New Way To Help Cope With The Death Of A Pet

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Many of us have a special bond with our pets and can’t imagine life without them. But, experts say there are ways to prepare you for that loss when it does happen.

The Haidet family of Plano has fond memories of their first dog. “Bailey was really nice,” Katie Beth Haidet remembered aloud. “She didn’t bite, she didn’t lick, and she just let me pet her.”

The spunky black lab was a member of the family for more than 10 years, before she was diagnosed with advanced bone cancer. “We just thought it was best to put her down instead of having her suffer,” Chris Haidet said.

When the Haidet family made the tough decision to put Bailey down, they chose to do it in their home, so the entire family could be there. “We were all there, and we all had our hands on her when she was passing,” recalled Sally Haidet.

The three kids were even involved, reading a letter they wrote to their beloved canine friend. “I said that I would never forget her, and that everything we’ve been through together was fun,” said Katie Beth.

Dr. Rebecca Westbrook worked with the Haidets to put Bailey to sleep in their home. She says no matter how tough you think you are, losing a pet can be devastating and you will feel grief.

“Grief is such a personal thing, whether it’s a family member or a pet that is part of your family,” she said. “You can’t change how you feel. Sometimes we cry, and sometimes we don’t. It doesn’t mean you’re not grieving.”

Dr. Diane Pomerance, a dog behavior specialist and pet expert, says pet owners should not feel embarrassed or try to hide their feelings. “The feelings associated with grief are extremely comparable to those for any other loss,” she said.

According to Dr. Pomerance, owners should grieve for their pets just as they would for any human member of the family. She’s even written several books to help families deal with the loss of a pet. “Identify the fact that you’re grieving, and know that this is normal behavior,” she said. “There is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about grieving.”

Dr. Pomerance created a first of its kind pet grief-counseling program in North Texas, through the SPCA. It meets the first Saturday of every month and offers pet owners a chance to connect to others who are going through the same thing.

“I’d be driving down the road and start crying, and I didn’t know why,” said Lou Olinger, who was surprised when she realized her unusual feelings were grief over the loss of her dog.

Olinger took part in one of the first SPCA grief counseling classes, and said it helped lessen the pain. “It helped me so much that I wanted to become a grief counselor and continue working with it,” she said.

The Haidet family believes they’ve dealt with their grief, and while they still have two other dogs in the family, they will always remember their first.

“There won’t ever be another dog like Bailey,” said Andrew Haidet.

Dr. Pomerance encourages anyone who has lost a pet to take part in the counseling classes. They’re held regularly and are open to the entire family.

  • joe

    I hate it when people say they had their pet, “put down” or “put to sleep”. That’s become so common. What they do is they have them killed but don’t have the courage to say it. I have had dogs and for the past 34 years I’ve lived with a cat or two, each as my child and I’ve never had one killed because it became an inconvenience.

    • DJ

      Joe I use to feel the same way…I had a little toy chihuahua that was indeed the love of my life, I loved her more than any ppl in my life and i always said I could never do that to her…well the time came when her kidneys were failing and I just couldnt bare to have her hurt anymore…it killed me to do that and to this day I cry when I think about it (as I am doing now writing this)…but the doc explained she would just go to sleep & not feel anything… was a not a case of “inconvenience”, it was a case of loving my baby so much not to let her suffer anymore….had there been anything else that the doc could have done to help her live longer I would have done it believe me…its was as I said the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, but sometimes you have to think about whats best for the pet.

    • Deb

      Joe sometimes you do it FOR the dog, not because it is an inconvenience. Have a heart – people are choosing the best option for THEIR dog. You can’t make that judgment, only they can. I would do what was BEST for my dog (or cat, I only say dog because that’s what I have), not what is best for me.
      It is also common to refer to the death of a human as “having passed” or “passed away” Do you sit in judgment of those terms as well? Your type of holier than thou attitude doesn’t help anyone. Have a heart.

      • Kristine

        Amen Deb

        It just shows that we love our pets and can’t stand to watch them suffer. If the pain is so great and there is no chance of recovery then why prolong that pain. It seems rather selfish. Our care for our animals causes them to live longer lives than their wild brothers and sisters…and nature is not as kind as we who love out pets.

