Supporting your pets through illness and end of life
Death and Dying. Yep, I'm taking the conversation there. It might sound like a gloomy topic. It might sound like a topic to avoid. But there is actually beauty, grace and even joy in being able to share space with a pet as they transition out of a physical body.
If you’re reading and thinking "Hey, I have a puppy!! or "My cat just turned 2 - I don’t need this!", keep reading anyway. I’m sharing my top 5 tips for preparing for illness with your pets - and these are tips that you can act on NOW, even before you ever need to navigate the waters of an end of life situation.
As pet owners, the loss of a pet can be challenging, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. When it catches us by surprise, it can seem to knock the wind out of us and send us into a tailspin.
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked as an Animal Communicator is “Did my pet know that she was going to transition from a physical form at the time she did?”
In my experience and in my communication sessions with animals over the past ten years, my understanding is that yes, they do know.
They may not know the specifics of the circumstances of that passing, but they know the general two week timeframe and then as that timeframe approaches, they know that their transition will occur within 24-48 hours of when it does.
Often, when I ask clients who have Pets in Spirit to think back to the day their pet transitioned, usually there was something OFF or DIFFERENT about that day - something other than the pet not feeling well. They may have pulled out a toy from the toy box that they hadn’t played with in years. They may jump up on a counter when you never saw them do that and didn’t even know they knew how. They may want to go for an extra long walk or play fetch with a joy and intensity that seems unique.
Often, they will gaze deeply and intently around their home or yard as if they are trying to memorize every detail. My dog Ginger played with an intensity she hadn’t been able to muster in months and "buried "a bone under my pillow that I found later that night after she'd passed.
Each of these special moments, when we see them in hindsight, are energetic signatures or clues from our pets to give us the comfort that they did know that their transition was near.
If you have an ailing pet, chances are your days are filled with vet visits, consultations with specialists and administering medications. Lab results, X-rays, ultrasounds - we will often get our pet a level of care that we might not even give ourselves.
There can be tremendous cost associated with a sick pet - the literal cost of the extra veterinary care - but also, if we’re not careful, a cost to our energy, mood and positive outlook.
When I work with pets nearing their transition, it’s very common for them to tell me about the challenges that their people are facing in light of their illness. How they worry more than they used to. How they’re a little frazzled. How they may be bickering with one another more often.
What the animals tell me time and time again is that, even when they aren't feeling well, even when they have advanced illness and have all the procedures and medications, what they LOVE — what they LONG FOR — and what they CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF — is YOU at your purest, BEST self.
So...laugh with them. Talk about the times they made you laugh. Share a different memory with them each day and connect yourself to the joy and love you had in that original moment.
By doing this, you'll shift the heavy, dense energy of fear and worry to a higher frequency of love and joy.
In my years of working with many different kinds of pets and their people, there are some themes that emerge. Noting those commonalities allowed me to create 5 Tips for Managing Through Your Pet's Illness:
Tip #1: Have a Plan.
Know where your emergency vet clinics are. Add their phone numbers to your contacts. Have a line of credit or money in savings that you dedicate to pet care. Even $10/month grows into a healthy sum over the course of a few years. Enough to get that one extra test or labwork that you might need.
If you have a larger pet, figure out before you ever need to how you can move your pet and/or load him into the car by yourself. A sick pet may not be able to walk or jump into a car. Your 20-lb puppy may grow into a 100-lb adult - plan for that now so you don’t have to worry later at a time when there are other stresses or emergencies.
PRACTICE with your pet. Practice picking them up. Practice touching their feet, looking in their ears, their mouths, feeling around on their tummies - get them so used to this that it’s not a big deal when you need to do it when they’re not well.
STOCK UP on favorites. What foods would your pet eat when they turn their nose up at their usual kibble? Prepare for the fact that you may need to tempt them - a sick animal’s sense of smell and taste can be off OR they may benefit from simpler, less processed foods like rice, pumpkin or baby food. I know from experience the last thing you want to do is leave a sick pet at home to run out to the store to stock up, so do yourself a favor and have some things already stashed in the cupboards.
Tip #2: Establish a relationship with a veterinarian
Find one that you trust. Interview others if you need to - and do this when your pets are young. Go for annual wellness check-ups, even when your pets are young and healthy. Your vet may notice something - a dropped step, a gait that looks odd - that you don’t see because to you, it’s the normal everyday way your pet appears to you. This observation could allow you to detect an illness or disease early enough for successful treatment.
Tip #3: When they are sick, be with them
When you are managing an illness for your pet, you may want to consult "Dr. Google" and read about experiences from other pet owners. The sense of community can be supportive and comforting, so it is tempting to spend hours online. You may go the extra mile and dive into peer-reviewed research about the illness your dog was just diagnosed with (I’m definitely raising my hand on that last one). But don’t forget to sit with your pets. Have quiet time with them. Watch the birds or squirrels in the yard. Breathe. Relax. Be present.
Tip #4: Take care of yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Being a caretaker is really challenging. Make sure you are maintaining your own health, rest and balance so that you can be WHO and do WHAT your pet needs.
Tip #5: Ditch the Guilt
It is so common to wish we had seen something sooner or taken a different course of action. We place a tremendous amount of responsibility on ourselves when really, we’re doing the best that we can. Guilt is another one of those low vibration emotions, so the extend that you can, forgive and have compassion for yourself.
Losing a pet or managing a pet’s illness is never easy. It requires us to dig deep into our patience, our compassion, our humility and face our fears. It can also be a time of a DEEPER connection with your pet - where there is a stronger, quiet understanding between the two of you. If you let it, the experience can forge a bright and gleaming sword that you can wield to strike down your fear, your guilt, your sadness.
If you take one thing away from this post today, let it be this - your pets know how hard you try. They honor your commitment to their wellness. They don’t see any missed diagnosis or being unable to pay for top-of-the-line premium care as any shortcoming. They are love. They are joy. They are connected to your Soul through infinity, whether in a physical form or not.
Much love and peace to you -