Stans Story

Pet Bereavement

When I speak to a pet bereavement client about their grief I’m not trying to make them forget their beloved pet. My aim is to help them live a new ‘normal’ without them. There will always be memories that make you sad and occasions that make you sad, the same as there will be memories and occasions that make you smile. It’s all normal. You wouldn’t forget a human you loved so it’s no different to that. The reason I’m talking about this is because it’s an anniversary today.

Stan 13/03/2015 - 02/11/2019

His story:

We went to a farm to see some pups. We already had a 6 month old pup that we got after we lost our first dog earlier in the year. Ollie was/is a whippet and we loved him but we thought he needed a companion. When we got to the farm the litter of pups were in a van. It was filled with what looked like engine parts and had a very bad fuel smell. The pups were scampering around inside. The pups mum, we were told, had gone. The dad was there, he was a beautiful white lurcher. Right at the back of the van a pup sat all alone. I just looked at him and I knew I couldn’t leave him. I knew I should have taken them all from the state they were in but I couldn’t. I was handed this dirty, smelly little pup and we left.

We took him to the vets the next morning. The vet estimated his date of birth to be 13/03/2015, making him 5 weeks old. He shouldn’t have been taken from his mum, but there was no mum at the farm. The birthday that the vets give Stan was also my birthday and it was my dads birthday too. Sadly I’d lost my dad a few years earlier so having someone to share my birthday with again was a privilege.

After a thorough check-up at the vets Stan was given a clean bill of health, although he was underweight. We were given advice on how to look after him which we followed. We cleaned him up, we fed him and we loved him.

Ollie and Stan became best friends. We would often find them curled up asleep together, they played the classic bitey face with each other as sighthounds do. Stan quickly grew and gained weight. One day at the park I notice he was limping, of course he was taken straight to the vets. As it turned out he was growing too quickly because he was being well fed, a change of food and many vet visits later he was given the all clear and we were told he would now grow normally.

Stan was an amazing addition to our family, he was loved by all, and he loved everybody. He liked nothing better than to sit on the sofa between my husband and I and get cuddles. Both pups loved each other, they did everything together, they were best friends. When Stan was around three years old it was discovered that he had an autoimmune disease called Systemic Lupoid Onychodystrophy or SLO. It’s quite a nasty disease but Stan took it in his stride, he took his medication and he never made a fuss even though the condition is quite painful at times. We were coping with his illness, when it flared up he was exercised less and he got medication, but it really made no difference to our lives.

Stan and Ollie went everywhere with us, they came on holiday to England with us to visit family, they stayed in the cottage with us and they loved their early morning runs on a nearby beach. They didn’t make a fuss in the car or travelling by ferry. As always everyone loved the boys and they loved everyone they met.

In August 2019 the dogs were playing and Stan slipped off the sofa, I noticed he was limping and made an appointment at the vets. The vet checked him over and couldn’t find anything so it was arranged that on the Monday he would go in for X-rays and further investigation. The news wasn’t good, the vets found a large lump on Stans shoulder. A biopsy was taken and sent to England to be checked by pathology, but the vet thought he knew what the problem was already. Until the results came back from England it wasn’t definitive, but the vet thought that Stan had lymphoma. This was a working diagnosis and Stan was given painkillers while we waited for the results. Living in Northern Ireland the results took a while to come back. By this time we knew we were going to lose Stan. When the lymphoma was discovered it was already quite advanced and all we could do was to keep Stan comfortable. Two weeks after our first visit to the vets with a limping Stan we were going back to the vet office with Stan to say our goodbyes. Our little family stayed with Stan telling him we loved him, telling him he’d be okay, that it was okay to leave us and saying our final goodbyes. We were fortunate that our amazing vets let us stay with him as long as we needed, long after he’d closed his eyes for the final time. We had an amazing final day with our beautiful boy to make memories. His favourite thing to do was to have a stroll around the park so this is what we did, we didn’t realise how weak he was and he had to be carried for the final part of the walk. He was still happy and eager to be with us so we took him to McDonald’s and bought him a burger and we all ate together. He really enjoyed that burger!

We will never forget our beautiful boy and we have memorials of him in the house with his ashes.

Just because I’m a pet bereavement counsellor it doesn’t mean that I don’t get upset about his death, because I do. I still cry, especially today, I still miss him, even though we got another pup after we lost him. Stan will always be part of my life just like your pets will always be part of your lives. It’s the price we pay for love and a price I’m willing to pay for the enormous amount of love and amazing memories this beautiful soul gave us. I grieve for what could have been because he was still so young when he passed. Grief is natural and normal and sometimes people need help adjusting to life without their pet. People get help when they lose a much loved human, pet grief is no different. You are allowed to feel the emotions and to grieve. Help is available if you need it. You are not alone.

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