A-Z of dog wellbeing: Rainbow bridge

CalliWhen I lost my first dog, Calli, to cancer in 2012 she left a huge hole in my heat and to say that I was devastated would be the understatement of the year.  I was broken, bereft and inconsolable.

if you know that the time for your pet to leave you is drawing near, there are some ideas you might like to consider to help ease the transition for you both, and help you process emotional loss which can feel overwhelming.

Spend quality time with your dog

Set aside some special time to spend with your dog. If they are still well enough to walk, take them on a leisurely walk to their favourite place. If they are too sick for very much activity, just be with them and give them gentle strokes. Take advantage of your remaining time together to let your dog know how much you love them.

Take photos

You may already have hundreds of photos of your dog, but take a few more during the remaining time you have with them. These might not be the nicest photos of your dog, but on tough days when the grief is overwhelming, these photos can help remind you that it truly was your pet’s time to go, and that they are free from suffering now.

Make a keepsake

Keepsakes can give you something solid to hold on to after your pet is gone. Consider purchasing a paw print kit and making an impression of your dog’s paw in a stepping stone, or piece of jewellery. You may find it comforting later on to have something that your dog touched.  You could also trim a little piece of their furs and tie it with a ribbon, so you’ll always have a memento of your dog with you in the years to come.

Help them when it’s time to go

Deciding on the right time to have your dog put to sleep is, without question, the toughest choice you’ll ever have to make about your dog.  If your dog is suffering with pain and doesn’t enjoy the things they used to, then it really will be a release for them to be free of the broken body that no longer serves them.  Your vet will help you decide when the time is right.

You can also provide end-of-life care to allow your dog to transition and help ease them over rainbow bridge in a gentle, beautiful way that you are both ready for.  I wish I’d known about this when I lost Calli.  Using essential oils, you can help both you and your dog relax and be more accepting of the process of dying so you both feel ready for them to pass over, and it can help them to let go.

I offer a Rainbow Bridge session for dogs that includes essential oils and Reiki energy work, both of which I offer to humans and your dog to help you process what’s happening in a gentle, loving way. The session allows you the time to say goodbye to your beloved companion, thank them for all the time you’ve spent together, and give them permission to go.

Cremation or burial

Some pet owners prefer to have their dog’s body cremated after they pass, and your vet can help arrange this for you.  Most pet cremations are done in small groups, so if you want to ensure you have just your pet’s ashes returned to you, you may need to request a private or individual cremation.

You’ll also need to decide whether you want to keep the ashes or scatter them in some special place when you are ready. If you want to keep them, you’ll need a container. This can be as simple as a pretty ceramic canister, or you may want to purchase a proper burial urn.

If you want to bury your dog’s remains, you may choose to have your pet buried in a pet cemetery in a special casket, or you might consider burying your pet on your own property. UK law states that you can legally bury your pet in the grounds of the home that it lived in, as long as you own (not rent) the home, and that the animal isn’t hazardous to human health. If they were given chemo or euthanized with controlled drugs then they should not be buried at home.

Make a memorial

When you are ready you might also find it helpful to pay tribute to your dog in some way with a keepsake or ceremony that brings you some closure and comfort.

You might like to create a photo memorial such as a simple framed photo of your dog or create a photo-book to help preserve your pet’s memory.  You could plant a tree in their memory, or make a donation to a pet charity in their honour. You could also have a special dinner in memory of your dog, and give everyone an opportunity to relive a favourite memory or share a special moment they enjoyed with your dog.

Understand your grief

Grieving for a dog is very similar to grieving for any other loved one. Being aware that you may experience a variety of emotions during the various stages of mourning. Shock, denial, guilt, anger, depression and finally acceptance are all normal stages of the grieving process.  Try not to go through this process alone, or take out any guilt on yourself with statements such as “If only I had….”.  You did your absolute best for your dog and they know that, and loved you unconditionally for it.

While you can talk trough your grief, your other pets may need extra support to process their grief, so a herbal self-medication session can be very helpful if they become depressed after another pet dies.

Planning for, and subsequently dealing with, the loss of a beloved canine companion is possibly one of the hardest, most painful situations we’ll encounter. Preparing for the loss will be difficult, but might be the best decision you can make to help your friend transition peacefully.

Once they are gone, remember that with the gift of time, your grief will ease and the pain will lessen or go away, though all the wonderful memories you shared will remain.