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I’m personally quite pleased to see this topic gaining more attention and in a major publication like the NY Times. When last I looked, more than 200 people had commented on the article I’ve attached below. Perhaps someday we animal lovers won’t feel we have to go “underground” to do our grieving and our feelings will be more universally validated.

—Sid

Mourning the Death of a Pet

By TARA PARKER-POPE

catsAndy Manis for The New York Times

Years ago, I had an orange tabby cat named Dave who was more person than pet. Sometimes when my husband and I were visiting our neighbors in Houston, we would hear a knock at the door. “It’s probably Dave,” our friends would say, and sure enough, there he was on the step, waiting to be invited in with the rest of us.

When Dave died after being hit by a speeding car, I remember feeling a profound sense of loss and dreaded going to work the next day. “My cat died,” I told my editors, wiping my eyes with a tissue. Even as I explained, I knew I sounded silly to them.

I thought about Dave recently as I was reading an article on PsychCentral.com about the death of a pet. Leigh Pretnar Cousins writes about how she lost so much more than a pet when her 14-year-old silver cat, Luna, died.

I am stunned at how much I miss her and how empty the house feels without her soft round self asleep on the sofa. With her passing goes a chunk of my son Matt’s childhood. He was 10 years old when he selected her out of a box of kittens abandoned at the wildlife center….In Matt’s raising of and caring for Luna, I witnessed an enduring trait in my son: his extraordinary gift for nurturing.

Last year, researchers from the University of Hawaii’s animal science department conducted a study to determine the level of grief and stress that a pet owner experiences when a pet dies. Among 106 pet owners interviewed from a veterinary clinic, 52 percent had lost one or more pets from natural causes, while 37 percent had lost a pet to euthanasia. Although many pet owners experience significant grief when a pet dies, about 30 percent reported grief that lasted six months or longer. Severe grief that resulted in major life disruption was less common but was estimated as high as 12 percent of those studied.

It’s not only animal researchers who are taking note of the grief that occurs when a pet dies. The journal Perspectives in Psychiatric Care noted that the bond between people and their pets can affect both physical and mental health, and that the grief reaction that occurs after a pet’s death is “in many ways comparable to that of the loss of a family member.”

“Unfortunately, the loss of a pet is not recognized consistently by friends, acquaintances or colleagues as a significant or authentic occasion for bereavement,” the journal authors wrote.

When my cat died, the reaction was mixed. One person shrugged and said, “Well, I’m a dog person.” A well-meaning friend fumbled when he asked, “Are you over the cat thing yet?” The best response was from a man I worked with who adored his pet basset hounds. I received a sympathy card in the mail noting that a donation to the local animal shelter had been made in the memory of Dave.

To learn more, read the full PsychCentral post, “When a Beloved Pet Passes Away.” The Humane Society of the United States also offers advice on coping with grief after a pet dies. And please join the discussion below. How did you cope with the grief of losing a pet?

A friend recommended a cute article in the New York Times today called the “Puppy Diaries.” It is to be an ongoing series chronicling the travails of raising a new puppy.

The story was well written, humorous, and featured a Westie. What more could I want?

Plenty.

I could want to see people stop supporting breeders when they are fully aware of the option to adopt. The author made it sound that because they were moving from their perhaps 20-lb. Westie up (in weight/not necessarily worth, mind you) to a golden retriever, they “had to” go the route of a breeder.

Ever consider rescuing a golden?

There’s Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota

There’s GRREAT—Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training

There’s NORCAL Golden Retriever Rescue

There’s Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue

There’s The Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas

There’s Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary

etc., etc., etc.

If you’re not in the market for a golden but you still have brand loyalty to a particular breed, there’s The American Kennel Club’s Breed Rescue.

My point is, two minutes of Internet research provided numerous valid options for pet ownership other than supporting breeders/puppy mills. It was quite disappointing to see this short-sightedness being touted in a publication like the New York Times. I shudder to think how many people will ooh and ahh at the cute puppy pictures and then go out and follow in the author’s breeder-supporting footsteps.

While there is overpopulation among domestic animals, it is our moral responsibility, as their human caregivers, to give homes to those creatures who are already here, not custom make our own new dog/cat/hamster, what have you. Each time someone does this, another animal is euthanized in a shelter or pound.

Do previously owned animals have more issues than fresh-baked ones? It depends. They can, especially if they were abused or neglected, but that just takes love and determination to overcome in most instances. And I can absolutely tell you from having owned a Westie from a breeder (20+ years ago before I’d ever heard of rescue organizations), behaviorally and health-wise, she was on equal footing with all of my subsequent four Westie rescues, two cat rescues, and even finch rescues. The breed itself is known to have a propensity toward multiple ailments, and continued breeding isn’t improving the situation an iota.

I know there will always be breeders out there, both scrupulous and heinous in their animal-care practices, so I also know I’ll always be able to find another furry family member who needs rescuing.

I wish the article’s author many years of joy and happiness with her new puppy, of course, because thanks to the breeder, it is another dog in need of a good home. But I wonder about the millions of dogs who look pleadingly through the bars of a cage in a shelter or, if they’re really lucky, have a temporary home with a foster family.

Remember, there is BIGGER picture to consider, too. The Earth has limited resources for us all, animals included. Rescue, care for and love those who are here now. Please don’t create more resource consumers just because you have a selfish need to “buy new.”

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