an animal reaches the end of its life, but we find it doubly so when we hear of those that are made to die well before there is any need to, due mainly to their being “inconvenient”. We grieve for all those being killed on a daily basis up and down the country – cats we will never be able to help and who will be needlessly dying.

Debby and Peter make a fuss of Tutts –

our oldest FIV, well into his teens!

The House Dog’s Grave

(Haig, an English bulldog)

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read – and I fear often grieving for me
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope than when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that’s too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

(With thanks to Caroline Turner for discovering and sending us this beautiful poem – ed.)

Your Letters ………..……”

* Dear Debby,
Jackie gave us a copy of your wonderful Departed Friend newsletter.  It was very kind of you to include that lovely picture and tribute to our wonderful Timmy.   (See DF 28 ed.) We all adored him so much and it has been hard each day to be without him.
Then Jackie gave us your newsletter, and somehow it made us think that he is still with us in spirit if not in body.  Your wonderful work which helps people come to terms with their sad loss, is really uplifting and a great help.  Thank you once again.  Love,

Angie & Mick Bean x

Thank you for DF 28 – particularly the letter from Mr Dennis Martin is so touching because it encompasses all the feelings we have when confronted with making the irreversible decision.  Even when the facts of ‘rapid decline’ and ‘resultant discovery of a serious medical condition’ we still try not to believe it is the best to stop the suffering, and afterwards toss and turn over whether it was right on our part to admit defeat and let go.  When things can only get worse what choice have we?  In the turmoil, trauma and panic of the situation how can we feel competent to act for the best when tired and emotionally fraught?  I would say to Mr Martin – your Tiggy will not judge you making the decision to release her from suffering; you had made all other comforts, food and shelter for her with good intentions, so you would not do her a wrong at the end.  To step in before the illness becomes worse surely prevents further suffering.  Tiggy would not want her loving human to be so unhappy.  I enclose a copy of  “God’s Lent Pet” for Mr Martin.

Pauline Edington

God’s Lent Pet

“I’ll lend you for a little while a pet of mine” – God said

“For you to love the while it lives, and mourn for when it’s dead.

It may be six or seven years, or twenty or just three –

But –  will you, ‘til I call it back, take care of it for me?

She’ll bring her charms to gladden you & (should her stay be brief)

You’ll have all your memories as solace for your grief.

I cannot promise she will stay – since all from earth return

But there are lessons taught below I want this pet to learn.

I’ve looked the whole world over in my search for teachers true

And from the millions in life’s lane I have chosen you.

Now will you give it all your love nor think the labour vain

Nor hate me when I come to take this lent pet back again?”

I fancied that I heard them say: “Dear God, thy will be done;

For all the joys thy pet will bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.

We’ll shelter it with tenderness; we’ll love it while we may

And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay.

But – should thy angels call for her much sooner than we planned

We’ll brave the sorrow that we feel – and try to understand.”

Anon.

 

Departed Friend display at

One Love Festival – Marsh Farm, Luton

Saturday 8 September 2007

Moving on

Dear Debby – I don’t know if you remember me – I contacted you when my friend Dar was killed a few years ago – (See DFs 15 & 17 – ed.)  I won’t be needing you to send any more newsletters – they were so much comfort to me as were you – couldn’t have coped without your help.…..I still miss Dar every day and I just wanted to thank you for everything, I hope you are well,  take care of yourself – Best wishes and warm regards,

Beccy and Daisy

Thank you so much for this month’s Departed Friend.  I am just writing to let you know I no longer need the newsletter.  Over the years I have read some lovely letters, and some moving letters from Departed Friend, and I have found them very comforting.  After I lost my dogs to ill health (See DFs 9 & 16 – ed.)  I have found strength in Departed Friend to move on, and although I will never get over it, I have had a lot of help and support from your newsletter.  Goodbye and good luck.  Yours sincerely,

Jamie Wright

It is heartwarming to receive such messages of courage and hope, and to know that Departed Friend has played a part in helping people to move on.   From personal experience, and from testimonies received over the years that I have been producing Departed Friend, I know that what at first feels utterly unbearable can, in time, become possible to live with – though as Jamie says, we may never ‘get over it’ and will certainly never forget.  I am always happy when people say they no longer need the newsletter, as it means they have reached this point.  Though the newsletter may have played a part in their progress, the real credit must go to the individuals themselves for their own inner bravery and strength.    ed.

Police let stray dog starve for six days

Following John Cowen’s account in DF28 of the disgraceful neglect of a greyhound by police at Dalkeith Police Station, leading to its death by starvation, I came across another incidence – thankfully this time with a happier outcome, but with the same totally unacceptable lack of human accountability.

He may look fit and full of life now, but this Border Collie was close to death after police left it starving and without water for six days.  The RSPCA is investigating Suffolk Police over the incident, which has been blamed on an administrative blunder.  The male border collie’s ordeal began two weeks ago when he was handed into Bury St Edmunds Police Station by a passer-by who found him roaming stray.  He escaped and was recaptured but then forgotten about – because staff did not record his return, police said.  As a result, no-one gave him food or water for six days.  He was taken to West End Farm Kennels at Buxall, Suffolk, where he is said to be making good progress.  Experts say he is lucky to be alive and that he may have survived by drinking water from puddles.  The RSPCA refused to comment until the inquiry is over.  Police said they would beef up procedures.  A spokesman added: “I can confirm that no disciplinary action will be taken with regards to this incident as it was a genuine human error.” Metro 31.08.07

 Departed Friend

 
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This poster is A5 size, laminated, and specially designed for vet surgeries.  Why not ask your vet if they would be willing to put one up on the noticeboard?  You can order the posters free from the DF address, sending an A5-sized SAE, or I can send you the template by email.   Your vet might like to see an issue or two of DF before agreeing to put up the poster.  (N.B.  The practice I use also has a cat clinic, so I have adapted the poster to show two cats – other adaptations may also be possible).  You can also use the poster on stalls or put it up in libraries, etc.

