Dr. Dolittler

Support available for bereaved pet owners



Q. Our cat was euthanized last week, but I can’t shake the fear that he is still alive and suffering. I even went back to the vet later that day to hold his body and make sure he really was gone. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m having a terrible time accepting his death.

Many of us have the same feelings after our own beloved pets die. We agonize over their last moments and experience the irrational fear that they are still suffering even when we can see that they’re gone.

I used to think clients like you were a little nuts until I experienced the same thing after one of my pets died. I couldn’t let go of the image of his remains inside the freezer (where we hold them until cremation). Then came another tragedy when one of my dogs drowned. A decade later, I still have nightmares about his final moments.

These are all normal human responses to traumatic experiences. It helped me to discuss my “crazy” ideas with others who had been through the same thing, but that’s easier said than done in a culture isn’t always understanding about the loss of companion animals.

With that in mind, here is a short list of organizations, accessible online or via telephone, that can put you together with people who understand what you’re going through:

• The Argus Institute at the Colorado State University Veterinary School: argusinstitute.colostate.edu/grief.htm

• The ASPCA grief counseling hotline: 877-GRIEF-10.

• Cornell University pet-loss support hotline (6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday): 607-253-3932; find out more at vet.cornell.edu/org/petloss/.

• The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement: aplb.org.

• There’s even a great website for those who have lost a beloved horse: hoofbeats-in-heaven.com.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

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