Back in May, I wrote a post called The Circle of Life. It was a reflection on birth and death and all the interesting bits in between. In that article, I spoke about taking care of my 13-year-old Siberian Husky dog, named Kika. She just passed away on Monday, so this is a tribute to honoring the death of a beloved pet.
Kika with her buddy, Cleopatra, in the yard last week. She always seemed to be smiling.
I come from a large, close-knit family. Before my siblings and I had children, we all acquired a pet or two. So in the past few years, we have watched those animals pass away from old age, one by one. Kika was the last. There was my brother, Paul’s, wolf-malamute hybrid who scared nearly everyone with his massive size and wild appearance, but who was really a sweet soul who just wanted to have his belly rubbed. I particularly remember my parent’s dog, Mali, who was a very nervous, needy Dalmatian who surprisingly adopted their new kitten as her own, even allowing it to suckle her. That cat and dog slept curled up together for many years. We had many great pets and lots of wonderful memories.
During my pets’ twilight years, I have been in the habit of asking myself three questions. Is the animal still eating? Is he or she still playing and enjoying life? Is the pet relatively pain-free? If the answer is no to any of those questions, I start to take steps towards euthanasia. In the case of Kika, she deteriorated quickly at the end, so a mobile vet was able to come to our house to euthanize her. She died in the yard with all of us petting her. It was a peaceful end for a really tranquil, beautiful animal.
Our animal graveyard is in a quiet spot between some magnolia and cypress trees. My best friend, Scott, was nice enough to help me with the burial as most of my family is in Croatia during the summer.
Because we have had to go through this a few times we have developed a process to deal with the pet’s death with dignity and honor. Some family members have their pet cremated, but I have always buried them. A hole is dug, and every human family member chooses one item that will go in to the grave with the pet. We also walk around the yard and each cut one flower that will go in their bouquet. We always add an extra flower for those who can’t be there, but who loved the animal. One of us reads a poem called The Rainbow Bridge, and we each put in one shovel full of dirt. Once the animal is buried, we place a few rocks from the yard as a headstone and leave the bouquet with a lit candle. I think this is a great way to honor and grieve a loved pet.
My daughter, Amira, with the bouquet. She is always the family member who reads the poem at the funeral.
As always, thanks for reading. It was helpful for me to write about this. I feel so lucky to have had so many long-lived animals in my life. And, no, I am not in the market for a new puppy! If you have any questions or comments, please write to me via email.