How to cope with pet death

A couple of weeks ago, Muffin, my 17-year-old poodle, broke her leg and had to be put down. When our vet suggested Muff was too old for an operation and I had to decide her fate, I suddenly felt like a child again, writes Emma-Kate Dobbin.

Pets in pain often have to be put down. If your pet doesn’t die naturally and you’re left with the decision of putting it down, be prepared for how euthanasia may affect you.

The Veterinary Surgeons Board requires you to sign a release form to protect the vet should you change your mind after the deed has been done. It reads: “I [your name] hereby give my consent for euthanasia by a registered vet surgeon.”

Once you’ve decided to put your pet down, you have to decide if you will stay and watch or wait outside. “If you choose to be with your pet, it is not painful,” says vet Claudia Tilly. “The pet will not jerk or convulse, they are simply given a powerful tranquilliser that sends them to sleep.”

If you don’t want to be present for the death, you may like to view the body afterwards. “Your pet will just look like it’s sleeping. This can be a good part of accepting your loss.”

If your pet dies at the vet, you will be asked to sign a release stating how you would like it disposed of. There are three choices: personal cremation with the ashes returned to you, group cremation (at least he goes with friends) with no ashes, or wrapped in a bag for home burial. Most vets have cold storage so your pet can sit for a few days while you decide.

Muffin had a home burial; it was a closed service, with only Mum, Dad and the family cat, Cupcake, attending. The Animal Memorial Cemetery and Crematorium at Berkshire Park offers a traditional funeral. “You can have a service in our on-site chapel including, coffin, minister, flowers and a plaque or headstone. Prices start at $440 for any animal up to 35 kilograms,” says owner Shane McGraw.

“We have around 12 burials and 200 cremations a week. Many people visit and lay flowers on the tombstones.” The cemetery holds the remains of about 2000 animals. “It even has the ashes of a few humans who wanted to be laid to rest with the one true friend they met in life – their pet.”

Taxidermy is also an option. It costs about $400 to have a five-kilogram animal stuffed, but not all pets are suitable. If your pet was hit by a car, taxidermy is not the best road to take.

“Sometimes things get so broken that it’s almost impossible to put them back together,” laments taxidermist Sammy Furni.

“When your beloved dies, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed with the intensity of your sorrow,” McGraw says. The Australian Centre for Companion Animals in Society has a support group for people who have lost a pet. Phone 9746 1911 between 7pm and 9pm. There are many websites where you can post a personal memorial to your pet. Try

Before you dash out to buy Muffin II, give yourself time to heal. You may never love someone you meet on the rebound.

Excerpt from Sydney Morning Herald
May 26, 2004 3:16 PM