Consoling a loved one over a dying pet.
July 31, 2006 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me do something nice for somebody whose beloved dog is dying.

I have a girlfriend with a Lhasa Apso that is currently dying of kidney failure and is not expected to last more than about a week. She is, understandably, very upset.

I would like to do something to express sympathy, and maybe cheer her up some, that is more personal than a card from the local CVS.

My thoughts have been leaning toward maybe a mix-CD/photo booket. Along those lines, she likes old French music, Brazilian pop, and indie-pop ala Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. I have no idea what songs would be appropriate for such as this, though, which is a considerable stumbling block.

My question then: What songs could I include, or what better ideas could I pursue? I want to do something nice to cheer her up, and I'm not married to the idea of the CD/photos.
posted by kaseijin to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

**bangs head against green** Curse you, grammar gods!
posted by kaseijin at 8:41 AM on July 31, 2006

I bought this for my adult cousins when their dog died.

They loved it.
posted by milarepa at 8:45 AM on July 31, 2006

Honestly, I wouldn't bother trying to make an "appropriate" mix. She doesn't need a mix - she just needs your support.

Gently ask if you can help. Take her out to dinner (or make it, if she doesn't feeling like going out). Let her talk. Let her be silent. Support her, and let her know you're there, and let her grieve in her own way.
posted by canine epigram at 8:45 AM on July 31, 2006

Seriously, to echo canine epigram, it'll help greatly to take her grief seriously. Many folks who don't own dogs or pets (and even some that do!) don't understand extreme grief when an animal dies. Be there for her, do whatever works best for her, and just remember that for a lot of people, a pet is very much a family member. When my dog died, one of the hardest things for me was friends who didn't seem to care, or who didn't understand why I'd still be sad (not hysterical or anything, just, you know, sad) a week later.
posted by handful of rain at 8:57 AM on July 31, 2006

I second milarepa. That book has been a real blessing for my wife and other friends of mine.
posted by 4ster at 9:02 AM on July 31, 2006

No, it is whose.
posted by reklaw at 9:13 AM on July 31, 2006

That book milarepa links looks sweet and all, but personally, I think it would make me wallow and be even more depressed about my sick dog.

That said, all people are different and cope in different ways, and obviously at least 2 people here found the book comforting.. just giving another perspective.

I would second the comments of handful of rain, as well.
posted by twiggy at 9:23 AM on July 31, 2006

Make cement footprints of the dog that can be displayed in a future garden. There are various kits available at pet and crafts stores.
posted by frogan at 9:30 AM on July 31, 2006

My SO and I ran into his neighbors the night their cat died. We listened when they needed to vent/share what happened and we bought them a round of stiff drinks. They were profoundly touched by this simple gesture and thanked us pretty much every time they saw us for at least a year.

My point is, I'm with handful of rain and canine epigram -- don't worry about doggy appropriate, just be supportive and ready with a hanky and a shoulder.

A card with a heartfelt message is possibly one of the sweetest things you can do. Bonus points for making it yourself or getting an nicer quality card (like the neato letterpress kind/handmade paper/etc.)
posted by desuetude at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2006

Do what you can to help her enjoy and remember these last days with her pet. For example, you could help with time-consuming tasks; you could buy the dog favorite treats; you could take pictures or shoot some video.
posted by subgenius at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2006

If you do end up making this mix, "All good things" by Klaatu (70's band who were mistaken for the Beatles in disguise) fits the sentiment to a T. The music might not be your style, but the lyrics are the point - specifically written about a beloved dog dying. You can read them here.

It's kind of obscure... I could send an MP3 tonight if you're interested.
posted by adamkempa at 9:52 AM on July 31, 2006

Make a nice donation in the animal's name to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. There is a pet cemetary there called Angels Rest, and when you donate, you can create a memorial for the pet. There are also forums linked on that page where your friend can go and discuss their loss.

I also somewhat second the doggie-print in cement. I don't know about it, but i vaguely recall my mother doing that for one of our cats that had a long-term illness, and it was great comfort to her when he had passed away. You can find the kits online, or just use the ones they make for new mothers who have just given birth.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:54 AM on July 31, 2006

Thank you for helping your friend out during this time.

Last week my 11 year old dog passed away after a long illness.

Lots and lots of my friends have called or stopped by my work to check on me, and make sure I'm ok. I've been very touched by their concern. I especially appreciate the ones who let me talk about my dog without bringing up their dog or cat they lost last year, five years ago, when they were a kid. I know you loved the dog you had when you were five, but save your stories for a few months...this week it's my time to talk about my friend.

You don't mention if your friend has other pets, so I'm assuming she does not...but if she does then buy something small for the surviving animal. When a parent is taking care of a dying pet sometimes the other animals may get neglected a bit, and getting a little biscuit or catnip or whatever might be an appreciated gesture.

Maybe you can swipe a good picture or two from your friend's refrigerator and have them framed. Personally for me, looking at pics of my dog during healthy years has been very cathartic.