    • Mike

      Whatever Joe, I have had to make that decision and you cant speak for me. Inconvenience? you are scary stupid

      • shelley

        thumbs up mike!

    • Tonya

      Joe–I feel sad for you, you must have never had the pure joy of pure love from an animal. True love is putting your animlals needs above your own. True love is doing what is best for your animal even when it is HARD AND PAINFUL for YOU.
      Until you have seen your beloved pet suffer in pain your should not judge. YOU have not walked a mile in my shoes. We all have choices to make in life, everyone has to do what they feel is best for their PET.

    • shelley

      in cases where euthanasia is done appropriately, it is not done becuase of “an inconvienence”. i have worked as a vet tech for numerous years, and through those years have unfortunately been a part of many euthanasias. and trust me, we have turned down people before because the reason for euthanasia is not apprpriate. believe it or not, there are times when an animal needs to die peacefully and not in pain. would you want your loved one suffering day in and day out? i wouldn’t. it is the hardest thing in the world to prematurely say goodbye, however it is occasionally needed. and in these cases, not being able to part with your family member is worse on them then you will ever know. i have worked with dogs and cats who were so old they couldnt eat, walk, go to the bathroom, or do anything else on their own. these animals were beyond dead mentally and physically, yet the owner made them suffer because the owner was selfish in not giving them the peace they so truly needed. the constant medical treatment on animals that are incurable/untreatable is wrong, and can actually almost get inhumane, and is just as bad as “putting them down because of an inconveinence”. i hope you will keep this in mind the next time your child is terminally ill/in constant pain/etc.

  • Zippy


  • LD

    Most of the people I’ve known who’ve put their pets down, was only only AFTER they had done absolutely all they could to treat to their illness or at least make them as comfortable as possible if there was nothing else that COULD be done.

  • Darcy Studebaker Smith

    You must have never seen an animal TRULY suffer before. Wow! How insensitive can you be?

  • Lynn

    I agree with having a pet put to sleep if they are ill and nothing can be done for them, or they won’t do what they need to do. For instance, I have the sweetest little mutt there ever was. He was diagnosed with diabetes at Christmas 2010 and has been on insulin injections twice daily and special food since then. He’s 16 years old and sometimes refuses to eat. I’ve tried different foods for him hoping he will finally find one he likes as much as he did the food he ate before he was diagnosed. When he doesn’t eat, and sometimes doesn’t even take one bite of food after his insulin shot, it scares me. I’m so afraid he is going to go into shock as a result of the insulin shot and no food.
    I have considered having him put to sleep to avoid his going into diabetic shock. I just don’t want him to have to experience that, and I don’t want to have to experience it with him. You never know what they really feel. Once he had a seizure brought on by an antibiotic injection. That seizure lasted for over 12 hours. He couldn’t drink or eat. He was unusually vicious and had to be kept in his carrier. That was devastating to me. I wanted to be able to show him affection, but he was out of his mind. He tried to bite my hand off each time I tried to pet him. It was scary! Of course, there was no way of knowing how he felt. I assume he was probably as scared as I was. This is why I’ve considered having him put to sleep, but in my mind, he’s not “bad enough” or the diabetes isn’t advanced enough for me to be able to have it done yet.
    Also, I don’t think it’s awful to consider yourself or other family members when making the decision to have a pet put down. Why make your pet or yourself go through the experience and the trauma of diabetic shock, or a seizure when the end is inevitable. Now to just have a pet put to sleep out of convenience and because you don’t want to spend the time necessary to take care of him when he’s been so loyal and he thinks of you as his best friend is wrong. You had time for him when he was healthy. You should take time now when he really needs you in his sickness. ~ an animal lover….

    • shelley

      that fact that you know he is sick, and very much aging, will get you in the right direction to make the best decision for him (and not for you!). please understand that 16 is quite old, im not saying that i havent seen older and that when it’s 16 it’s time, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. i hope he is not having more seizures, and i hope his time left with you and yours is spent happily and peacefully.

  • WILL

    you are talking about a pet and there is so much death in the world today!!!! How insensetive can you be!!!!

