Departed Friend Newsletter No. 50 – March 2013


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

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

Two tributes ….. By Mrs M.C.


50. Becky 2

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

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

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

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


50. Susie

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

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

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

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

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

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

50. Susie kitten 1

Book Review

by Samantha Chandler – ASWA

Reproduced here by kind permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samantha – ASWA*

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

50. ASWA Logo


Your Letters

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

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

All our old friends are never forgotten.

Love from Rob & Becca

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

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

Love from Valerie, Michael & Lucky Lockwood

Local Pet Bereavement Support Group

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

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

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

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

EASE News January 2013

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

From the Media

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

Malachy’s last days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotting Signs of Pain in Cats and Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

How to tell if your pet is in pain

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

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

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

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

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

What can cause pain in your pet

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

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

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

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

How to relieve a pet’s pain

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

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

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

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

Reproduced from EASE News January 2013, with kind permission.

50. Dog postcard

With thanks to Valerie Lockwood for this beautiful picture

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