BOOK REVIEW

Missing my Pet

by Alex Lambert, aged 6

& supporting booklet with practical help for grown-ups from Alex’s Mum

One of the vets from the practice I use (Julia Boness Veterinary Hospital, Barton-le-Clay, Bedfordshire) was recently invited to go on a local radio phone-in programme. Questions were asked and answered on animal behaviour; the topic of bereavement was also covered – this was of personal interest to the programme’s presenter, who had lost her dog just 9 weeks before. With my prior permission, the vet, Linda Horn, gave out contact details for Departed Friend over the air (thank you!) She also mentioned this booklet, which the practice has in stock, to help children cope with the loss of an animal friend:

Missing my pet is a true story.   As Alison, Alex’s mum, explains:  the idea for the book was born following the sad and very sudden death of Alex’s dog.  Alex was sad and angry and his parents felt helpless to do anything.  By writing his book of recollections and talking through the contents, feelings and memories it evoked, the family all started to feel just a little bit better.

The book consists of short, one-page chapters each with its own delightful colour illustration on the opposite page.  In his introduction, Alex says:  “If you are looking at this book, then it probably means that you are sad.  I was very sad  when  my dog  Star died,  so I wrote about how I felt, and the questions I asked everyone….. My mum thought that it might help other children who are sad to do the same.  So this is your book.” 

The 8 chapters each deal with a different issue, starting with ‘When me and my pet were happy’, taking the reader on the journey through ‘When my pet was poorly’, ‘Going to the vets’, ‘When my pet died’, ‘Why I was sad’, ‘What happened then’, and (beginning to move on) ‘How I remember my pets’ and ‘What if we get another pet?’  The book wisely leaves this last question open-ended, as Alex (who likes dogs) says he thinks that one day he will want to have another one, who won’t be the same as Star, but would be someone else to play with.  It ends on a positive note:  “I’m glad I had Star, he was funny.  He was my friend.” 

Readers are encouraged to draw a picture of themselves and their pet, and to write down their plans of how they want to remember their pets. 

The ‘Grown-up stuff’ is a useful supplement by Alex’s mum, who expands on each of the chapters and offers helpful insights to parents of a grieving child – for example:  “…. you should consider letting the child say goodbye … be led by your child, and don’t push the point if they are reluctant, but feeling left out at the end of a loved pet’s life can be traumatic for many children… Honesty, with, of course, sensitivity and a level of detail appropriate for your child, is always best.” 

This is a compassionate, comprehensive, common-sense resource for children (and grown-ups) which comes highly   recommended.    For details of how to get a copy see Resources Page, 

UNIVERSAL KINSHIP

The idea of compassion is often mentioned in Departed Friend, which is a welcome change in a world where compassion has gone out of fashion – or at least you would think so from the comments made by newspaper and TV pundits. Today, it seems that people who act out of compassion towards other creatures are considered weak, extreme or a terrorist. None of this is true; in fact, to be compassionate in a world of cynicism and indifference to the suffering of other creatures is to show strength of character and love for others.

What Is Compassion?

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”             (Frederick Buechner) 

J. HOWARD MOORE – ANIMAL ADVOCATE

Throughout human history there have been exceptional individuals who through their compassion have elevated human kind out of poverty, ignorance and disease. Often against great opposition from the State and the Church these people brought us education, better food, better housing and democracy. One such individual, J Howard Moore, (see also DF 28) tried to bring us enlightenment about the sentience, intelligence of animals and how they form relationships with each other and with humans.

WHAT IS UNIVERSAL KINSHIP?

Research by Peter Wakeham

Amongst other works, Howard Moore wrote a brilliant book called ‘Universal Kinship’ by which he meant:

“… the kinship of all the inhabitants of the planet Earth.”

As a taster, here is a short piece of his book, which I think gives the flavour of his philosophy:

‘Every being is an end. In other words, every being is to be taken into account in determining the ends of conduct. This is the only consistent outcome of the ethical process, which is in course of evolution on the earth. This world was not made and presented to any particular clique for its exclusive use or enjoyment. The earth belongs, if it belongs to anybody, to the beings who inhabit it—to all of them. And when one being or set of beings sets itself up as the sole end for which the universe exists, and looks upon and acts toward others as mere means to this end, it is usurpation, nothing else and never can be anything else, it matters not by whom or upon whom the usurpation is practised. A tyrant who puts his own welfare and aggrandizement in the place of the welfare of a people, and compels the whole people to act as a means to his own personal ends, is not more certainly a usurper than is a species or variety which puts its welfare in the place of the welfare of all the inhabitants of a world. The refusal to put oneself in the place of others and to act toward them as one would that they would act toward him does not depend for its wrongfulness upon who makes the refusal or upon whether the refusal falls upon this or that individual or set. Deeds are right and wrong in themselves; and whether they are right or wrong, good or evil, proper or improper, whether they should be done or should not be done, depends upon their effects upon the welfare of the inhabitants of the universe. The basic mistake that has ever been made in this egoistic world in the judging and classifying of acts has been the mistake of judging and classifying them with reference to their effects upon some particular fraction of the inhabitants of the universe. In pure egoism conduct is judged as good or bad solely with reference to the results, immediate or remote, which that conduct produces, or is calculated to produce, on the self. To the savage, that is right or wrong, which affects favourably or unfavourably himself or his tribe. And this sectional spirit of the savage has, as has been shown, characterized the moral conceptions of the peoples of all times. The practice human beings have today—the practice of those (relatively) broad and emancipated minds who are large enough to rise above the petty prejudices and “patriotisms” of the races and corporations of men and are able to view “the world as their country” (the world of human beings, of course)—the practice such minds have of estimating conduct solely with reference to its effects upon the human species of animals is a practice which, while infinitely broader and more nearly ultimate than that of the savage, belongs logically in the same category with it. The partially emancipated human being who extends his moral sentiments to all the members of his own species, but denies to all other species the justice and humanity he accords to his own, is making on a larger scale the same ethical mess of it as the savage. The only consistent attitude, since Darwin established the unity of life (and the attitude we shall assume, if we ever become really civilized), is the attitude of universal gentleness and humanity.’                                        Howard Moore 1906

