Category Archives: Uncategorized

How To Fix A Broken Heart

Saw this TED Talk; am currently reading his book by the same title.  He deals with the loss of a beloved pet, and how such a loss is on the same level as the loss of a 1st degree relation.  Unfortunately, society tends to push people to just get over it and move on.  Rather, a person needs to process the grief and loss, process the heartbreak that results.

Wish You Were Here

Changing my habits little bit by little bit.  But it is hard not to miss his presence.  Took a walk at Crescent Beach over lunch hour and couldn’t help but reminice on our games of ‘follow me – balance on the log’.  As feelings of anxiety encroach, getting out and walking helps.  Thinking about selling the house; it feels empty and is too much of a reminder.  I bought this place for Basty; minimal stairs (which he could no longer navigate), and a yard he made his own.  Market timing isn’t the greatest, but it is what it is.

Sigh.

 

Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously

Reprinted from Scientific American (article here)

How to handle grief after a pet’s death—and why we all need to change our attitudes about it

Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously
Credit: Getty Images

 

Doug’s amateur soccer team had just lost their playoff game and he needed a pick-me-up. So he decided to stop by the local animal shelter on his way home. He was by no means looking to adopt an animal but puppies always put a smile on his face. “Rookie mistake,” he told me in our psychotherapy session. “You set foot in one of these places and no way you’re not leaving with a puppy.” Delia, the puppy in question, was a five-month-old mutt. “I had her for seventeen years,” Doug said, wiping tears from his eyes, “Almost my entire adult life. I knew it would be rough when she died but I had no idea…I was a total wreck. I cried for days. I couldn’t get any work done. And worst of all, I was too embarrassed about it to tell anyone, even my old soccer teammates who loved Delia. I spent days at work crying in private and muttering “allergies” whenever someone glanced at my puffy eyes.”

Losing a beloved pet is often an emotionally devastating experience. Yet, as a society, we do not recognize how painful pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health. Symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average). The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that a woman whose dog died experienced Broken Heart Syndrome—a condition in which a person’s response to grief and heartbreak is so severe, they exhibits symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including elevated hormone levels that can be thirty times greater than normal.

While grief over the loss of a cherished pet may be as intense and even as lengthy as when a significant person in our life dies, our process of mourning is quite different. Because pet loss is disenfranchised, many of the societal mechanisms of social and community support are absent when a cherished pet dies. Few of us ask our employers for time off to grieve a beloved cat or dog as we fear doing so would paint us as overly sentimental, lacking in maturity or emotionally weak. And few employers would grant such requests were we to make them. Studies have found that social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds. Thus, we are not only robbed of crucial support systems when our pet dies, but our own perceptions of our emotional responses are likely to add an additional layer of emotional distress. We may feel embarrassed and even ashamed about the severity of the heartbreak we feel and consequently, hesitate to disclose our distress to our loved ones. We might even wonder what is wrong with us and question why we are responding in such ‘disproportional’ ways to the loss.

Feeling intense grief that is then layered with shame about these feelings not only makes pet loss a bigger threat to our emotional health than it would be otherwise, it complicates the process of recovery by making it more lengthy and complex than it should be.

Further, given our societal attitude that invokes responses such as “It’s just an animal” and “You can just get another one” we are likely to overlook the variety of ways our lives are impacted by pet loss (both real, practical, and psychological) which can blind us to steps we need to take in order to recover. Losing a pet can leave significant voids in our life that we need to fill: It can change our daily routines, causing ripple effects that go far beyond the loss of the actual animal.

For example, whether they are trained to or not, all pets function as therapy animals to some extent. Cats, dogs, horses, and other cherished pets provide companionship, they reduce loneliness and depression and they can ease anxiety. Thus when we lose them we actually lose a significant and even vital source of support and comfort.

