As Your Pet Approaches The End of Life

Embrace Rituals to Honor Your Final Days Together

As your pet approaches the end of life, this time you have together can be full of meaningful experiences – rituals to honor and memorialize this part of your journey together.  Throughout your pet’s life, rituals have happened daily.  From the rituals of the routine of the day, including sleeping, outside time, eating and treats, walks, play time; to the various special holiday rituals throughout the year, photos with Santa, dog park outings, camping trips, holiday ornaments on the tree, Halloween costumes, and bunny ears at Easter.  You can be found doing so many of these things in your role as a caring and loving pet owner.  Performing rituals during the final days of your pet’s life can also be very organic and natural, to openly express your love through rituals that will become cherished memories of this shared experience.  Our goal is to help you embrace this time together so that weeks, months, and years from now, this time can be remembered as an experience befitting the love you shared.

Consider some of these rituals to share with your pet for the final time:

  • Let your pet eat what he wants.  Was it steak, french fries, pizza, or chocolate that intrigued him as he watched you indulge?  Let him indulge.
  • What brought your pet the most joy?  Car rides.  McDonalds. The dog park.  Grandma and Grandpa’s.  Do those events often in the final days.
  • Gently engage an elderly or sick animal in play rituals. A dog who loved to chase a ball can still get great pleasure from having a ball gently rolled several inches from her nose—just to where she can comfortably retrieve it. Find creative ways to keep your pet doing the things she loved.
  • Have a “pre-morial.”  This is a service before the death occurs.  Have friends and family members over, especially those who have animals that are friends with your aging or sick pet, for an evening of reminiscing. Allow those in attendance the opportunity to say their good-byes and give their final kisses. This might also be a good time for those in attendance to share their sentiments with you on their feelings for your pet.  These are all beautiful ways to show support to the family during this emotionally heavy time. 
  • Take this time for video and audio recordings.  It’s heartwarming to know that one will forever have their pet’s “voice” recorded for posterity.  You know your own pet’s barks and meows.  The barks and purrs that say I’m happy, the meows that say I’m hungry, and the barks that are meant for the UPS driver.  They are all just as unique as hearing any other human voice!
  • Make paw print projects.  Every pet owner remembers the muddy paws, the paws that wipe away the tears, the paws that call themselves to our attention. Therefore, capture these paw prints to forever remember those times.  From jewelry with paw prints to special garden rocks that sport your pet’s paw print, these are all special pieces that will always be treasured.  As a teachable moment for a child, guide them in making their own clay paw print and/or stepping stone–a piece that the child will have forever as they fondly remember their childhood pet.
  • Use technology.  Many pet parents, when dealing with the terminal diagnosis of a pet or the realization that a pet’s age is taking its toll, will create Bucket Lists for these pets.  These lists are then posted on social media sites to allow others the opportunity to show their support for the pet owners as they face their devastating loss.  The viral nature of these posts is amazing as this self-proclaimed affinity group of pet parents WANT to find others who share in their love for their pet and NEED the support.  
  • Use technology to capture these final days and moments.  Suggest hiring a photographer to chronicle final days and events.  Post photos or video on social sites so that others can share in their support for the pet’s family.
  • Journal about the emotions, the day, the pet’s day, the fears, the questions, the desires.  Journaling can help in the healthy release of emotions, and can become a part of the pet’s care plan.
  • It’s important to take time to help the children in the household.  Things like letter writing, planting a flower, or planting a tree as a tribute to your pet are great ways to assist in getting children ready for the day that they will have to say good-bye to their friend.   Children are great mourners. They just need the safe venue to do what they organically know how to do and that is to be real and to be present in the now.  (A great lesson for adults, wouldn’t you say?)  Of course they will cry; they are facing a time that will forever affect them as a person.  As a parent, helping your child cope with the process of grief, can also be a comforting way to address your own grief as well.
  • Practice the art of giving at a time like this.  Find a charity and establish a memorial fund in honor of your pet and request donations, monetarily or things needed by that charity.  Of course, an organic charity of choice would be an animal shelter or rescue facility.  What a great way to give back in the pet’s name and memory.