Departed Friend Newsletter No.28 June ’07

A Visit to - image002

On 15 June Sue Dobbs, (see DF 26 for her tribute to Mr Darcy) my husband Peter and I travelled to heaven on earth, otherwise known as Nether Stowey, in Somerset, to visit a remarkable cat rescue and homing organisation, run by Bob and Barbara Hunt. 

Catwork began in 1996, when Barbara overheard a conversation in a shoeshop about a cat who was going to be put down because her elderly owner was going into a care home that did not allow pets: this cat, Carly, was the first rescue. Today, as well as 8 house cats, Bob and Barbara look after with devoted care around 42 very special cats whose circumstances make it extremely unlikely that they would otherwise find a home.

The sanctuary consists of chalets set in large runs, custom-built over the years by Bob, to cater for different groups of cats – and individuals with special needs who have to be kept separate from the rest.  There are bushes, trees, undergrowth and rocks for the cats to explore, and the whole thing gives the impression of having grown spontaneously out of the ground – utterly lacking in regimentation and completely natural with plenty of privacy and interesting nooks and crannies, as well as luxurious sheltered accommodation for all – with heated bedding for those who need it.

Jasper, (a sanctuary cat  – pictured right) climbs up your legs to demand attention and loves nothing more than to be picked up and cuddled, going into ecstasies of purring and wriggling so that you feel you want to hold him and stroke him all day. Jasper: a “Fivery” catimage002
I was struck by how well the cats seem to get on with each other – and how affectionate they are.  Burmese house cat Ben’s favourite trick is to leap straight from the floor on to Barbara’s shoulder – despite his 17 years. 

Barbara has a soft spot for a very handsome ginger in the sanctuary called Captain who, despite the fact that he only has 3 legs, manages to keep the others in order.  She calls him her Tripod.  Then there are the Lager Louts (bully boys), the Old Ladies, May (a nervous feral who has a run to herself) and Lucky, a beautiful tortoiseshell with a serious heart condition who is nevertheless kept happy and healthy by Barbara’s blend of homoeopathic remedies.  For those who need medication, there is no daily battle, as Barbara hides the tablets in a smudge of cheese spread, so they think they are getting a special treat!

We were happily looking around one of the enclosures at the contented cats who were purring around our legs, washing themselves or simply dozing in the sunshine,  when Barbara suddenly said:  “These cats would all be dead.”  

We were in the “Fivery” –  the part of the sanctuary devoted to cats who have tested positive for Feline Immunodeficiency   Virus (FIV), who comprise most of Barbara’s rescues.   Barbara takes drinking water to the cats in the Fivery image002

The shocking fact is that this diagnosis in most cases carries an automatic death sentence, despite the fact that unless the virus develops into full-blown feline AIDS, the cats are not dying, nor are they usually suffering enough to warrant putting them to sleep.  Given the right TLC, they can survive for many more months or even years with a good quality of life, before it becomes necessary (for the cat’s sake, not the convenience of other people) to end their lives.   Many of Barbara’s cats come from at least 4 well-known animal welfare/rescue organisations where they have been on death row – and sometimes Barbara has really had to fight for their lives.  Big Ted’s name was shortened to BT, after the phone call that saved his life.  This beautiful large tabby had been found as a stray and was going to be homed by a local group – until he was discovered to be FIV positive.  The vet ambulance driver rang Catwork and Barbara got through to the vets at the last minute – when the lethal dose had already been drawn up into the syringe.

Cats who test positive for FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus) are also often unnecessarily sentenced to death – despite the fact that tests are often unreliable as the cat can deal with the virus and test negative 3 months later.  Like the FIVs, cats with FeLV can enjoy a good quality of life.  A few of Barbara’s cats have both viruses – and they are happy.  Only when their lives are no longer worth living do Barbara and Bob take the sad, merciful decision to put them to sleep. 

Barbara refers scathingly to the wholesale policy of destruction as “cat selection”.  But Catwork is a true rescue centre and a real sanctuary – where these misunderstood animals can live out their lives in peace and security with people who love them.                                                                                                                        

Debby

If you want to help Bob and Barbara with their vital work, why not make a donation?  Cheque payable to “Catwork” (address in the resources section of this newsletter).  Or send them an SAE for their factsheet on FIV and FeLV.

COPS BEAT RAP OVER DEAD STRAY

POLICE who left a stray dog to die after it was handed in to their station will not face criminal charges.
Four months after the body of emaciated greyhound Bushmills Major was found dead in a kennel, the Record understands there will be no prosecutions.