Caring for our pet also lets us develop routines and responsibilities around which we often craft our days. We get exercise by walking our dog and we socialize with other dog owners at the dog runs/parks/beaches. When our dog dies we might experience a significant drop in casual social interaction and feel left out of the unofficial community of dog owners to which we belonged. We awake early every day to feed our cat (or we are woken by them if we forget) but we get a lot more done because of it. Without our cat we might experience a real drop in productivity. Or we spend hours over the weekend out of the city so we can ride our horse, and find ourselves going stir crazy when our horse is no longer around. Losing a pet thus disrupts established routines that provide us with structure, support our emotional well-being and give our actions meaning. This is why, in addition to emotional pain, we feel aimless and lost in the days and weeks after our pet dies.

Lastly, we often consider ourselves parents to our pets and are even known as such in our communities. Everyone who owns a dog knows that neighbors on the street are far more likely to know our dogs name than they are to know ours. When our dog dies we can become invisible and lose a meaningful aspect of our identity. We post images and videos of our animals on social media and are followed for that reason. Losing a pet can impact many aspects of our own identities.

Recovering from pet loss, as in all forms of grief, requires us to recognize these changes and find ways to address them. We need to seek social support from people we know will understand and sympathize with our emotional pain and not judge us for it. Our best bet is to reach out to people we know who have also lost pets as they are likely to understand our anguish and offer the best support. Many animal clinics offer bereavement groups for pet owners.

We also need to fill the voids the loss has created in our lives, and there are more of them than we might realize. We might need to reorganize our routines and daily activities so we don’t lose the secondary benefits we derived from having our pet. For example, if our exercise came from walking our dog we need to find alternative ways to reach our daily ‘step goals’. If our social media reach was built on our cat’s starring Instagram popularity we need to find other ways to remain relevant social-media-wise. If we spent most Saturday mornings with our Vizsla meetup group, we need to find other outlets through which we can socialize and enjoy the outdoors. If we were known in our neighborhood as “Delia’s dad” as Doug was, we need to find other ways of feeling connected and involved in our community.

Doug suffered far more than he should have because of the shame and isolation he experienced. It’s time we gave grieving pet owners the recognition, support and consideration they need. Yes, it is up to us to identify and address our emotional wounds when our pet dies, but the more validation we received from those around us, the quicker and the more complete our psychological recovery would be.

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Ashes

I took last week off and flew to Germany for a Viking Rhine cruise.  I needed to run away for a bit, to try to clear my thoughts (and tear ducts).  It helped… for a short while.

I didn’t sleep well last night.  Correction, I slept well while I slept.  Unfortunately, I was up at 3:30, wide awake… thoughts racing through my head.  I got up, took a shower, then vacuumed the car (it sorely needed a good cleaning).

At 7 a.m., I decided it might be a good time to spread Basty’s ashes.  It has been a month since his passing, and I felt a driving need to do it.  Being so early, it would be a good time as no-one would be on Elgin trail yet, and I would have the privacy to be with it.  I chose a spot at the bend of the Nicomekl River, where one can view the boats.  I call it ‘Basty’s Point’.  It is a place where Basty always stopped to sniff around.  Often, we would sit a spell, on the park bench, perhaps photograph the marina.

I spread his ashes on several clumps of Yellow Daffodils.  Daffodils typically come out in mid-April, so will be an annual reminder of a special life.  Into the urn I placed a copy of the last verse of ‘Seasons In The Sun’, his puppy photo, and the fur I cut from his left ear and tail prior to cremation; I buried the urn between two of the daffodil clumps.

It was a calm but cloudy morning.  Just as I buried the urn, the sun broke through the clouds for just a few moments… almost as if Basty was sending his love.  A coincidence, I am sure… but I am going with it.

I knew from the day I decided to bring Basty into my life, that parting would be very difficult.  And it is.

2018-03-21-12017-10-29_12017-03-31-1 Basty

Remember Me

2003-11-05
The dinner game; as a pup, it was often hard to get him to eat his dinner.
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One of many walks to come; so many to look forward to.
2003-09-28_03
Getting used to having the camera pointed at me.
2003-09-28_04
Signature puppy photo.

Week Two

It has been exactly two weeks since Basty’s passing (almost to the hour).  On that day, the sun came out for that and the next week.  And again, today, the sun has returned after several days of cold and rain.  This morning, I walked along the Nicomekl (River on one side, Golf Course on the other); another place we frequented.  I could feel the tears well up, but subside before flowing.