    • m white

      Yes there is so much death in the world,BUT in our own corner of existence we need a special place and for many people pets help us in that place! Until you hold a 15 year old trusting dogs head in your hands as the vet gently puts him to sleep,you won’t ever know the grief of a true pet owner,I’ve done it to ease his suffering when the quality of his life was past his endurance.

  • kevin

    Lynn, I have given countless insulin shots to dogs over the years and you should not give insulin to your dog until he eats, then you wont have to worry about his blood sugar getting too low.

    • Lynn

      Thanks, Kevin. All this is pretty new to me, and I was just doing as my vet had directed. I have a lot of confidence in him. The biggest plus for our vet is that he is extremely caring and compassionate. However, again this morning my little buddy wouldn’t eat, so this evening I gave him a couple bites of food, which he did eat willingly, prior to injecting the insulin. I was just afraid to give him the insulin before feeding knowing he had not eaten in 24 hours. I was really nervous all day about that and watched him more closely than usual. I’m just getting to the point of thinking that the stress he may be under as a result of sorta being “strongly coaxed” to eat may be just as bad for him as not eating. It’s just a play-it-by-ear thing at every mealtime . It’s really, really getting stressful because he is very high strung and gets really nervous very quickly in given situations. He has most of my attention all the time, now. I feel he deserves it. He has been the best little buddy. As a matter of fact, I told him today that he probably cut at least 5 years off his life by taking EVERY step I take every day! When I’m at home he just never lets me out of his site. He is such a blessing and little love. Thanks for listening and thanks for the advice, Kevin. If you should think of anything else that might be helpful, I’m all ears. Or, should I be all eyes!

      • Shelley

        Lynn, I can’t believe I didn’t state this earlier: don’t EVER give him insulin if he is not/has not eaten. doing so can very easily kill him. I am very concerned that your vet did not advise you otherwise. It’s really unbelievable actually that your vet didn’t mention it. Insulin is given to drop the glucose level in your baby’s blood. If he not eaten, his glucose levels are already low. Giving insulin with drop it to dangerous levels. This can lead to loss of consciousness, and if not detected and promptly reversed, will absolutely cuase death. Unfortunately I have seen this a time or two in my line of work and it has never turned out for the better. Good luck with your little buddy!

  • Ginger

    I recently lost my 17 year old half Corgi. We had taken him to our regular vet twice this year because he was losing weight and appeared to be in pain sometimes. The vet said, “He’s just old,” and didn’t offer any pain medication, but he also did not counsel us to have him put to sleep. There were many times when he would appear to be his old self and would always eat the special dog treats I gave to him. People started saying that we might ought to have him put to sleep, and I was beginning to think they were right, but since my regular vet had callously dismissed him as only being old, I decided I would rather have someone else do it. The vet I called had assistants who were so supportive and kind, and they suggested that he first examine my dog to see if he was indeed past helping. When the vet saw him, he said he immediately could see that he had back pain that could be eased by medication, but that he was also in congestive heart failure with rapid heart beat. Since I suffer from time to time with that same condition, I knew it was possible to help him if it was not to bad. The vet recommended that I leave him overnight for IV re-hydration and medication to slow down his heart beat. He said that we would know in the morning if it was going to work. I did that, and he apparently did improve overnight, but in the morning began to go into heart failure again, and this time his heart stopped and they could not start it again. I felt better about it happening that way because I knew we had done all we could for him. However, when the assistant said that they might have been able to do something about the heart condition if they had seen him a month or two earlier, I was really angry. That old vet reminded me of the doctor who told my sister a few months ago that, “Maybe it’s time for you to just let nature take its course” instead of trying to fight her medical conditions. At least he gave my sister something for pain and she has assistance in areas that are difficult for her to take care of.

  • Trey

    Frankly all dogs and cats should be put down regardless of their condition.What a waste of air these mongrels are.

    • shelley

      why would you even bother to read the article if you’re so full of hatred for animals? what a waste of life YOU are.

