Pet Loss Counseling

Our family recently underwent a pet loss counseling experience. We, and especially my 10 year old son, lost a member of the family, Quincy, who was with my wife Julie before any of the rest of us were around.

She had two cats when I met her, litter mates, Quincy and Thunder, who were very big for house cats. They were both close to her, but when I came into her life, Thunder attached himself to me, and when Shane arrived 10 years ago, Quincy became his cat, sleeping with him almost every night.

Neither of them were the most healthy of cats; both had had urinary tract issues.

Watching the two cats interact was like having a sub-culture in the house. They would play and fight almost every day, then curl up in a big ball together and do what cats do very well, sleep.

And as the years passed by, we could see them begin to slow down, and now Thunder, the elder in our house, has trouble getting up and down the stairs and has to take a circuitous path of small leaps to get up on the bed for his morning cuddle session with Julie, where once he could leap with great agility to at least the kitchen counter.

So losing Quincy was quite a blow to the family, and especially Shane, who was very attached to the cat.

Pet Loss Counseling for Shane

Julie and I were watching Quincy deteriorate with some concern, and we took him to the vet when he became very listless. He looked to be very uncomfortable, and could not eat anymore at the end, and finally the vet told us that there was nothing else to be done, and Julie decided to have him put down, but we would keep the remains and have a ceremony to bury Quincy and let him go.

She talked with Shane about her decision and why it was the decent thing to do for our old friend, who was in a lot of pain at the end, and how we could commemorate his memory with a ceremony.

So Julie brought the remains home, and they found a spot where they wanted to bury him, prepared the soil, and on a Saturday morning in July, we buried Quincy in the yard, in a flower bed, with full family honors.

My little Hannah Marie, who was almost four, did not quite get what was going on, she was just sad and worried, because the rest of us were sad. However, she will on occasion go outside to talk to Quincy.

Shane was very sad, and the next two nights he grieved inconsolably, which was both worrisome and gratifying for Julie and I.

On the one hand, I think it was very healing for him to wail and cry the way he did. He moved fully into the emotions of the grief process, and dealt with the unfairness of it all, even asked Quincy why he had left, which is a very fair question for those of us who remain after a loss.

On the other hand it was scary for me as a Dad, to watch the intensity of his emotions, and let them run their course, without any certainty of where he would end up. While we expected the ultimate outcome of his grieving to be good, when he is in the midst of powerful emotions, it is hard to let him just do them, at least for this Dad.

However, subsequent to those two nights of weeping, I have not seen any recurrence of intense feelings.

Julie bought a kitten ostensibly to keep the older cat company, but I have my suspicions about that rationale, and when the older cat would have nothing to do with the kitten, suddenly we had two kittens, to keep each other company.

So now we have two kittens cavorting all over the house, and a brand new sub-culture, with three cats. The older one ignores the kittens, althought the male kitten torments him once in awhile, because he is a bit of a bully.

And we have a memorial to Quincy, a stone the children picked out and a very well made cross that Shane created with sticks from the yard, and a significant amount of dental floss.

And so my children and Julie and I have had our first experience with losing a pet. Julie did a great job of talking to Shane about his feelings, and teaching him the road map, and I think we as a family did a good job of making room for his extraordinary pain.

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