I awoke to a sound early this morning; my first thought was ‘Basty wants out’; then remembering that was not possible.  I truly miss Basty.  I expect his warm memory will be with me for a very long time; as with Dodo, there are many things that will remind me of his presence.  And I am good with that.

Week One

Yesterday marked a full week without my dear Basty.  Feelings are less raw; the tears have been replaced with yearning.

For the past week, I have been retracing our steps, walking the trails we marked many times.  It has been cathartic.  I particularly appreciate when I encounter someone who notices he is absent, it emphasises how popular he was.

I am going through the many photos he starred in over the past 15 years, picking out the best for a memory project.  The feature image in this post was from a trip to Harrison, BC in June 2004, while with Dodo on one of her trips to Canada.

Tough Week

I guess it goes without saying; this was a tough week, without rival.  Overwhelming sadness, sense of loss, sense of longing, empty home, and more.

A typical day with Basty would start with his letting me know it was time to get up (in his younger days that meant getting on the bed and licking my forehead; in his senior years it meant soft ‘woofs’ or other ways).  First priority was to set his breakfast to thaw by placing it in his bowl and floating it in a sink with hot water.  Second priority was to take him for his morning walk, typically involving a trip to Starbucks so I had something to nurse while we walked.  Third priority was to feed him breakfast.  Only after these could we begin our day.  I will miss this simple routine; I will need to find something to fill this gap.

I have received many condolences regarding Basty’s passing.  I set up a small memorial in the bay window, an appropriate place as this was where I daily cared for his many health and hygiene needs; brushing his teeth, moisturizing his eyes, clipping his fur, etc.

2018-04-19 Memorial.JPG

On the one hand, B ‘n Me are no longer; it’s just me now.  On the other hand, I will always hold him in my heart with loving memories.

 

Some of the messages I received after sharing the blog post:

M.Harding:  oh! Keith

N.McMillian: Oh Keith !!!! I’m so sorry ! He was a prince from beginning to end. No one could have done more for him than you-so much love- such considered care -such kindness and such a journey !!

He carved a Basty sized special place in our hearts – always to be treasured and never forgotten.
We are all the richer for sharing his happy times and gentle soul. It’s very touching that someone so small could spread such cheer to so many. Please take strength from knowing that we ARE all connected .May the twin lights of truth and beauty surround you . I send my love.
– – – –
I just saw the blog. What a lovely tribute. I feel so sad -You were on my mind this morning- Nuxi and I were at the park and I half expected to see you both there. Kind of odd, (in that we usually meet up on weekends), but somehow I kept seeing your face. Wish I had followed my instinct and called you. I know how hard this is – please know that I’m thinking of you both. With love in friendship.
Canada West Internal Medicine Team: We are so sorry to hear about your loss. Thank you for sharing the link for your blog. Bastian will truly be missed by everyone who knew him.
K.Wills / Kewpys CKCS: I’m so sorry for your loss. You gave him the best life ever. I’m so thankful for the love and life you shared with him.
R.Wrigley: Sorry to hear about Basty. I know how you must feel. It took me a long time to get over the loss of Chico and still feel it some days. It is not enough to say it will get easier but with time it will. Thinking about you. Phone me when you feel up to it if you want to talk.
A & A.Freund: We are really sad about that. Our thoughts will be with you 😦  I know from mom that you are not a believer. We all the more 🙂 maybe these words may give you some comfort. At least we firmly believe it. [Rainbow Bridge]
C.Glasgow: Sending a big hug
C.Klynstra: I am so sad to hear that. I will remember him as the most adorable dog I have seen. I’m going to miss him a lot and my heart goes out to you.  Take care.

A.Green:

Oh Keith.. I’m so sorry. I just saw your blog post… tears streaming down my face.  He was truly one of a kind. Strangely Ginger has been acting very strange these last two days. Like she was depressed and ill at ease. And really not herself. Howard thinks perhaps she knew.