The three-year-old racing dog was left at Dalkeith Police Station, Midlothian, on January 2 by his owner’s son who said it was a stray.  It was locked in a kennel at the back of the station but animal welfare workers were not told he had been handed in.  No record was made of the dog’s arrival in the station logbook.

It was 10 days before his body was found. The dog was dumped in a bin, which was emptied before bosses were informed.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Crown Office insisted prosecutors were still considering the case but sources said the lack of a body made charges impossible to bring.

David Melville, of the Greyhound Awareness League, said no prosecutions was “astonishing”. A police spokeswoman said: “We have submitted a report to the procurator fiscal and are waiting for a decision.” 

Cops are to carry out their own inquiry.

Daily Record  17 May 2007

The event reported above illustrates a phenomenon ill-understood by those media pundits and politicians who brand compassionate animal rights people as “extremists” or even “terrorists”.  What these people  fail to realise is that the driving force behind our outrage is not only indignation at the monstrous injustices  perpetrated by humans on other species, but also bereavement. 

 You don’t have to know an animal personally to be sad at its passing.  Many people in Scotland and beyond are deeply upset by the unnecessary and inexcusable death by starvation of this young dog.   Some express their pain by translating their grief into action.  One of these is John Cowen, who tirelessly campaigns peacefully for animal rights and welfare; he is a true exponent of that well-known saying  “ The pen is mightier than the sword.” He has kindly shared with DF the correspondence he has been having with the relevant authorities in this case:

Procurator Fiscal’s Office
29 Chambers Street
Edinburgh  EH1 1LD
13 June 2007

Dear Mr Cowen

Death of  greyhound – Dalkeith Police Station

I refer to your letter of 3 June 2007 addressed to my predecessor, Mr Frank Mulholland.  I note your concern at the decision not to raise criminal proceedings in relation to the death of the greyhound.  The background to the decision was that a report was received here from Lothian and Borders Police on the death of the greyhound.  The report was considered and then forwarded to Crown Counsel and ultimately the decision by Crown Counsel was as you are aware that there be no criminal proceedings.

These decisions are made independently and impartially and based on sufficiency of evidence or otherwise to prove a case to the required criminal standard of proof.  In this particular case there was just not sufficient evidence to take a criminal prosecution and the matter is therefore now being dealt with under police discipline.

Yours sincerely,    Lesley E Thomson,
                              Interim Area Procurator Fiscal

Needless to say, John is far from satisfied with this response and has written to Ms Thomson to tell her so, pointing out that her response, far from easing his concerns, has increased them.   He further points out that evidence for the prosecution presented to Mr Mulholland showed that it was neglect that caused the dog’s death, and that this is a prosecutable offence.

TIMMY

Passed away Easter Sunday 8 April 2007

image002

To our special boy.  We all love and
miss you dearly.  Rest in Peace. x x
 
Mum, Dad, Jackie & Mark
 

Your Letters ………..…… * 

Thanks Debby for the latest issue of Departed Friend.     I read it from cover to cover and, although it’s not a happy read, it’s well written and well edited and most of all, I think, it’s nice to know there’s people out there who care. 

About pets… Kate and Sox are both well and enjoying their new home.  Sox, especially, likes the vegetable patch I’ve dug in the back garden.  He thinks it’s a great big litter tray!!

Jeff Kleinman

* * * * * *

I am an Episcopalian and do grief counseling for pet loss in the United States (California). I have recently organized a small committee in my church to have a yearly Pet Memorial Service and a yearly Pet Loss workshop for adults and children. Is it possible for me to receive copies of your Departed Friends Newsletter?

Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,    Lois Roach

+ – + – + – + – + 

I would like to thank everyone who has helped and signed the fireworks petition calling for fireworks to be restricted to licensed displays only at fixed times of the year and to reduce the noise levels of fireworks to a maximum of 85db.  This Restrict Fireworks petition containing 129,387 signatures was presented at Downing Street on the 1st November 2006.  As a result, there was a debate in the House of Commons on 6th November; the outcome was that … they did not feel that the 2003 and 2004 firework laws had been in place long enough to see if they were working.  (N.B. despite injuries to people and animals, damage to property, and death caused to animals by injury and fright – ed.)  There is a new online firework petition:  http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Bonfires/

Deadline to sign: 17 January 2008.    

Theresa Kulkarni

I am writing to thank you for the copy of Departed Friend issue no. 27.  I have found it interesting, useful and above all, most comforting.  I was pleased to see the inclusion of “Tiggy’s poem”, (See DF 27) for which I thank you a second time.

“Tiggy” was just a family cat, very special, as of course, all such animals are ‘special’ to all families.  I never use the word ‘pet’ but always ‘friend’, which in the case of “Tiggy”, somehow doesn’t then seem to be quite strong enough.   We had her for 14 years, knowing her from the early days from birth, when she was just a scrap of fur in a litter of six kittens.

She was a short-hair tortoiseshell, richly coloured and gentle in her ways.  She was fine on Christmas Day and three days later, was “put down” because of the development of a rapid decline in her state of health and the resultant discovery of a serious medical condition.

The grief persists, the emptiness persists, but now there is this brooding anger all the time and the feeling that we were hurried into an action that we have regretted ever since.  It all happened so quickly.  It will be a long, long time, before I can come to terms with the situation – if ever?  An article in Departed Friend describes the feelings rather well.  Thanks again for sending me a copy.  It was much appreciated.

