Coping with the Stress of Losing an Animal

In my latest newsletter I discussed stress, coping with it, managing it, and learning from it. I mentioned that we all have stress in our lives, and … well, I may have inadvertently invited some into my life because it’s been a heck of a week.

Fist off, someone said, “You look like you just lost your dog.” Have you ever made that comment to someone? Because in fact, I did just lose one of my dogs. If you’ve never met me in person, or if you haven’t spent much time with me, you won’t know that I don’t have a poker face. When I “lost my dog” this Tuesday, the sentiment was shown from the core of my being.

Here at the Funny Farm we have lots of animals, and no matter how many I’ve had it’s never easy to lose one. I’m a hunter and because of it have been called cold, mean, heartless, and animal hater among other falsities. One thing I am is a person that loves animals.

Dear Sampson, Run like the wind big buddy! You are missed.

Let me start with a line up of the crew here. We have: 24 horses, mules, mustangs and a pony; three goats; seven geese; nine ducks; ten chickens; a turkey; an emu; and now we have six dogs.

Of our hunting hounds, who love to pursue all sizes of the feline persuasion we have Fat Tire (15-years-old), Reba (13-years-old), Freaky (13-years-old), and the late Sampson (7-years-old). Look at that, would you? “The late” Sampson is the youngster of the bunch. He’s the offspring of Fat Tire and Reba. He’s a gorgeous black and tan, and suffered from chronic ear infections.

We spent multiple years and a variety of treatments dealing with his ears. This winter he suffered a massive weight and energy loss. Again we visited the veterinarian for help. His blood work looked good. His ears — not too bad, for him. He received medication, vitamins and extra nutrition and never gained any weight but did display a bit of energy.

This spring I found a burst abscess behind his jaw. We took him in and the vet performed two surgeries in an attempt to find a foreign object, which was believed to have caused the infection. The surgeries were not successful as the infection continued to ooze from the site. I asked if it could be from his ears, but that fell on deaf ears (pun intended). Sampson was put on a different antibiotic, and then a more powerful one, and then “the most powerful” antibiotic. The infection persisted.

After two surgeries, additional vet appointments, tests, cultures, and scans we were directed to the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins (seven hours away). The office is one of the best in the state, and for our sweet hound who’s withering away, it gave us hope.

We loaded our boy up and made the trek. Family and friends asked, “Are you prepared for the worst?” to which we answered, “Yes.”

Sampson was in good spirits. He’s a kind loving hound. Always willing to go the extra mile. What we didn’t really understand is just how tough of a hound dog he is, and how severely the infection — FROM HIS EAR had gotten. As I had queried some months ago, the abscess was from the ear infection. The infection was great, and he’d already been on months of antibiotic treatment.

After attempts at scoping inside his ear, and after a CT scan, we learned that the infection was vast. They could perform surgery, but there’s no definite answer as to how they would prevent another infection. In the delicate area of nerves and brain tissue, it would be difficult to clean it all out.

We had to make the decision, which we thought we were prepared for but we’ve never had to make before.

As much as we want to keep our happy hound with us forever, we couldn’t allow him to continue to suffer. It’s been a tough few days, and we came home with an empty kennel and a new hollow space in our hearts.

When I mentioned stress above, I said, “first” and that’s because there is a second. Secondly, my MacBook Pro has taken a crash. It has to go in for a new hard drive. I’ll be back soon to share an update with you about my recent trip to Washington, D.C. with the DC Project. For now, I’m working to keep up with work, my commitments to volunteering, and I’m headed out to enjoy time with my family and deal with the stress.

10 IDEAS FOR COPING WITH THE STRESS OF LOSING AN ANIMAL

  • Know that they aren’t ours forever.
  • Love them while you have them so you don’t have regrets.
  • Do everything in your power to keep them healthy so you don’t question yourself later.
  • Hug your loved ones and accept their sympathies.
  • Let your other animals console you.
  • Take some time to reflect.
  • Don’t be afraid to cry your eyes out.
  • Honor them with a burial.
  • Remove their empty house if it calms the emptiness.
  • If need be, get another pet but know that no pet can ever replace the one you have. They’re never the same but fill the emptiness in a different way.

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