This page contains suggestions on how to deal with many questions you may have concerning your pet’s death. There are many answers besides what are listed here, these are merely to be used as guidelines. Talk with your family, friends and vet to determine what the best solution will be for your situation.
Please feel free to contact Herman Meyer & Son, Inc. with any questions or concerns you might have. You can reach us by calling, 502.458.9569; writing to Herman Meyer & Son, Inc., PO Box 4052, Louisville, Kentucky 40204; or sending a message using our online contact form.
Euthanasia, when is the right time?
Your veterinarian is the best judge of your pet’s physical condition; however, you are the best judge of the quality of your pet’s daily life. If a pet has a good appetite, responds to attention, seeks its owner’s company, and participates in play or family life, many owners feel that this is not the time. However, if a pet is in constant pain, undergoing difficult and stressful treatments that aren’t helping greatly, unresponsive to affection, unaware of its surroundings, and uninterested in life, a caring pet owner will probably choose to end the beloved companion’s suffering. Evaluate your pet’s health honestly and unselfishly with your veterinarian. Prolonging a pet’s suffering in order to prevent your own ultimately helps neither of you. Nothing can make this decision an easy or painless one, but it is truly the final act of love that you can make for your pet.
Euthanasia, should I stay?
Many feel this is the ultimate gesture of love and comfort you can offer your pet. Some feel relief and comfort themselves by staying. They were able to see that their pet passed peacefully and without pain, and that it was truly gone. For many, not witnessing the death (and not seeing the body) makes it more difficult to accept that the pet is really gone. However, this can be traumatic, and you must ask yourself honestly whether you will be able to handle it. Uncontrolled emotions and tears, though natural, are likely to upset your pet. Some clinics are more open than others to allowing the owner to stay during euthanasia. Some veterinarians are also willing to euthanize a pet at home. Others have come to an owner’s car to administer the injection. Again, consider what will be least traumatic for you and your pet, and discuss your desires and concerns with your veterinarian. If your clinic is not able to accommodate your wishes, request a referral.
When my pet dies, what do I do?
Many leave the decision of disposing of their pet up to their veterinarian and/or friends. Unfortunately, by doing that, they never really understand what happens to their pet. It is important that you know about the alternatives available to you. You may instruct your clinic to call us, or you may call us direct. Once we receive your call, your pet will be picked-up as soon as possible and brought back to our facility. If your pet dies at home, we offer a 24-hour removal service—all that is needed is a call from you to our office.
What decisions do I need to make?
When a pet dies, you must choose how to handle its remains. Sometimes, in the midst of grief, it may seem easiest to leave the pet at the clinic for disposal. Check with your clinic to find out whether there is a fee for such disposal. Some shelters also accept such remains, though many charge a fee for disposal. If you prefer a more formal option, several are available. Home burial is a popular choice, if you have sufficient property for it. It is economical and enables you to design your own funeral ceremony. However, some city regulations prohibit pet burials and this is not a good choice for renters or people who move frequently. To many, a pet cemetery provides a sense of dignity, security, and permanence. Owners appreciate the serene surroundings and care of the gravesite. Cemetery costs vary depending on the services you select, as well as upon the type of pet you have. Cremation is a less expensive option that allows you to handle your pet’s remains in a variety of ways: bury them (even in the city), scatter them in a favorite location, place them in a columbarium, or even keep them with you in a decorative urn (of which a wide variety are available). To learn all of the options available to you, please contact Herman Meyer & Son, Inc. so we may tailor a service to meet your needs.
Should I choose cremation or burial?
When making this decision there are many factors to consider. Cremation is an option that allows you to handle your pet’s remains as you wish, whether it be burying them, scattering them, or keeping them in an urn. Consideration of your living situation, personal and religious values, as well as plans for the future can help you determine whether cremation or burial of your pet is the right choice for you and your family. No matter what you decide, we are here to meet your needs.
Burial at home or in a pet cemetery?
While home burial was a common practice many years ago, city and county ordinances sometimes prohibit pet home burial today. If you are renting, or move frequently, home burial may not be a good option. To many, a pet cemetery provides a sense of permanency, as well as a tranquil place to spend time reflecting on fond memories. It signifies a dignity to your pet that was a constant part of your life, always ready to give you love and companionship. Burying your pet in a pet cemetery brings honor and the ultimate gesture of love to a life that will be forever cherished.
When will the ashes be returned?
Under normal circumstances, the cremains (ashes) will be available after 24 to 48 hours.
What do I do with the ashes?