Dennis Martin

Did I do the right thing?

The decision to end an animal’s life is momentous  – because it is irrevocable.  Once done, there is no going back. In the brilliantly understated words of “Tiggy’s Poem”, Things aren’t how they used to be.      If we are lucky, we are sad but (like Barbara Hunt of Catwork when the time comes for her rescued cats) totally at peace with our decision, certain that we have done the right thing. However, there can be other occasions where the situation, and our feelings, are not so clear-cut.  Dennis Martin’s letter (above) describes very poignantly some of the soul-searching that we sometimes do after euthanasia, especially if we feel we have been rushed into it, or had insufficient information on which to make an informed decision.   The examples given below are all true, but some details have been altered or withheld to preserve confidentiality:

Pressure and insufficient information

I will always feel guilty about having him put to sleep.  If only I had resisted the pressure.  Though he was in quite a state, I will never know whether he could have had a bit longer and, with suitable care, been happy for a while.  I feel that I murdered him.  (Sarah, a friend of Barbara’s – rescued stray cat with FIV euthanased on veterinary advice).

Financial considerations

The vet advised me that euthanasia was the only kind option.  I had already spent thousands of pounds on him. I loved him so much but I can’t help feeling that money somehow influenced the decision. I can’t stop feeling guilty about this.   (Diane – after prolonged expensive treatment of terminally ill horse).

Not present at euthanasia

I went through agonies afterwards, beating myself up and trying to blame myself, but it appears there was nothing I could have done and the vet said it was kinder to ease his pain this way…..I hope he knew he was safe and loved and that I didn’t desert him at the end.  (See DF 26:  Sue Dobbs – Tribute to Mr Darcy).

Perception that the timing was wrong

With hindsight, it’s so easy to see that I got it wrong.  The vet advised me to have her put to sleep after one of several operations to drain fluid from her lungs, but she seemed to pick up and the thought of losing her before it was necessary was unbearable.  When the time finally came, her circulation was so poor that the anaesthetic took a while to reach her heart and she miaowed three times before dying.  I will never forgive myself.  I wish I had done it sooner – or not at all, so she could have just slipped away peacefully herself. (Debby – special cat with cardiomyopathy, see DF’s 4, 8 and 25).

The guilt and the doubts can also be the other way round, when we feel we ought to have had the animal euthanased, but did not:

Perception that we prolonged suffering

Looking back on it, I now believe that I should have had her put to sleep.  I was terribly selfish; I kept her going because I could not bear to let her go, but she really suffered all that year.  (Marie – her favourite dog).

Other examples include euthanasia of healthy animals: this may be because of having to move into accommodation that will not accept pets – or where the animal is dangerous and has been sentenced to death by the courts (see DF 14 ). 

Sometimes it is possible after the event to obtain further information which confirms that we made the right choice.  Sometimes it is not, and we torture ourselves with guilt and  “If only…..”   If you feel like this, you are not alone.  We are only human and bound to make mistakes.  It is because we love our animals so much that we feel like this.   We did what was possible at the time and our animal is now at peace – even if we are not.

 THE GRIEF OF ANIMALS

for each other and for humans

(The subject of animal grief was touched on in DF3)

J Howard Moore (1862 – 1916) was a man far ahead of his time – and ours – in his understanding of animals.  His book Universal Kinship, shows how animals grieve:

A dog will follow a handful of rags wrapped around a homeless beggar, day after day, through heat and cold and starvation … the dog who stood over the lifeless body of his master, grieving  for recognition and starting at every flutter of his garments, till he himself died of starvation, had in his faithful breast a nobler heart than that which beats in the bosom of most men.  And the devotion of Greyfriars Bobby, who every night for 12 years … slept on his master’s grave, was well worth the marble tribute which to-day stands in Edinburgh to his memory.

Very touching is the conduct of the mother (monkey) when her baby is suffering.  And if it dies she is in despair.  For hours, and even for days, she carries the little corpse about with her, refuses all food, sits indifferently in the same spot, and often literally pines to death.

The following account of the attachment of a male monkey for his murdered consort is a pitiful tale of human inhumanity and simian tenderness and devotion: ‘A member of a shooting party killed a female monkey and carried her body to his tent… The tent was soon surrounded by 40 or 50 of the tribe who made a great noise and threatened to attack the aggressor.  … The leader … stood his ground, threatening and chattering furiously.  At last … the broken-hearted creature came to the door of the tent and began a lamentable moaning, and by the most expressive signs seemed to beg for the dead body of his beloved.  It was given to him.  He took it sorrowfully in his arms and bore it away to his expecting companions.’

 Dr Vernon Coleman’s book Animal Rights, Human Wrongs, gives other examples:

A herd of elephants travelled slowly to accommodate a mother who was carrying her dead calf with her.  When the herd stopped to eat or drink the mother would put her dead calf down.  When they started travelling she would pick up the dead calf.  The rest of the herd were accommodating her in her time of grief.

Konrad Lorenz described the behaviour of a gander called Ado when his mate Susanne-Elisabeth was killed by a fox.  Ado stood by her body in mourning.  He hung his head and his body was hunched.  He did not bother to defend himself when attacked by strange geese.

A badger was seen to drag another badger which had been killed by a car off the road, along a hedge, through a gap in the hedge and into a burial spot in nearby woods.

