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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


26 September 2013

A Good Death

Elke (center) and friends
Dear Mia, 

Elke’s passing has given us all pause. Not only is there the missing of who she is -- her apple core eating and play-spinning ways -- but it also makes me examine the purpose of our pen pal blog. Being “real” about dogs and being “science” about dogs are not separate from one another; they are part of the same coin. Maybe that’s obvious, but I’m very happy (if that’s the right word) that you shared Elke’s life and passing here on Do You Believe in Dog?. From the feedback on Facebook, others agree. 

I used to have conversations with my childhood dog, Brandy. We would lie next to one another as if we were girlfriends at a slumber party, and I would explain to her that if she ever died, I would kill her. I wanted her to understand that death wasn’t a viable option for her. She would have to find something else to do when she got old. 

Playing, "Find the real dog" with Brandy
Death is universal. It is not unique or unordinary. We bring companion animals into our lives knowing that there is a finite time we will be together. But what I do think is notable about Elke (and Brandy’s) deaths, is that they were "good" deaths. They didn’t experience prolonged discomfort or drawn out pain and suffering. How animals die is part of end-of-life care, regardless of whether we are talking about companion animals, lab animals or farm animals. This is why, when I heard about the work of Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, I paused and took interest.

Stephanie LaFarge runs the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline which offers:
  • Assistance with the decision to euthanize. 
  • Comfort and support at the time of euthanasia. 
  • Help with grieving the loss. 
  • Advice on dealing with children, the elderly or disabled individuals who are facing a death of a companion animal. 
  • Helping the surviving animals in the household to cope.
  • Assistance in establishing a relationship with a new pet. 
The first area, “Assistance with the decision to euthanize” is incredibly important. They explain: Coping with the impending loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences a pet parent will face. Whether your furry friend is approaching his golden years or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s important to calmly guide the end-of-life experience and minimize any discomfort or distress.” 

Nowadays, it can be possible to extend a loved pet's life, which can be awesome! But sometimes the question becomes, "Are there any costs? Are we minimizing discomfort and distress?" 

There is nothing easy about end-of-life decisions, but a good death is as important as a good life.
Big hugs, 


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