      • Lynn

        Shelley, I don’t know why I can’t reply to your reply to me, so I’ll just reply to you here. I wanted to say thank you for your explanation of things. My vet may have told me about not injecting if he hadn’t eaten. I truly can’t remember him mentioning it, but he may have. I know this sounds bad that I may not remember something that important, but when he informed me of the diagnosis, I just became sort of brain dead. All he was telling me was putting me in an information overload state of mind. As a matter of fact, I told him I couldn’t listen/grasp anything else at the time and would have to call him in a couple of hours or so. I left his office, came home and relaxed for a while, while trying to remember and absorb all he had told me. Then I called him back. He was very patient with me and went over everything with me again that day and then a couple days later, as well. I mean my head was spinning when I left his office. I had not ever encountered anyone, or no one I was close to, much less an animal, who had diabestes. It was a definte challenge to try to learn as much as I could and I’m sure that wouldn’t fill a thimble. But I’m still learning and appreciate those of you willing to give advice, and listen to me. Thanks again, Shelley!

    • Lynn

      This comment was posted in the wrong place, Trey. It was meant for you! TOTALLY ARROGANT!

  • Lynn

    Total arrogance!

  • shelley

    in response to Lynn- I totally understand, when you get bad news sometimes you just go blank and block everything out. Contact your vet, they should have some sort of take home information about insulin (how/when to give, what happens when you give it, and basically the do’s and dont’s). It’s great for you to reference when needed. If your vet doesn’t have anything like it, other vets will!

  • NiteNurse

    I had a beloved dog euthenized 10 years ago. She too was suffering from advanced bone cancer that caused her great pain to walk. If my current dogs become so ill to the point of suffering I think I might consider asking my vet to come to my house to euthenize them if necessary. I hated carrying my last dog to the vet’s office and having her die in an unfamilar setting. I think it helps all the family members to be around in the pet’s home to say goodbye.

  • Zach

    I’m with you fellers

  • Christine

    I just had to put my baby down. I feel like I killed him. Its been 2 months and I cry all the time. He was the only thing I had left. Within a 2 year time period I lost my sister, an Aunt and Uncle, my job, one of my dogs passed away then my mother, and my homes….with one year left of a 15 year mortgage….with them went all my pensions, inheritances,, money gifts from my family. After losing everything I had worked my whole life for my father passed within 1 years time. Two weeks after losing him …..I had to kill my BABY. He was the only good thing in my life for 17 years. I begged GOD to take us both in our sleep but I wasn’t even good enough for that bit of mercy.
    I have had meniere’s for 12 years…..having to hiide it (fiudging my resume) to maintain/obtain employment while I was continually losing jobs due to poor attendence cuased by frequent meniere’s attacks. Everyone I worked with hated me as they thought I was irresponsible, unreliable and they were altimately stuck pulling my weight. I woke up one morning to my roommate holding my baby as he was yelping. My little guy was not one to wine. Then I hear my roommate hollaring for him to wake up. Poor little guy urinated all over him and my vet was only in for one hour that day. When he came around, I thought he may have had a stroke and possibly brain dead. I walked into the vets, and was immediately asked to sign for consent to put him down. Then I noticed he was shaking! He knew where we were as he shook from fear everytime I took him there or to the groomer. I wanted to grab him and run. All the while I’m wondering if he would have attacks when I wasn’t at home…or if I’d leave and discover he was infact really bad off…….then I’d have to wait the weekend out until the vet reopened. Well, they gave him a shot to relax him, and he started yelping again. They ran in and said some dogs have that reaction to the tranquilizer. She laid him on the table and gave him the shot.
    I have nothing left to look forward to. I have nothing I am nothing. I’m not afraid to die ……I’m afraid to live. .

  • janice

    We lost our beloved rat terrier Chance in 2007. He suffered for 6 months while our vet tried to save him. It started in June when his foot pads crusted over, bled & fell off: they couldn’t heal. Then he added blood sugar problems requiring pig insulin every morning. He threw up his dog food so we fed him chopped, boiled chicken breasts. In late Dec ’06 he started hemoraging under the skin. Finally, our vet told us Chance was in so much pain, we needed to put him to sleep, so we did so Jan 6, 2007. It broke our heart to lose him. Later, in Jan ’07 we found out his dog food had poisoned him. I still grieve for that dog. So don’t judge what we did. It was all out of love for Chance, not our convenience.

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