In her book Talking to Animals – the Woodhouse Way (first pb. 1954) Barbara Woodhouse the well-known dog-trainer tells of the devotion of a dog she had as a child, which cost him his life:

Once I had a splendid Alsatian … to me he was everything that a dog should be, and he never left my side… he was hit by a car, displacing a kidney.  The vet said he would have to be operated on … The operation was successful and I begged the vet to let me have him back with me, or to let me see him; he insisted, however, that excitement of any kind would be bad for him.  I cried bitterly at this, for I knew he would fret for me… Two days later my Kazan died of a broken heart, and the vet admitted it…  After this, it was ten years before I had another dog of my own, and if I met an Alsatian I felt like crying.

Departed Friend Newsletter No. 27 Mar ’07

Cheeky Monster R.I.P.

22nd Jan ‘07

by Julie Hasler

 

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Cheeky Monster was a very special cat indeed.  Blind from birth, he coped so well and led a very fulfilling life and enriched my life so much too.  He was an extremely intelligent cat with a BIG personality.  Everyone who met him fell in love with him and we all miss him very much. 

Defying all odds, ‘Cheeky Monster’ survived despite his disabilities and became very much ‘in charge’ of all the other cats here at the sanctuary.

 Cheeky Monster had a very sad start to his life.   I had him and his two litter mates ‘removed’ from a house in Welwyn Garden City where they had been badly neglected.  They were about 8 weeks old and very sick when they arrived.  They had immediate veterinary attention and began to perk up after a couple of weeks.  But there was a problem.  While the other two would play fight and chase things, Cheeky Monster would just stay in his bed and show no interest.  After a couple more visits to the vets for severe conjunctivitis, an examination of the eyes revealed no retinal blood vessels present.  My fears were confirmed.  Cheeky Monster was blind.  Informing me that there was also neurological damage the vet said that his advice would be to put him to sleep as he would have no quality of life.  Well I flatly refused.  He deserved a chance.  He had made it this far. 

When I found homes for his litter mates, he seemed a bit lost, so I took him everywhere with me.  Even to the shops and  friends’ houses.  Gradually I introduced him to the other 13 cats here at the sanctuary, and that’s when he really blossomed.  He followed them everywhere and soon learned to play, climb in and out of windows, climb up onto shelves and find his way everywhere.  His other senses took over, his sense of smell, and his hearing were amazing, he could even catch flies and moths ‘mid flight’.

I would take him for supervised play sessions in the garden where he learnt to play with his toys.  He would play ‘fetch’ with his ball just like a dog and drop it at my feet to throw for him again.  He would listen for it, and follow the noise as it rolled down the garden, and pick it up in his mouth. You can see in the photographs.  He was a real star and I miss him dearly.

He became ill shortly after Christmas ’06.  I took him to the vets on 19th Jan, as he was depressed and quiet.  The vet gave him blood tests which showed a raised white blood cell count, he also had a high temperature, but everything else seemed normal.  He was given painkillers and antibiotics.  His condition worsened, and I took him to the vets again on 22nd when he had further blood tests and X-rays on his abdomen which had become swollen and tender.  Exploratory surgery was performed a few hours later and cancer was discovered throughout the abdomen involving all organs.  It was an aggressive form of cancer which the vet said could spread rapidly within days or weeks.  Cheeky Monster was not brought round from the anaesthetic for humane reasons and I held his paw while the vet performed the euthanasia.  It was a terrible shock as we just thought he was ill and expected him home later in the day!  It was awful.  I miss him each and every day.  He was just 7½ years old.

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Our deepest sympathy to Julie in her loss.  So many things made their bond very strong:  Julie rescued him when he was small and helpless.  She believed in him against all the odds and gave him a chance; the happiness he enjoyed during his life made it clear that this was the right decision and he richly rewarded her by giving her 7½ years of love and companionship.  He had a fighting spirit and a big personality, which has left its deep impression.  He was taken early, which is always hard to bear.  May he rest in peace and may the pain gradually soften, leaving Julie with happy memories of their short, but unforgettable, time together. 

KIND HEART, GENTLE HEART

 Rescue the drowning insect; carry the snail

on the pavement to safety; return the helpless

worm, writhing on concrete, to the sanctuary

of Mother Earth.

Render help and kindness, wherever it is

needed, to all life, great or small.  Suffering has

no boundaries, neither should compassion.

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Mourning the loss of a Companion Animal

Review of an article by Tania Woods of SCAS, (Society for Companion Animal Studies) published in Bereavement Care, Spring 2000

Bereavement Care is the journal of Cruse Bereavement Care, an organisation which helps people bereaved of a human loved one. This important article gives a brief history of the birth of the SCAS Pet Loss Support Service, raises awareness of the issues involved in animal bereavement and, although published in 2000, it is just as relevant today. 

In 1990, SCAS published a booklet called Death of an Animal Friend (see ‘Resources’ below) which explores the processes of attachment and mourning, addressing the special issues in this kind of bereavement: the animal’s relatively short life; electing for euthanasia; lack of clearly established funerary rites and culturally legitimated expressions of grief.   Orders for the booklet poured in, often accompanied by long letters painfully outlining the life and death of the deceased animal.  It was obvious more was needed.  So, in Summer 1993, SCAS organised a conference on pet loss and support for bereaved owners and, in February 1994, the telephone help-line (see ‘Resources’) was established.  By February 2000, the service had taken 3,626 calls.  Most are made by women of working age, living in a shared household.  Most commonly (58%) the loss concerns euthanasia or impending euthanasia (5%) of a dog or a cat that has been owned, usually from an early age, for an average of 11 years.  Most clients only call once.  The call typically lasts 35 minutes and is generally made in the day or week following the loss, though calls can also peak on the weekly, monthly and annual anniversary of the animal’s death.