Last thing I can think of - please be ready to go with her to the vet when the time comes to put the dog down. You might look into mobile vets in your area if she wants to consider letting the dog go at her home. Most mobile vets don't work emergency hours so you will have to anticipate a bit there. Also offer to do the paperwork at the vet (filling out the form and paying the bill) so your friend can spend every last second with her loved one at the final moment.

Good luck, we should all have friends like you.
posted by vito90 at 10:13 AM on July 31, 2006

Ditto on the donation to Best Friends. Or to your local Humane Society/SPCA.

Also maybe come over and just hang out with her and the dog, maybe buy a nice doggie brush.

Is the dog on a special diet or can she eat regular food? If she is not restricted, go get some yummy gourmet treats. The worse it smells to you, the more the dog will like it (hey, we're talking about a species that is known for chewing on dirty socks!)
posted by radioamy at 10:18 AM on July 31, 2006

Honestly, I wouldn't bother trying to make an "appropriate" mix. She doesn't need a mix - she just needs your support.

Yes and no. I had a few extremely bad days earlier this year when I had to put my cat to sleep unexpectedly. I found that soothing, mellow-paced music was a real comfort and in fact the only thing I could listen to. Soothing music can provide a little emotional backdrop that may take the mind off its endless feedback loops of horror and sadness during difficult times. A mix is not a bad idea. Just be sure you make it mellow, upbeat music. Not mellow stuff that might come off as dolorous or maudlin. And you have to bear in mind that her consciousness is overwhelmingly predisposed to sadness, so really, look for happy, soothing stuff. I enjoyed a lot of the easygoing songs on Stephen Malkmus' albums. Bubblegum lyrics, chill rock n roll beats, nothing serious or potentially tragic about any of it.

My only other suggestion is NOT to begin forwarding her "puppy needs a home" emails right away. People need time to grieve, and the guilt of not feeling ready to adopt a needy animal might make matters worse.
posted by scarabic at 10:23 AM on July 31, 2006

Not mellow stuff that might come off as dolorous or maudlin

ie: no Enya or Pachabel's Canon
posted by scarabic at 10:25 AM on July 31, 2006

Oh, and perhaps this is beyond what you have in mind, but at some point this owner should seriously consider euthanasia if the animal is suffering. I'm sure the subject has come up. This is a very difficult decision, and you should be prepared to express your support for it. Giving a friend your moral "permission" to end her pet's suffering can help a lot.
posted by scarabic at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2006

FYI, UC Davis has a Pet Loss Support Hotline for dealing with a pet's terminal illnes and death.

Consider making a donation in the pet's honor/memory to a veterinary school program with a companion animal health program, such as the Center for Companion Animal Health or the Companion Animal Fund. I've done this for friends, and friends have also done it for me when I've lost pets, and it certainly made me feel a little better.

And finally, don't underestimate the power of a card or a note, particularly one that includes some rememberances of the dog or reminders of fun or silly things the dog did.
posted by mogget at 10:29 AM on July 31, 2006

Instead of sending cards or CDs or whatever, I bet the best thing would be to just go and see her. Sappy as it might sound, I think a hug would be one of the best things you could do.
posted by reklaw at 10:51 AM on July 31, 2006

The best thing I can imagine is what our friends did on Caleb's last day: they drove us to the vet's office. They then came into the exam room with us when he was put down. (You'll want to ask if it's okay with your friend before doing that.)

Another friend sent us a card. Others called to check in. All those gestures meant a great deal to us as we adjusted.
posted by booth at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2006

scarabic, we're in agreement. My emphasis was on the idea of wanting to make an "appropriate" mix - something like adamkeempa's suggestion, while well meaning, would be like giving someone who's just lost their Dad a mix CD with "greatests hits about dads." Maybe that'd work for some people, but I know it'd reduce me to a bawling mess.

Mellow upbeat music, not specifically connected with anything - that certainly could do no harm.

When a co-worker's dog passed away, I gave her a card, because as someone who grew up with dogs, I knew how much losing one could hurt. The card is still on her desk, months later.
posted by canine epigram at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2006

If you're able, take her out of town for a night or two after her dog passes. It will help soften the change in her routine, post-pet, and give her new things to focus on and enjoy. Quiet space, like the beach, might be good. Road trip might also do the trick.

