We've all heard the phrase a "Man's Best Friend" at some point in our lives, and many of us may have witnessed the bond between pets and their owners through personal experiences or Hollywood films like "Marley & Me." But can the loss of an animal companion really have a devastating impact on its owner? The short answer is yes.
Pets play a significant role in the lives of their owners and most are treated as extended family members. These furry friends provide comfort, affection, fun and companionship during happy and difficult times of their family's lives.
As most pet owners share an intense love for their pets, it's important that they're considered in one's end-of-life planning. After all, just as the loss of a pet is devastating for the owner, the death of an owner can also have a traumatic impact on their beloved companion.
They have feelings too
While humans can express their emotions verbally, pets show their feelings through their actions. Many of the families I've worked with have shared stories about the toll the passing of a loved one has had on pets, such as a loss of appetite, lethargy and even whimpering.
Just as saying "goodbye" to a loved one can be cathartic and offer closure to a human, it can have the same effect on animals.
By pre-planning, you can work with your funeral director to include pets in your celebration of life so that they too can have the opportunity to say "goodbye" in their own special way.
They help us grieve
I have witnessed the positive effect therapy pets have had on grieving people. Their playful and compassionate energy has helped to uplift and comfort mourning family members.
Whether you've lost someone or are providing support to a loved one going through a loss, consider the use of a therapy dog to help them work through their emotions and provide comfort.
If you don't have a pet, consider using a resource such as Therapeutic Paws of Canada, which can provide therapy dog services.
Why we need to include our pets in end-of-life planning
When discussing end-of-life plans with loved ones, think about those who cannot verbally communicate their wishes with you, such as pets.
Not only is it important to consider how to incorporate a pet into your own celebration of life, but you'll also need to plan for where they will be homed if you pass before them.
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I recommend having an open and honest conversation with family members and friends about your wishes for your pets. This goes beyond finding someone who can physically care for them; you'll need someone who is up to the task of helping them adjust to new surroundings.
Like humans, all pets grieve differently. Some take more time to overcome the new reality of their life, while others try to return to daily activities shortly. Include them in your end-of-life plans to ensure that both you and they have the smoothest possible transition.
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