Two months ago, I lost Kaitlynn my cat and soulmate of 17 years. I knew it would be difficult – but I didn’t anticipate it would get worse before it gets better. I’m still waiting for that last part.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading advice from other pet parents about how to deal with such loss – one not always understood by those outside the ‘pet enthusiast’ community. Most pet parents have dealt with this issue at some time, so (unfortunately) I’m in good company.
I’m no grief expert, but here are some ways I’m attempting to deal with pet loss. Maybe some might work for you too:
Honour your pet’s memory
My dog Victor and I are walking in the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA Wiggle Waggle Walk-a-thon on September 11, 2016.
This year, we are doing it in memory of Kaitlynn, who I first met at the Hamilton SPCA after she was rescued at four months old from the nasty alleyways of a rough city. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada needs animal shelters, and spay and neuter programs. So, we are helping.
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Immortalize your pet
This idea is my own. First, I commissioned a portrait of Kaitlynn and one of Victor.
The artist is from Toronto and we met her at the Canadian Pet Expo (see the report here). A nurse by day, Kate Goodwin got into painting animal portraits after painting her own dog – and people loved it. She was painting people portraits at the time, but requests for fur baby versions rolled in, so the ScruffyNFluffy Shoppe was born.
Second, I kept the ashes in an urn. Many people do this, of course. However, the cremation service I used also offered lockets with remains inside – some people find this a bit dark. I don’t. Wearing Kaitlynn in a heart around my neck is comforting.
Embrace another pet
“Are you getting another cat?” is what well-being people asked me days after Kaitlynn’s death. I still hadn’t processed she was gone. Some people suggest loving another right away works. I have my schnoodle Victor, which helps of course. For me, it’s too soon for another cat. I would only be comparing him/her to Kaitlynn.
Instead, I went on a road trip with Victor (you might be following the results) then came home to babysit Gracie, a cat and best friend to Victor’s best friend Sasha. Some people also choose to foster for a short time, which might work to achieve the same results, and help a cat in need to boot.
This experience helped me enjoy another cat in the house, and helped Victor get used to having a cat around. But Gracie is very different than Kaitlynn. For instance, Kaitlynn was never interested in my betafish – Gracie certainly is.
When I’m ready to open to my home and heart to another cat, I’ll need to accept that cat on his or her terms. Having Gracie around has given me a bit of practice.
Remember the good
This one I’m having difficulty with, but again both Victor and Gracie have helped. Letting go of the final hard weeks (and minutes) and the guilt I felt about maybe doing too much, maybe not doing enough at the right time…. And sadly remembering how sick she was at the end has haunted me. Letting go of the end and remember the 17 years of amazing is now my focus. Wish me luck.
In the meantime, watch for my post about the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA Walk-a-thon. Crazy Victor will be strutting along with a pack of Wiggle Waggle Walkers along Hamilton Harbour’s edge happily raising money for the shelter that connected me with Kaitlynn, almost 18 years ago.