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Friday, June 9, 2023

The Joy and Pain of Sharing Life with Pets! By Susan Leigh

The Joy and Pain of Sharing Life with Pets

I was recently reflecting on how, shortly after my husband died, my parents clearly assumed that I’d be getting rid of my animals.

I had two dogs and a cat at the time and worked away a lot. Even so, their suggestion horrified me.

I could never let much-loved family members go, just because they’d become harder to manage.

And that’s the difference between people who have animals and people who don’t. They don’t understand how quickly animals, pets get under your skin and into your heart. I used to always say that I wasn’t an animal person. I guess the way that I was raised meant that animals were seen as messy, demanding creatures that cost money and needed looking after. Well, all that’s certainly true, but now it’s fine.

Discovering the joy; 

Like many people, my journey with animals started when I met my partner. He came with a cat. Technically it was his daughter’s cat, but she’d moved into her own place and left her cat behind. Straight away Tiffin started sleeping on my chest, waiting until I fell asleep, when she’d retreat to her own bed. I found it comforting to have her loving, reassuring presence, and we lived together for three years until she became ill.

From there on followed a succession of rescued animals. A black and tan Dachshund was found abandoned on the motorway and was bathed and brought by his daughter to our house, as she felt that we needed a dog. I was horrified, very nervous of dogs at the time, but Daisy moved in and soon took over, quickly followed by another Dachshund to keep her company.

Then came a miscellany of cats, either brought to us or who turned up at our door, bedraggled homeless and determined to move in. I’m sure you can relate to the subsequent stories of disappearing food, Christmas presents opened, eaten and scattered across the floor, a dead mouse inside your boot. That and the diva-like behaviour over food deemed unacceptable or a bed that’s not quite right.

But there comes a time when big decisions have to be taken in the best interests of those beloved creatures who rely on us. Here are some thoughts and feelings about those times.

Discovering the pain
Is it as bad as it looks?

I know there have been times when I was sure that an animal was close to death and then, one vet visit later all is well. Sometimes animals recover amazingly quickly from situations that initially looked dire.

Have I done enough?

Agonising over the options of what to do to help a sick animal is a nightmare. They trust us so much. Our pets just look lovingly at us as we decide what to do about their futures.

Did I miss some of the signs?

Was I negligent in not noticing him being unwell sooner? There’s dreadful guilt at wondering if I should have intercepted an illness earlier and then had more time to find a positive treatment. I know that sometimes I’m not fully alert to my animals. I love them, care for them, buy them the very best food and drink but sometimes I’m busy and don’t always think to check them over.

Am I being selfish in keeping him alive?

There’s no way that I want to keep a sick, suffering animal alive just to suit my own wishes. They can’t tell us how they’re feeling. Sometimes I’ve had animals that don’t seem to be in distress but are very ill and need to be let go as a kindness. Further treatment sometimes just prolongs their suffering.

Are there other options?

Should I go to another vet, animal hospital, practitioner and get a second or third opinion. Sometimes that can be a cruel option, prolonging suffering and distress. The animal has no idea what’s going on and is poked, prodded and medicated. I trust my vet to give good advice, otherwise I wouldn’t be going there in the first place.

Having pets has been an adventure, but I love it. I love it when pets are sleeping and you can hear them snore loudly or when I’m keeping the heating on for them, opening several flavours of dinner to see which they prefer, spending more time in the supermarket at the pet counter than on my own shopping. Yes, I think I might be an animal person after all!

All any of us can do is our best and when the time comes it’s our privilege to let them go with dignity and love. But why stop there. Resolve to pass all that love on to another beautiful creature in need of a good home. Then we give another creature a chance of a better life and show them that many humans will treat them well and are kind and loving.  

Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist – lifestyletherapy.net 

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