September 27, 2013 - submitted by Natalie, United States of America

Q. TEAM ORACLE QUESTION #137
My family and I found out two days ago that my dog has a cancerous tumor in her leg that has eaten away at the bone, and we just found out today that the bone can break at any minute and when it does, we're going to have to put her to sleep right away. I'm having an extremely hard time handling this... I don't think I can. Any advice on how to cope with the loss/sickness of a beloved pet? Thanks. Natalie, USA.


The Oracle replies:

The one thing we're sure of in life is that it will end. Death is a part of life and yet we don't seem to be equipped to deal with it despite the knowledge it happens. Death can be unpredictable. It can be sudden, it can be long & drawn out, it can be delayed but never totally prevented.
Sometimes when we are given news that death is imminent we are thrown into grief before a bereavement has taken place. I suppose the advantage - it seems such an absurd word to use - is to make the best of the time you have left with a loved one.
Time is short & precious and to make sure that every minute is filled with as much love and happiness as possible can be difficult when all you want to do is curl up and cry.
If you notice, I haven't used any words to differentiate between whether I am talking about a human or your dog. Loss is loss and the grieving process will be much the same whatever the circumstance.
Pets rarely out-live their owners but as I said, that doesn't mean we're prepared for their earlier departure.
Cherish your last days together. Take photos and make an album to look back at whenever you miss her. Right now this won't help but if you can bear your head to rule your heart take comfort in knowing that the care she's receiving is to ensure the least pain & discomfort possible. I'm sure you wouldn't want her to suffer so putting her to sleep is the kindest thing to do. Letting go is hard when our loved ones are dying but don't give up on her just yet. Dogs are very intuitive so try to be as positive around her as you can.
Photos and memories are very important. Your cherished dog may not always be by your side but she will always remain in your heart.
Over to you.

Losing a pet is never easy, it is just as serious as losing any loved one. You need to realize it is the only humane option now, it is the best thing, as hard as that may be to accept, for your pet and for you. I have had to put down a couple of pets and one thing always strikes me as interesting, animals that would normally freak out at the vets are placid and calm when we go to their final appointment. It's like they know and it's like they are ready. You may have a choice of whether to be present during the procedure, I was for one of our pets, and it was a beautiful experience, but this can vary, so choose based on what you can handle. As far a coping with the loss it is hard, but talk about what your pet meant to you make a video or a picture book, write a journal, and realize that that this was the best last thing you could do for your pet. You can also choose to make a cast of their paws as a special remembrance. I still miss our faithful old gal, she was quite special and very sweet, it has been two years and still makes me sad , ( RIP dear Sable) but it does get easier with time. Take care and give yourself time to cope with your loss, sincerely, Laurie.

I can feel for you, recently I lost a very beloved pet myself. Luckily there were two, so the second one was in mourning itself and needed more attention, this kept me away from being more sad. Most of our pets’ ages are limited and any kind of tumor often causes their end. I had known that day would come, thought I would be prepared then. Of course we are not to be prepared for something like this, to loose what we love to death, it’s never easy, although it will occur again and again the longer we live. I suppose you’re quite young and did not loose any important persons yet, sooner or later we all do. So we have to handle it, at least for those who are still around us.
Try to make those last days as comfortable as possible for your dog. When it has to be finished, then quickly. Ask your vet if you can stay in the room, I don’t think you will regret it later. A sad truth sometimes is better than an unknown hope. Imagine your dog would have been stolen or something, you would never know anything.
Later, when you’re through: there are many dogs or other animals which would be happy to have an owner like you. They will never be the same like your present one, however it could be worth to give one of them a chance. All the best, L.Q.

Two and a half years ago, I got my beloved Kip. He's changed my life completely and the day he goes is one I dread. I would suggest, if I were in that spot, to get another dog. Not to replace your recently passed dog in spirit, but to give another dog a chance to experience and benefit from your love just like the first one did. Kip has given me my first true passion in life, to take care and love animals in any way that I can. Also, the new friend should help you in the grieving process. Make sure you don't have any regrets and give him/her a sendoff that would honor them. The night before my first dog would be put to sleep, I went out to the patio where we kept her and stayed with her for a little while. I told her that I loved her and always will love her, and that she was as special as can be to me. It didn't make the sorrow subside totally, but it did allow me to feel some closure with her impending fate. If getting another dog doesn't feel right, then go with any gut instinct you might have. If you don't have one, don't fret. Lastly, there won't be anything to take away the pain completely, and that's good. Without great pain, there isn't great love. Greg.

A pet is an important part of any family so it's not surprising you're not coping! Let it all flow through you, don't try and cope - let it happen. Don't be hard on yourself or expect it to be any different from any other death.
Mourn your loss but remember her. Allie.

I'm sorry to hear about your dog. If you can talk to others who've been in the same situation it may help. You might have a school counsellor to speak to about coping with grief. Talking is good therapy. Don't bottle it up. Cyd.

I suppose saying goodbye is so hard but if you have time to find a place where you could go after she's gone that is special, you could have that as a comfort. I think it'd be really helpful to have a funeral of some kind and a grave if possible so there is a resting place. Sending you a hug. Jeff.

I know many people say it's good to get another pet when one dies, but it's probably too soon to think about that. As we know, pets don't always live so long, so maybe another pet is a good idea when you're ready. Think of the love you can give and receive but don't feel it's a replacement. Nothing will ever be that so don't feel guilty. Love. Sam.

Thanks to all those who replied to this week’s question. Remember, Team Oracle is open to anyone so if you fancy replying, click to read this week's, and send us your answer.