Pet Death in a Human World

This is Executive Editor, Karen van Vuuren’s editorial in Vol 6 #2 of Natural Transitions Magazine: Pet Death in a Human World

Ringo the lama, featured in an article by Cook Rodgers in Vol. 6 No. 2 Pets and Death.

Until recently, my experience of pet death was limited. I had witnessed the demise of two very and one moderately short-lived hamsters which probably gorged themselves to death on a feast of nasty red synthetic carpet, a diseased guppy I netted from a polluted London canal, and a handful of baby sparrows, which regularly plopped from nests on our house roof. My childhood companion and sanity-saver, Mitzy the cat, survived many years on our busy street only to meet her end under the wheel of a visitor’s car in our driveway. When it happened, I was a young adult living away from home so I mourned her departure from afar.

 

As I was receiving the most amazing array of pet memorialization and home funeral photos for this issue, a friend asked me if I would attend the euthanization of her cat. It turned out to be my most intense deathbed experience with any being, including humans. Many pet owners admit that their animals are like “their children.” That was how Celia the cat was to Carolyn. Those gathered in the room shared their emotions as the kindly vet explained the procedure. Everyone there had suffered a painful loss. One woman’s husband had ended his own life the year before. Carolyn’s husband had died as a young man, three weeks after their marriage. There was intense grief during the process of sending this glossy-coated but terminally ill creature on its way out of this life.

 

In speaking with the vet a few days after Celia’s passing, he confessed, “It’s never easy for me to euthanize an animal. I always ask myself, every time, do I have the right to take this life?” Yet this vet had often cared for these creatures throughout their lives, so their owners felt comfortable and safe with him. He did what he had to do in the gentlest way possible. But it weighed on him. He’d euthanized thousands of creatures. “Can you imagine that?” he asked. I admit, I couldn’t.

 

In this issue of the magazine, we share opinions about euthanization and hospice for our pets and highlight the ways we let them go. We hear from pioneering holistic veterinarians, animal sanctuary founders and others who all raise important questions: How much do we anthropomorphize our pets and their suffering? Do we really understand animal behavior? Do we equate it with the human being’s response to illness, infused with our emotions and fears? Is a pet that has lived so closely with humans in a different category to an animal in the wild whose suffering would end in the jaws of a predator? When we can end their suffering, shouldn’t we do that? What is our role and responsibility to these loyal companions who have given us so much? I imagine that for most of us, what we choose for our pets is probably what we would choose for ourselves. And the choices are just as difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

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