Please let me know when you are ready to talk or for some company.  Carly and the rest of the family send condolences. I can only imagine how shattered you are.  I’m here if I can do anything for you or pick anything up if you don’t want to go out.

– – – –

Just checking in… I’m sure last night was tough. Thinking of you… let me know if you want to meet for coffee tomorrow. Or perhaps next week.

D.Griffiths: Awe so sorry to hear Keith. Hugs to you 😥
L.Griffiths: Oh no. Little guy’s gone. Hope it was peacefully. So sorry Keith.
J.Griffiths: I’m so sorry, Keith. That is sad news. But against all odds Bastian had a long and happy life! Mine (and Cameron’s) Thoughts are with you.
S.Griffiths: Hey Keith – thanks for letting us know. I’m very sorry to hear that. Bastian was a great companion. Make sure to take care of yourself.
K.Szabo: O Keith, I’m so sorry.  That is a lovely link you posted—its unbelievable to think you had each other for 15 years.  I’d like to talk with you more about this—maybe we could have lunch or coffee sometime next week @ CC.  Feel really bad for you; Thanks for letting me know.
C.Koetter: Hello uncle Keith, I am writing you this email with tears streaming down my face, I am so very sorry to hear about Basty. I do not know what to say other than I know how hard it is to lose a pet. I have lost a few up until this point in my lifetime, it never gets easy. I hope your heart is able to heal soon and you are able to cherish the special moments you have had with Basty and have nothing but a smile on your face.
A & K.Winters: Oh my…..we know what you’re going through. It’s true, it’s very hard to speak of. Take your time and take care of yourself.  He was such an amazing little guy he will be missed by the whole family 😢💔 You gave him the life he deserved so rich in all areas. [We] send our love and support.

– – – –

You don’t have to respond, j just read your email and wanted you to know my heart is breaking for you. We know that feeling like it was yesterday. Little Basty will be missed by the whole family. We were blessed to share in his memories. I hope Gracie will greet him over the rainbow and take him for walks or maybe even runs now every day.

M.Chan: Oh dear, so sorry to hear this.  You take care of yourself.
O & E.Birkholz: sorry to hear that you lost your pet & furry friend Basty. You had him for a long time and I know from my own experience how attached we can get to an animal. The loss will be painful for a while, but you will have lasting memories of the companionship he provided. You are in our thoughts.
J.Reeves: I’m so sorry for your loss. He was a Sweetheart.
R.Alberti: On my usual, solitary walks along the Nico River this morning, past the Stewart Farmhouse, I stopped by the now slightly wilting daffodils, thinking of the darling dog and his devoted caregiver Keith, I had the pleasure meeting with only a few days ago. Keith, I am so terribly sorry to hear of his passing. My heart goes out to you, as I know all too well how much it hurts to let a beloved pet go. Stay strong and remember the many happy years Bastien and you enjoyed together. Sincerely, Rolf… who has an extra soft spot in his heart for Basty.

 

A & P.McInally: we’re so sorry to hear about Basty.  We know what an important part of your life has now changed.  You two shared so many good years, and the happy memories will remain.  Thinking of you.

D.Pradhan: we were greatly saddened by the demise of Basty. He was so adorable and we all will miss his presence. May his soul rest in peace. Out thoughts and prayers are with you and we’ll visit you soon.

See also, comments from A.Winters, F.Ahrens, and E.Koetter posted to the original blog entry.

Farewell my Little Bit

Tears fill my eyes; tears dominate my day.  It is with intense sadness that I bid my friend and companion, Bastian, a last farewell.  Basty passed away this morning.  I feel empty.

I am reminded of an old song by Terry Jacks, Seasons in the Sun, from which I edit the last verse:

Goodbye Basty my little one
You gave me love and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
Goodbye Bastian it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time

I know the emptiness I feel right now will, with time, fade to cherished thoughts of a companion who was with me 24/7 for the past 15 years.  We were truly ‘attached at the hip’.

I miss you my friend.

Farewell my Little Bit.jpg
An early walk (carry) at Cr Beach on the morning of his passing.  A very tired ‘old man’.
2010-07-25 Bastian
Better days; a proud Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.