From the calls, SCAS was able to identify recurring themes:  the animal as a special source of support; the client’s shock at the intensity of their grief; the importance of funeral rites; the question of acquiring a new animal and the involvement of the vet:

Well over a third of clients described a special relationship, its strength increasing with the length of time together and the degree of suffering experienced by the animal during its life.  Often, the animal was the last link with a deceased human loved one.  A third of all clients are surprised by the intensity of their grief, being totally unprepared and fearing that it might be unnatural or abnormal to mourn so intensely for an animal, some feeling it worse than the death of a parent or spouse.  Many had sought help from the doctor for depression and sleeplessness.   Ritual and funeral rites were important to many.  Regardless of whether the deceased is to be buried, cremated or left at the veterinary surgery, it is important that they be treated with ritual significance, concern and respect.  Some clients described their comfort at having seen or felt their animal in the house after its death. Some wanted to discuss the possibility of acquiring a new animal.  Overcoming feelings of guilt and betrayal, some had already successfully introduced a new animal into the home; other believed in retrospect that they had done this too quickly and described initial difficulties in accepting or loving their new companion.  [It has been observed that, whilst an individual animal can never be replaced, it is the dogness of the dog and the catness of the cat which may be replaceable].   A third of the casenotes made reference to the client’s perception of veterinary treatment.  Most of these felt a sense of confusion or muddle surrounding the diagnosis or treatment of the animal prior to its death, the distress being compounded when euthanasia was involved.  The decision to end life, even when the animal is suffering a terminal or degenerative condition, is frequently equated with murder and evokes a strong sense of personal responsibility and guilt.  Often the distress is exacerbated by a belief that this has been either premature or unnecessary.    When clients described the surgery as a ‘safe place’ and their vet as having done everything possible, the vet was almost always familiar, had communicated clearly and was felt to be approachable.  Client needs during the illness and euthanasia centre on: time; familiarity; respect; honesty; clarity of diagnosis and prognosis; a supportive, kind reception and, above all, an explicable, dignified, peaceful and painless death.

The data from this analysis have been used in a continual process of reviewing and improving the Pet Loss Service and pointing to ways in which human and animal health care professionals can most effectively understand and aid the process of grieving – and is beginning to be used in training and interventions, to the benefit of both humans and companion animals.

Your Letters ………..……” *

Within 13 months, we have sadly lost two members of our family.  As you know, on 5th November 2005 dear Chandni (Harish’s wife – ed.) sadly and suddenly passed away.  On 14th November 2006, our 12 ½ year old cat, Tigger, sadly passed away from cancer of the bladder.  We would like to thank the vet and his assistant for looking after our beloved cat Tigger who had given so much joy and pleasure for 12 and a half years.  Her mum Ebony is still with us.

Harish and Rikesh Shah

Lovely, moving stories in last issue.  Very pleased that Dr Vernon Coleman is on our side!

Helen Constance

RECYCLE YOUR MOBILE AND

HELP HORSES

 

Up to £10 will be given to Redwings

Horse Sanctuary for every recyclable

mobile phone or printer cartridge

 

Log onto http://www.recycleyourmobile.co.uk

 or

Ring 0800 970 5097 quoting Redwings Appeal

 

 Tiggy’s poem

 Be happy when you think of me.

Shed no tears.  Be not downcast or sad,

but rather, let your mind stray free

to remember the good times that we’ve had.

 I’m still here, though things aren’t how they used to be,

for we both know my earthly life is done.

But sometimes, if you look very carefully,

you’ll still see me in your garden,

                     sitting quietly in the sun.

 Dennis Martin, January 2007

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Update from Ella Meah + tribute to Flossie

It seems such a long time since I contacted you, that I thought I would drop you a few lines to perhaps catch-up with one or two things, and also assure you how much I still enjoy receiving DF.

I cannot remember if I told you, Debby, but I had to have Flossie “put down” (I much prefer put-to-sleep) last November, 2005.  (For an account of Ella’s dogs Timmy and Flossie, see DFs 11, 12 and 13 – ed.)  Do you remember, I “adopted” Flossie two years earlier, in November 2003, from East Midlands Animal Rescue.  She was 14 then but I fell in love with her so instantly, that age didn’t matter.  I believe I sent you a photograph of her.  All I can say is just as Timmy was before her, she was very, very special.  I know that all our animals are special to each one of us, but I did have an extra place for Flossie.  

Actually, she never licked me once in her life and used to give me an enigmatic stare – I feel she had gone through a lot in her life.  I still walk the same walk I used to take her every morning, but alone, although I feel in spirit, she is always with me.

However, on a happier note, when I moved house to next door, my previous tenants had had 3 cats; one of them in particular used to come into my house, and purr round my legs.  She is the sweetest natured cat, and did not get on with the other two, so when my tenants left, we all agreed that “Buffy” would be happier with me. 

I never thought of myself as a “cat” person (I, of course, love all animals and try to fund-raise and promote animal welfare by lobbying etc.) but previously considered myself to be dog-orientated.  Now though, I love her deeply.  She is so affectionate, purrs so quickly whenever I am near her, and greets me every evening when I return from work, not being able to wait to spend the evening on my lap.

Although I would like another dog, I feel so attached to Buffy that I feel that the time is not right to bring one into our lives. (I think Buffy has worked her magic on me).