This decision is entirely a matter of choice. Some considerations to think about include: are you planning to remain at your residence indefinitely? If not, you may want to consider purchasing an urn which allows you to bury the cremains in a sealed container and take it with you when you move. An urn can also be engraved or labeled in another way to it will be very easy to locate and take with you. Some prefer to keep the urn in their home with them instead of burying it. Whichever decision you make, we offer a wide variety of urns to accommodate you.
How will I feel?
The grief process is as individual as the person, lasting days for one and years for someone else. The process typically begins with numbness and denial, which offers protection until you can realize your loss. You may try to deal with a higher power, with yourself or maybe even your pet, in an attempt to restore life. You might feel anger that could be directed towards anything or anyone, including your pet. You might feel guilty about what you did or did not do, and may feel that it is inappropriate to be so upset. After these feelings diminish, you may experience true sadness or grief. You may become withdrawn or depressed. Acceptance occurs only when you accept the reality of your loss and remember your animal companion with decreasing sadness. Not everyone will go through the grief process in the same way. Some may skip most of these steps, repeat steps or experience other emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling differently, it just reinforces your individuality.
Children, what do I tell them?
You are the best judge of how much information your children can handle about death and the loss of their pet. It is possible this is your child’s first experience with death. Don’t underestimate them, however. You may find that, by being honest with them about your pet’s loss, you may be able to address some fears and misperceptions they have about death. The child may blame himself, his parents or the vet for not saving the pet. The child may feel guilty, depressed and frightened that others they love may be taken away from them. Honesty is important. If you say the pet was “put to sleep,” make sure your children understand the difference between death and ordinary sleep. Never say the pet “went away,” or your child may wonder what he or she did to make it leave, and wait in anguish for its return. That also makes it harder for a child to accept a new pet. Make it clear that the pet will not come back, but that it is happy and free of pain. Never assume a child is too young or too old to grieve. Never criticize a child for tears, or tell them to “be strong” or not to feel sad. Be honest about your own sorrow; don’t try to hide it, or children may feel required to hide their grief as well. Discuss the issue with the entire family, and give everyone a chance to work through their grief at their own pace.
How to cope with your grief
The most important step you can take is to be honest about your feelings. Don’t deny your pain, or your feelings of anger and guilt. Only by examining and coming to terms with your feelings can you begin to work through them. You have a right to feel pain and grief! Someone you loved has died, and you feel alone and bereaved. You have a right to feel anger and guilt, as well. Acknowledge your feelings first, then ask yourself whether the circumstances actually justify them. Some suggestions to help with your grief:
- Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
- Write about your feeling in a journal or through some other means.
- Call you local humane shelter to see if they offer a pet loss support group or if they know of one. You may also check with your vet, a pet store or an animal shelter to see if they have information on support groups
- Search the internet for support groups and other information.
- Arrange a type of memorial for your pet.
Who can I talk to?
If your family or friends love pets, they’ll understand what you’re going through. Don’t hide your feelings in a misguided effort to appear strong and calm. Working through your feelings with another person is one of the best ways to put them in perspective and find ways to handle them. Find someone you can talk to about how much the pet meant to you and how much you miss it, someone you feel comfortable crying and grieving with. If you don’t have family or friends who understand or if you need more help, ask your veterinarian or humane association to recommend a pet loss counselor or support group. Check with your synagogue, church or hospital for grief counseling. Remember, your grief is genuine and deserving of support.
Will other pets grieve?
Pets observe every change in a household, and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. Pets often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor of such a pair may seem to grieve for its companion. Cats will grieve for dogs, and dogs for cats. The surviving pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink and suffer lethargy. You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this period. Try to maintain a normal routine for yourself and the surviving pets. This is good for both of you. Remember, if you are going to introduce a new pet, your surviving pets may not accept the newcomer right away, but new bonds will grow in time. Meanwhile, the love of your surviving pets can be wonderfully healing for your own grief.
Should I immediately get a new pet?
Rushing into this decision isn’t fair to you or your new pet. One needs time to work through grief and loss before attempting to build a relationship with a new pet. If your emotions are still in turmoil, you may resent a new pet for trying to “take the place” of the old, for what you really want is your old pet back. Children in particular may feel that loving a new pet is “disloyal” to the previous pet. When you do get a new pet, avoid getting a “look-alike” pet, which makes comparisons all the more likely. Don’t expect your new pet to be “just like” the one you lost, but allow it to develop its own personality. Never give a new pet the same name or nickname as the old pet. Avoid the temptation to compare the new pet to the old one, as it can be hard to remember that your beloved companion also caused a few problems when it was young! You’ll know when the time is right to adopt a new pet after giving yourself time to grieve, carefully considering the responsibilities of pet ownership, and paying close attention to your feelings.