Posts Tagged ‘pet loss’

Sometimes It Lasts in Love

Monday, November 21st, 2011

…and sometimes you have a pet.

I first heard the term “compassion fatigue” at a lecture by veterinary oncologist Greg Ogilvie a few months ago.  I was having trouble differentiating the term from “burn out” until I read up on both and realized I am most likely  struggling with both.

“Compassion Fatigue symptoms are normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do.”  from Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project ©

This is directly related to giving compassion away and allowing yourself to become exhausted.  It is a narrow term that describes the possible effects of caring without adequately replenishing personal reserves.  Compassion fatigue is a condition that affects caregivers such as nurses, doctors, clergy, veterinary team members

burn out – “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” – from Merriam-Webster dictionary

This is a more general term describing the exhaustion caused by normal day-to-day work-related stresses.  Burn out can affect anyone.

I will always look stuff up and try to figure it out before I see a professional.  I know you google “dog” “snotty nose” “weird bark” before you come see me too.  We can’t help it.  And there is so much to be learned.  I really think that is okay.  I promise to call in the experts to help me solve stuff way outside my expertise if I get in over my head if you promise to do the same.

This week I had several euthanasia appointments, a few euthanasia consultations and more clients with pets who have recently passed away who I am trying to help transition from “I have an older pet who needs very involved care” to “I miss my friend.”  That has been my year too.  And the year of a very good friend.  And now, as of this morning, that has “officially” become the year of another very good friend.  Pet loss and sadness.  It isn’t like we didn’t know how the stories would end.  It isn’t like I didn’t know this would be a very significant portion of my career.

In my ever-faltering attempt to be a positive influence, I said to my team at work after a particularly sad day this past week, “And THAT is how God answers prayer.”

But do you know what?  Sometimes it is.

And do you know what else?  Things are probably going to get better.  They almost always do.

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Someone Like You

by

Adele

“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.”

I know this beautiful song is not about pet loss, but I still love it.  And listening to music is healing.  When Adele writes that one, I will post a link to it too. ♥

Princess Gerbil

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Princess was the fifth of our five pets to pass away this past year.  I feel as though she has had to wait in a long cosmic line to be mourned (not that she even knows or would care – I assume she is dancing in heaven, eating sunflower seeds and such) as I am still processing the passing of the other pets.

No one died young, and none of the deaths were related.  We just had some pretty old pets (except Ebony Dog, who was only nine – I feel as though someone owes me five years of Ebony Dog time, which, of course, is not true.  Still…)  Four of the five pets who passed away were our rodents (Piggy, Princess, Fuzzy and Wuzzy), which, though they were all different ages (except Fuzzy and Wuzzy), were all very old as Small Fuzzies go.

That is all depressing background, to catch you up if you did not know and to explain my late memorial to Princess if you did know and were thinking “Hey!  Do not forget the goofy gerbil!”  Anyways, this is a HAPPY post, because she was a happy gerbil, and very silly.  I do not want you to miss out on “knowing” her!

Long Live Your Pet

Princess Gerbil

We adopted Princess Gerbil for our oldest daughter Amanda for Christmas 2007. I had always had friendly rodents as pets, so I scooped her right up to clean her home the first week we had her, without my usual veterinary guard up.  (Pet rodents at home are usually relaxed and very sweet.  Pet rodents at the veterinarian with a tummy ache or some other ailment can be super crabby and often blame me for their pain!  So I am careful to avoid the bitey parts.)  Anyways, I scooped Princess up and she chomped my hand hard!

When I came back from bandaging my hand (It was a pretty bad bite), I explained to her that she had hurt my feelings and I was only trying to clean her home.  She explained (I mean, I figured out, over the next several weeks) that being in a new place is scary and she did not know me yet and she was startled.  Also, she did not really like being held or pet.

Over the next several years, Princess and I developed a very close relationship – on her terms.   I cleaned her home in a less scary way, made sure she had snacks and toys, and kept the distance that she was comfortable with.  Just because I like snuggly pets does not mean Princess had to be one, and when I let her be herself, we became good friends.

When Princess was three years old, I taught her to ring a bell for a treat.  It was very cute when she would notice me in the room, hit her mouse-shaped toy bell and come to the door for a bit of seed or cracker.

She was the star subject of a very silly twitter conversation started by @FixItFish about gerbils wearing pants when they dance.  She was the star model for an article I wrote for Omaha.net, Long Live Your Pet.  (I mentioned her dancing in the article as an expression of my appreciation for @FixItFish‘s silliness.)

For over three years, Princess was a constant, cute, fun member of our little living room rodent corner.  She was the last to go.  I still have not donated her home and mousie bell to Nebraska Humane Society or gotten rid of her treats.  I am not quite ready to let her and the rodent corner go completely, but telling you about her helps.

