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Pet Loss and Grieving

With all of our pets, we know there will come a time when old age, or disease, will erode their quality of life to the point that every day, they have to endure suffering. Even the most meticulous of veterinary care can only delay this point by a certain amount of time. We are fortunate with our pets that, when the time comes, we can end their suffering by a procedure known as humane euthanasia. Dr. Cummins will lead you through a consideration of the various factors that count towards your pet’s quality of life to help you determine whether or not that time has come.

What will happen when the time comes?

We will schedule an appointment at a time of day or evening when we can expect some peace and quiet. You may wish to consult with Dr. Lugten to confirm that you are doing the right thing. A consent form must be signed, and usually payment is taken at this time. Dr. Cummins will sedate your pet with an intramuscular injection of a sedative, so that your pet won’t struggle or be too aware of what is happening. You are encouraged to stay in the room with your pet while the euthanasia procedure is being performed, though you may wait outside in the waiting room, or even leave the building at this time if you prefer. Dr.Cummins then administers an intravenous injection of a barbiturate overdose of anesthesia, and the pet falls painlessly asleep almost immediately. The heart beat will then stop within a minute or two. You may wish to stay in the room for some time after that for last farewells. You may or may not want to take a lock of hair, or the leash and collar.

Burial or Cremation?

Some people may wish to bring the remains of their pet home with them for burial on their property, or possibly a reserved plot at a pet cemetery. In this case, it is a good idea to bring a box with you. We will usually place the remains in a durable body bag. Cremation is the more common choice, and the crematory we use, Regency Forest Pet Memorial Cemetery, offers two basic options: group, or individual. With group cremation, all the dogs and cats are collected from our freezer each week, and are cremated together without any individual ashes being returned. With individual cremation, they will pick- up the next day and your pet will be cremated on its own. You may make arrangements with the crematory to view the cremation if you wish. Your pet’s ashes will be returned in a container of your choice, so with individual cremations, you pay the crematory directly rather than through us. To learn more, visit the Regency Forest Pet Memorial Cemetery website.

Pet Loss and Grieving

The grieving process may be a difficult time to work through. Many people recover from a great loss in a pattern of stages which have been described as Denial, Yearning, Disorganization, and Reorganization. An initial period of numbness may last several days, during which it is hard to believe that it has actually happened. A feeling of missing your pet, or yearning, may be accompanied by feelings of sadness, anger, relief, or guilt. A period of disorganization has to be overcome through learning new ways to fill the void your pet has left behind. By reorganizing, one learns to cope. Although the pet is never forgotten, it becomes possible to form new relationships and experience happiness once again. Typically, a new furry bundle of joy may enter the house at this time.

For more information, visit the Pet Loss Support Hot line at Cornell University. You may also email Janet Zimmerman, LCSW-R, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..