I still go to Greece twice a year and, of course, see Mary and all her animals when I go. She is a truly amazing person.  She has acquired some more land and single-handedly erected fences, kennels and equipment in which to house them.  I always send her copies of DF and  I know she reads and appreciates them very much.  (See DF 17 for Ella’s account of Mary Malissou’s rescue work and the animals of the Olga Malli Society).

May I again say now much I still enjoy receiving DF.  It is so lovely to feel an affinity with so many in our empathy towards animals.  All my very best wishes to you for 2007, with thanks and appreciation for all your work in relation to DF in the past years.  Yours, with very kind regards,  Ella and Buffy.

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Man’s Best Friend

St Mungo’s  is London (England)’s leading homeless charity – in more ways than one.  Created to offer help to homeless and vulnerable people, it has been going since 1969, providing over 1,400 safe beds every night and 100 projects covering a wide range of services.

St Mungo’s is proud to have been welcoming dogs into its accommodation for over 13 years.  Research from The Dogs Trust shows that over 86% of homeless hostels across the UK refuse to accept people with dogs.  This is a shameful statistic – which urgently needs to be addressed. 

Many homeless people own dogs and face a real dilemma when looking for accommodation.  Often the only source of companionship and comfort, the dogs are well cared for and dearly loved.  In recognition of this, The Dogs Trust has launched an information pack: “Welcoming Dogs” aimed at organisations working with homeless people, to inform organisations which are considering whether or not to accept dogs.

St Mungo’s believes that by welcoming dogs into its hostels, it is not only respecting homeless people’s rights but also, by accepting dogs, there are fewer people sleeping rough.

Information from St Mungo’s Supporter Newsletter  Autumn 2006

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Metro, a free distribution newspaper for commuters, often carries interesting short features relevant to issues covered by Departed Friend.  It seems that they are slightly self-conscious about doing this, as they often use rather facetious headlines, as in the following article:

THE LORD IS MY GERMAN SHEPHERD…

Up to 140,000 dog owners will have a funeral for their pet when it dies, even playing the animal’s favourite songs, a new study says.

Many will follow the example set in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral by reading poetry or delivering a eulogy about the dearly departed dog.

Nearly half of owners do not let the vet dispose of the body when their animal dies, the study of 1,200 pet owners for Direct Line Pet Insurance revealed. 

Of about 2.3 million pet dogs who are given a send-off, six per cent are given their own funeral – equivalent to 136,000 dogs, the survey showed.

More than half of the owners who hold a funeral say prayers, while 29 per cent lay flowers.  One in five who bury their pets visits the grave every day.  Chris Price, of Direct Line Pet Insurance, said: ‘Many people see their dog as one of the family.

‘This explains why 82 per cent of the dog owners who held a funeral said a proper service to mark their passing is the least they deserve after a lifetime of devotion.’

Metro, 15 February 2006

A TEST FOR PETS’ PAIN

Vets are developing tests, which they hope will allow humans to better understand how sick animals are feeling.

Researchers warn that millions of animals are getting the wrong treatment because vets are failing to read their behaviour correctly.

The tests, which evaluate an animal’s pain level and quality of life, will let vets and owners see the world from the animal’s point of view, the researchers say.  A team at Glasgow’s Institute of Comparative Medicine has devised a checklist that can be used to work out whether a dog is in pain, New Scientist says.

Meanwhile, David Morton, of the University of Birmingham, is developing a system to help vets and owners decide whether an animal is suffering so much that it should be put down.  It weighs indications of distress against positive signs, such as a dog wagging its tail.

Metro, 21 September 2006

BABOON BLUES

The baboon mourns like a human, a study has revealed.  Researchers found stress hormones called glucocorticoids increased in baboons who lost close family members.  When Sylvia the baboon lost Sierra, her closest grooming partner, she looked to friends for support, Dr Anne Engh from the University of Pennsylvania said.  ‘With Sierra gone, Sylvia experienced what could only really be described as depression.’ 

From MiniCosm (the science page)

Metro, 31 January 2006

What’s in a name?

Where I used to work, there was another woman with the same name as mine, but there was no confusion because she insisted on being called ‘Deborah’ and not under any circumstances ‘Debby’ – while I was equally adamant that I was ‘Debby’ – no way would I answer to ‘Deborah’.  We discussed the reasons for this:

To Deborah, the diminutive ‘Debby’ was a child’s name.  She wanted to be recognised as an adult.  To me, the full name was unduly formal, even hostile, reminding me of teachers who said ‘Deborah!’ in disapproving tones when they were annoyed.  To me, ‘Debby’ equals friendly informality.

It’s the same with the terms we use to speak of our animal friends and our relationships with them.  Do you describe a cat as a ‘moggie’ or a dog as a ‘pooch’?  If not, why not?  To some, these are terms of endearment, signifying their affection for the respective animals.  To others, they are rather demeaning, trivialising names.

Do you ‘own a pet’ – or ‘share your home with a companion animal’?   I must admit to personally being uncomfortable with the notion of ownership – but others may argue that money can change hands and the law recognises ownership.  Again, the term ‘pet’ can be a token of affection – or a total misreading of what should be a more equal relationship founded on mutual respect. 

Do you describe your beloved animals as your ‘babies’ or ‘members of your family’ or is that too anthropomorphic for your taste?   Do you say: ‘The dog which was hungry barked its head off’ or ‘The dog who was hungry barked his head off’? 

How do you describe euthanasia?  In her article above, Ella Meah says that she much prefers ‘put to sleep’ to ‘put down’; for others, this might be too euphemistic.

There are no rights and wrongs; it is a matter of personal preference – just so long as we can be sensitive to others whose choice of words is different from our own.

Debby

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