Rest in Peace Princess Gerbil

2007 – 2011

We loved you just as you were with all your quirks and silliness, and we sure miss having you around.

Do Pets Mourn?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Yes, of course they do!

I tend to anthropomorphize, I am highly (not excessively, highly!) emotional, I love, love, love pets and I spend most of my time at home and at work with them.

I realize that I am not unbiased.

So instead of just saying “yes,” I wanted to share this sort-of-a-scientific-case-but-more-of-an-intriguing-story…

Joy the Puppy has a built-in stress barometer

localized juvenile demodicosis that manifests as periocular alopecia.

Look!  The scientist in me is coming out!  Let me explain that super-nerdy sentence and then move on to how it supports the theory that pets do indeed mourn.  I know that this is a case study of one subject.  Still, I would believe it with no proof, so it is more scientific than my usual carrying on here, wouldn’t you say?

localized – in one or a few areas.  Generalized demodicosis would typically be more serious and warrant a more aggressive search of an underlying cause and more aggressive treatment.

juvenile – puppy disease.  Again, adult-onset would typically be more serious and warrant a more aggressive search of an underlying cause and more aggressive treatment.

demodicosis – a form of “mange” – Many mammals have a species-specific mite, demodex, which is present in small numbers even in healthy individuals.  Since I am an animal doctor, not a human doctor, I will not say “human” or “eyebrows” to you.  Dogs have a species-specific demodex mite called Demodex canis.  It can become a clinical problem if there is an immune system issue or stress, though the underlying cause is not always known.

microscopic view of Demodex canis

periocular – around the eyes

alopecia – loss of hair

When Joy was a pup, she had a mild case of localized juvenile demodicosis that manifested as periocular alopecia.  It came and went pretty quickly and quietly, with no discomfort to Joy.  I treated it with “benign neglect” and she did great.  She had no symptoms for over a year.

When Ebony Dog passed away last month, the disease came back with a vengeance.  Joy moped around the house.  That is, she had decreased energy levels and was much less active than usual.  She circled on the bed that she and Ebony had shared, finally flopping down every night with a deep sigh and her chin on the floor at the edge of the bed.  She would come to a complete stop during walks with Noodle the Poodle and look around as if confused.  For her whole life, walks had always been the three of them:  Joy, Ebony and Noodle.  Most telling of all, the area around both of Joy’s eyes went completely baldy-bald…um, I mean alopecic, again.

Here is Joy in all her shiny gorgeousness…

Here is Joy at the worst of her recent bout of demodicosis…

And here, I believe, is the reason for the stress that has caused this most recent flare-up…

She and Ebony were so close…

In fact, Joy wanted to be Ebony when she grew up…

Joy the Puppy is mourning the loss of her friend Ebony Dog.

I saw it with Wuzzy Rat when Fuzzy Rat passed away…

(She had no hair to let fall out as an outward sign of her mourning – ha!)  I have seen it with other personal pets.  I have seen it with clients’ pets.  This is the first time I have seen it with such clear physical manifestations.  Have you seen this with pets you have known?  The mourning, I mean?

My Prescribed Treatment for Joy: Routine cleaning with a gentle cleanser and topical medication, extra attention, extra love, extra walks and extra empathy.*  Her stress levels are going down, her immune system is becoming strong again, her demodicosis is going back into remission and her hair is growing back.  That is to say…her heart is healing.

*I miss her too Joy.  We’re going to be ok though Puppy, I promise.

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Tomorrow Will Worry About Itself

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Our herd is down from eight to three, 37.5% of capacity, and we are not repopulating.  Fortunately, Max the Cat, Noodle the Poodle and Joy the Puppy all tolerate hugs*, because they have been put on Grief Duty.  I find myself asking “Who’s next?” and waking the poor things up if they are sleeping too comfortably.  Noodle has been known to sleep with all four paws up on occasion.  He has been the recipient of the rudest awakenings.

In an attempt to back off from this dangerous path, I am making the conscious decision to appreciate my pets on a day-to-day basis and enjoy the time I have with them.  Yes, approximately 67% of the remaining herd is oldie-old, but they are also all healthy, and probably tired of being included in my late night panics.  So hold me accountable.  There is much grieving yet to do, but I do not want to miss out on today.

I can’t really pull myself out of this of course, even with all of your wonderful support (And you ARE wonderful – thank you so much for walking through this with us) – This is going to take the power of God Himself.  While I hope you are in a happier season, this next quote is a good reminder to us all, and then a word of “encouragement” from my very favorite singer ever, Rich Mullins.  And then, I will come visit the blogs of other pet blogger friends on the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.  And then…I am going to go hug my cat.

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“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

-Jesus

“It’s hard to be like Jesus.”