Do what you can to keep her busy if you sense she needs distraction. Plan a special day out if you aren't able to get away. Start a project with her, unrelated to the dog. Plant something. Rent good films, curl up with her on the couch and make snacks.
posted by cior at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2006

Something my parents did for me when my childhood dog was hit by a car was take the body to be cremated and have the ashes put in a very nice box with the dog's name engraved in a plate on it. I keep it on the mantleplace next to a framed picture of the dog and me (another good gift). I'm not sure how they located the pet cremating service, but I think it was through the vet's office. It's something to look into for after the enivitable, if your friend likes the idead
posted by internet!Hannah at 11:27 AM on July 31, 2006

I'm sure anything you do will be appreciated; it really is the thought that counts. That said, what really helped me when I had to put my dog to sleep was doing it at home. You might gently find out if she's made preparations yet, and if she hasn't maybe you could call around and see if that's an option. The vet I found needed a couple hours notice, but we were able to do it with friends around, in my backyard where my dog was accustomed to be. After the shot one of my friends took me away so I could cry while a couple other friends offered to carry my dog's body out to the vet's truck, acting almost like pallbearers. Having done it this way I can't imagine doing this in a vet's office. Another thing that made it easier was that I asked a friend to help me collect all the dog toys and balls and put them aside, till I was ready to deal with them. I didn't want to be discovering them randomly and bursting into tears. I donated some durable things, and dog food to a shelter, and that felt good. And sometimes still I ask a friends to visit the dog park with me, just to absorb the dog love.
posted by tula at 12:47 PM on July 31, 2006

Many considerate suggestions. When the dog I had through most of my 20's and 30's died it really helped for people to be supportive of my grief. Monetary gifts to humane organizations were especially nice because the friend would tell me about it, then a couple weeks later I would get a thank you from the organization in my dog's name. Cards, flowers, music, any and all the things you would do the support any friend's (animal or human) death. Your music idea is very sweet and personal.

I got a nice box for photo's, the dog colar, and other mementos for a friend who's pet passed away. I have a small cute box for my dog.

The worst part of it was how little the rest of the world understands. My partner and I had to jump back into work and our lives as if nothing had happened and this confused my grieving process. Everyone is different, jumping back into being busy helps some but I personally needed time and had to arrange for that later.

Tula's home service is beautiful. We were comfortable with our vet and the office. I brought peanut butter because even in a very ill state my dog loved that. It comforts me to know her last moments she tasted peanut butter.

Know that grieving can take months. Best wishes to you and your girlfriend and to all the others in this thread that have experienced this loss.
posted by dog food sugar at 2:18 PM on July 31, 2006

I was a wreck when I lost a pet last fall. I just shut myself in...didn't really want to talk to anyone. A friend left a gift basket on my doorstep with a book (not about pets), a chocolate bar, and some beer. There was no mention of Luna dying, just a silent acknowledgement.
posted by lunalaguna at 3:28 PM on July 31, 2006

The hardest part for me was the lack of an excited welcome when I came home from work those first few days. Maybe flowers waiting at her door, or just being there, could soften that blow a little.

Tula's suggestion of collecting up all the toys is great; it's tough to stumble across a memory every time you turn around. I'd add food/water dishes, leashes, etc to the toys. Just box them up and set the box in a closet or the trunk of your car until her grief is a little less fresh.

I'll echo everyone else and say it's really, really good of you to care, and that may be all she needs.
posted by donnagirl at 4:01 PM on July 31, 2006

My neighbor, the morning of our dog's last day, brought over some Frosty Paws doggie ice cream for our baby. She loved it.

Making dinner for her that night does sound great... I can't imagine she'd feel like cooking.

My mom came with me that day, and the vet told us to be good to each other the rest of the day...

Bless you... it's been since 2002 and it's still really hard for me not to cry when I read about things like this.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:12 PM on July 31, 2006

My cousin had me over for lunch and gave me a copy of J. R. Ackerley's My Dog Tulip when I lost my Lab.
posted by brujita at 10:44 PM on July 31, 2006

We had to put our very sick lab down last fall, when I was 8.5 months pregnant. A very emotional time. Our neighbor, who is a professional photographer, took pics of us the day before - just me and my husband, with our sweet dog on the lawn. We didn't get the pics til months later, but it helped to see just how ill she was and how yes, putting her to sleep was the right thing to do. If the dog can take being moved, a nice outdoor picture might help the owner grieve later.

I couldn't even look at her "places" -- dog bed corners, toybox, etc., without crying. So we put up a playpen in one corner and stashed baby stuff in another. It helped a little. So helping your friend clean up and maybe even rearrange furniture might help her. Our vets felt so bad for us that they bought us dinner from a place that delivers food (maybe they felt sorry for me, pregnant and bawling at the euthanasia). Cooking dinner would be a good thing, too.
posted by mdiskin at 3:52 AM on August 1, 2006

I just went thru this exact thing today. I went to my friends house before the appointment. Simply talked with him (and stuck a sandwich in the fridge for him). I brought my camera and asked him if he would like me to take some pictures. He did. I took some of him with his cat and he took some of her alone. I drove him in his car to the vet so he could hold his cat on his lap. I sat in the room thru the whole process, because he wanted me to. I helped him with the payments. I then treated him to a rousing shot and something to munch on at the pub. We went back to his house for my vehicle and I wished him a good evening. I don't think I could have done anything more for him, and he told me the same. R.I.P. ~ Em
posted by iurodivii at 1:32 PM on August 7, 2006

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