It Started with Mico
I grew up with animals, blessed to have the mom who allowed the strays to stay! Therefore, when I graduated from Fort Hays State University and was working in my first post-college job, there was only one thing my new “adulting” role needed to be complete in my young adult mind. A dog.
She was my first “big girl” dog, and she was all mine. She’d been left outside of the shelter doors in Kansas, and I couldn’t wait to scoop her up. She became my everything in life, and in her death, she was the hallmark behind the start of the first stand-alone pet funeral home in the country, Pet Angel Memorial Center.
Every day, I thank Mico for guiding me and for giving me strength to bring respectful end-of-life services to others. Even though there’s nothing I can do about the lack of those services when she died, there truly was only one thing I could do to make it up to her. Make sure others got what she and I didn’t when she died. Every day, I do it for her.
And, then along came Harry. He was running the streets in Western Kansas, fending for himself. Ironically enough, he was running those streets in that very town where other strays had found their way into my childhood home. So, it only seemed natural that he became mine!
He was a natural caregiver, I could tell it within seconds of petting him on the streets in Rozel, Kansas. And throughout the too-short of time we were a team, he performed his grief therapy duties flawlessly. He traveled with me and gave such color to everything we did together.
As with Mico, Harry ruled my heart in life, and took a part of it with him when he died. We gave it our all, to the bitter end.
To make up for his rough start in life, I made sure Harry got a send-off fit for a Prince in his death. (I loved it when some people DID refer to him as Prince Harry!) After his death, I brought his body home as I wasn’t ready to have him gone yet. I also wanted the other animals to have their time to say good-bye. We spent an emotional evening together, sharing stories and a glass of wine (okay, I drank the wine!), and giving me the time I needed to back up and say hello as I prepared to say good-bye. (Thank you, Dr. Alan Wolfelt for that amazing sentiment to describe this special time.)
When I was ready, I personally took him to the crematory I was a part of at that time. It was what I needed for myself and my work family to have their time to share stories and say their good-byes. It really defined for every one of them WHY we did what we did for our beloved pets. Harry’s caretaker and veterinary care team also got their opportunity to say their good-byes.
And, then when Chris came home on Friday, we had one more visitation for just our family. It was exactly what he deserved.
After Harry’s service, the comments I heard from those who saw the photos, from his time at home to the visitation set up at The Pet Loss Center, was very interesting. Comments like “I wish I would’ve known I could do that” to “why didn’t someone tell me about those options?”
As I continued to mourn for my beloved Big Harry, life and reality reared its ugly head again with the death of my beautiful Ellie Mae in December, 2018. Ellie died just like she lived… quietly. She waited until I returned from a business trip, getting excited when I entered the house just like she normally would do. That night before she died she was a bit restless, but nothing that caused concern. And, then she just decided it was her time. I have some regrets in that I launched into a mode of trying to “save her” and rushed her to the vet, where we eventually made the call to put her to peace. I know I learned from that experience, and I’m still trying to reconcile on what I wish I would’ve done differently. However, I think I’m fairly normal in those emotions, right?
I guess all my animals are comfortalbe in their own ways, as when October 1, 2019, came around it was time for Crisco to have his peace. And, as with the others, he, too, died just like he lived. He made it awful for Dr. Kimmy and talked the entire time! We said the day we got him he would die like he lived, with sass and in his own ornery way! And he did just that!
Anyway, I knew the healing I felt in bringing Harry home with me, so Ellie and Crisco got the same treatment. They both stayed home with us for two days, the opportunity for me to spend more time with them and for the other animals to say their good-byes. If you’ve never done this with your sweet precious deceased animals, it’s the perfect times for final I love you’s, I’m sorry’s and whatever else. know THIS is the only way that works for me and my family.
So, with all of that, I’m still reminded that we still have a lot of work to do for our grieving pet loving families. Selfishly, I want to make sure every pet family has an end-of-life experience like what Harry, Ellie and Crisoc had.
Let’s do this together. Let’s make sure every family has the permission to do what they need to do for a pet whose rocked their world in life, and shattered hearts in their death.
Mico, Harry, Ellie and Crisco, thank you for being in my heart every day. You ARE truly the hallmark of my “why.”
Thank you for helping me, help them.