-Rich Mullins

*Note:  Hugging most dogs is ill-advised.  Normal dogs do not like hugs.  Hugging most cats is just asking for it.  Our pets are all sorts of special.  Do not attempt this at home unless you are a Trained Pet Hugger.  I am not.  I just have really tolerant pets.

Boobs and Coffee

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Things that have cheered me this sad week…

You ALL showed up with hugs and encouraging words after Piggy passed away.  And some of you just sat with me and sighed.  You are all wonderful.Wednesday I saw sixteen cats as patients, which I am pretty sure is an all time personal high.

My last two patients of the day Wednesday were two blond Pomeranian brothers, who took turns jumping onto my lap to get squoze then onto the floor to dance in happy circles then back onto my lap again.  One of them had tiny pom-sized sled dog boots.

My patients right before Happy Pom Kids were two of my favorite guinea pig patients.  Angela had to tell me to give them both back.  It was hard to let go.

The day Piggy died, the girls and I started a HUGE photo album project to cheer ourselves.  It is working.  Also, Russ found these pictures of Amanda (2) with Ebony…

and Abby (6 months) with Ebony…

who was just over one year old at the time.  Look how much she looked like Joy does now!  (I took this picture of Ebony (left) and Joy (right) today…

I don’t look for gorgeous black pets.  They just find me.My friend started a blog that I absolutely love.

Long, rambling disclaimer:If you let your kids read Riley and James for the guest posts written by kids, or the hamster pictures or other fun stuff, but you don’t want them to read the word BOOBS, have them skip this post.  The link isn’t kid-appropriate, but only because it is Things Grown-ups Struggle With That Kids Should Not Have To Yet, not because of inappropriate material or pictures.  We try to shield our kids from Almost Everything in the World.  I know I probably overstep, and I will pay for the therapy as they need it, but hilarious names for anatomical parts is one thing we definitely do not shield them from and even encourage them to learn. 

That being said, here is a very thoughtful, sensitive, multi-layered new blog by one of my very favorite people in the Whole Wide World.  It is about Life, but it also has a Cat I Love and a Dog I Love.  In fact, I love the whole family.  You would too if you knew them, I just know it.  Thank you Friend, for starting this blog the week I needed something to take my mind off the sadness of losing Piggy and helping put things in perspective, as you also do so well in Real Life.

Boobs and Coffee

by

Vera Jo

And finally, this Christmas 2010 picture of Piggy that I forgot I had…

AND this picture of Piggy that Dave drew cheered me.  I put it as my phone screen background…

May you have pets in your life as wonderful as Piggy and Friends in your life as wonderful as mine, and may you find reasons to smile, even during the most difficult of weeks.

Piggy the Great

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Our guinea pig Piggy died Monday morning.  I held him on my lap and told Amanda and Abby Comforting Things I had very recently told them about Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats, only this time it was Piggy.

Joy the Puppy walked up to us sideways, wagging her tail.  She kissed Abby on the arm, kissed Piggy on the head, kissed the DVD case next to Abby, kissed Abby again and settled in to be sad with us.  I would take Joy the Puppy over a smart dog any day.  She is one of a kind.

And I would take Piggy over a smart guinea pig any day.  He too was one of a kind.  (Are there smart guinea pigs?  Does anyone know?)  He was sweet and gentle, goofy and fun.  Piggy and I spent almost every morning together these past six plus years.

I found some of my favorite pictures of Piggy.  Some are photographs I took, and some are drawings given to me by the kids at Camp Kindness in the summer of 2008, when Piggy came to help Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats and me.  A few have fun stories that go with them, and if so, I linked the stories to the photo captions.

Piggy Kissing a Purple Hippo

Piggy as the Zero-Zero Domino, Halloween 2010

(The three black dogs were all Dominoes too, but they were big enough for dots!)

Piggy Eating Cat Grass in the Garden He Shared with Max the Cat

My first (and still favorite) species-specific “pet care” article was inspired by Piggy:

Taking Care of Your Exotic Pet, For Example, Your Guinea Pig, Which is Not Really All That Exotic

We will miss you Piggy.  You were the sweetest, cutest guinea pig I have ever known.

Piggy Finch

May 1, 2004 – January 17, 2010

This is a card my brother Dave made for me several years ago, even after he said “But I don’t make greeting cards!”  Isn’t it awesome?  I still use it all the time when I want someone to know I am REALLY REALLY grateful.  I know some of you have gotten one from me! Dave included his Great Dane Riley (yup, same Riley), his cat Abaye and Piggy.

This next set is the pictures kids drew of Piggy when he went to Camp Kindness at Nebraska Humane Society with me.  How many ways are there to draw a black egg-shaped pet?  (Apparently, as many ways as there are great kids writing thank you cards.)  I like the green pig too – apparently drawing black pets is as difficult as photographing them…a box of crayons gives you more wiggle room than a camera.  Thank you kids…looking through these again cheered me a little.  And thank you Friends, for all of your kind words and love.  You have cheered me up quite a bit.

And one by Abby…

 

And one by Amanda…

And this last one did not include a drawing of Piggy, but it is my favorite thank you card I have ever received from Camp Kindness…

Piggy, you touched a lot of hearts, but you really got to mine.  We will miss you buddy.

 

 

Goodbye Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats…

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Our hairless rats passed away recently.  I have had (and have) pets as wonderful as these two, but none better.  Goodbye Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats.  We love you, and we will miss you very much.

A Day in the Life of a Vet

Fuzzy (left) and Wuzzy (right), July 2010

My last story about Fuzzy and Wuzzy was just published on Omaha.net.  The link to the story is below.  Maybe I will write a remembering or looking back sort of story later (or a photo story – that would definitely be the cutest choice…)  But in Real Life, this is the last chapter.  I am really not ok with that.

Being a Vet and Coping With Loss

Houdini Was…

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

In the midst of reading the 25 leadership books recommended by Veterinary Economics, I snuck in this super awesome book that I HAVE to tell you about because I LOVE it.

Houdini Was…

Written and illustrated

by

the Second Grade Students of White Bluffs Elementary in Richland, Washington

I bought the book because of the very cute hamster on the cover.  (I judge books by their cover, which you should not do, and though I can usually tell at first glance whether I will like a book or not, my reasoning is not always quite…linear.)

This book covers in impressive depth the human-animal bond, pet loss, processing grief, the value of pets, lessons to be learned from our relationships with our pets and even the value a classroom pet adds to the educational experience*.  What impresses me is that all of this is done so poinently and concisely…by second graders…mostly by crayon.  I love the pictures.  I love the humor.  I love seeing Houdini hamster through the eyes of those who knew and loved her.  It almost makes me want to treat my Fuzzy-loss with a hamster…

 

 

…but I won’t.

 

Houdini Was…

Five Stars!

✩✩✩✩✩

This book won the 2010 Scholastic “Kids Are Authors” contest and is available at all the Scholastic Book Fairs going on now!  I got it tonight during Parent-Teacher conferences :)

*Click here for information on “Pets in the Classroom”, a very fun CareFRESH grant program that assists with the adoption and care of small pets in the classroom.

 

Fuzzy Rat

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Our Fuzzy Rat died today.  I guess I am not ready to say it outloud, so I will hold onto this post for a while.  She was a great little goofy rat.

Rest in Peace little girl.  I love you.

Fuzzy Rat

February 14, 2008 – October 14, 2010

I suspected she had something more serious than an ear infection or even idiopathic vestibular disease several weeks ago when I was unable to wean her off of anti-inflammatories (prednisone).  Most likely, she had a pituitary adenoma, which is a benign brain tumor, but in rats it can grow so much, it puts pressure on the brain and causes vestibular signs (wobbliness, like in Fuzzy) or other signs and eventually is incompatible with life.  Being neurotic and being me (which are of course overlapping, and in my opinion not such horrible things!) I searched for “records” and found a rat who had lived ten months with a probable pituitary adenoma.  I needed the hope then but I don’t need the heartache now.

The night before Fuzzy passed away, she was not eating well, but she was playing and nosing my hand to be pet.  I think she was happy right to the end.  I tried to talk with Wuzzy Rat about it, but she just wanted to know if I had peanut butter.

My twelve-year-old nephew put it best.  He hugged me and said “I’m sorry about Fuzzy.  She was a nice little rat.”

Pet Loss

Monday, September 27th, 2010

My newest article at Omaha.net deals with pet loss and grieving.  We have had eight healthy pets for almost two years now, so I decided it was well past time to write this one that has been wandering around in my head and heart for a very long time.

When I started writing it, my Fuzzy Rat became very sick, and I wrote the article while holding her on my lap and hand feeding her.  If you know me, you know that was a bit difficult.  Ha!  I was a wreck!  I feared at times that I was writing the article for myself, for here and now…

Dealing With Pet Loss:  On Loving Pets…and Losing Them

Fuzzy rallied and is doing wonderfully.  I suspect she had a severe inner ear infection.  She will be on medication for at least five more weeks, but should do great.

However, in the time it took me to write the article, I lost three dear patients, two of whom were family (the rats).  I dedicate this article to YOU and your wonderful pets and also to…

Kiki the Cockatiel♥

Miss Molly Rat♥

Molly, Rest in Peace

Miss Clarence♥

 

You were well loved by your wonderful families.  Your company was crucial and your absence is acutely felt.  You will be missed, friends.  I was blessed to have known you.