Learn To Be a Death Doula For Your Animals

Sandola u

When I was at the park last week with the three dogs, I noticed a man with his old dog walking past our car. He was clearly headed to “his spot” where he sat down with his dog – and I immediately thought… great, how am I supposed to walk my reactive dogs around this guy without being a total nuisance. So I started with Bruiser only. He’s also super old and can mind his own business around dogs his own speed – so we walked around him and of course, Bruiser was more worried about the rabbits he missed by a minute. I never want to interrupt a quiet moment between a senior animal and their person as it seems precious.

And I thought about Bruiser and this man with his old dog and my upcoming Death Doula workshop. I know it sounds crazy to look forward to an afternoon about death but I worry about the void that will be left after Bruiser moves on. I need to better understand how to prepare and I knew after listening to Ute Luppertz with Pet’s Point of View – my perspective would change and I’d have new tools. Ute provides hospice support for both pets and their guardians and is available for consultations.

So fast forward to today…. my biggest takeaway was how to create a compassionate and inclusive culture for the end of life the partnership between humans and their pets.

And of course, I learned… what it means to be a death doula for our companion animals and all animals passing. Being proactive before there is a health crisis is half the battle. So part of a doula’s job is to offer some ideas to pet parents dealing with end of life care for their animals or an animal that has been diagnosed with a chronic illness – or in my case, an aging animal that I have no doubt will live until he’s 20 but better to be prepared nonetheless.

The day was heavy and many tears were shed. I was lucky to be part of such a beautiful day and discussion that was not easy for anyone there.

Our animals will not be with us forever. I’ve already said goodbye to two dogs – Jack and Sandy. Sandy passed away over five years ago now.

Rituals after your animal passes.

  • This could be a simple picture surrounded by candles that you see every day that makes you smile.
  • Perhaps a party with friends and special animal caretakers to celebrate your animal’s life and laugh about good memories (with good cocktails).
  • This is my favorite – a letter to your animal telling them how much you love them and that you’ll always think about them.
  • I made the frame you see in the picture at the top of this post at our local emergency hospital – they hold these for grieving pet owners -and have this on our mantle next to her ashes.
  • Consider adding some of their ashes to a piece of jewelry. Just google this and many places will come up that offer these types of services.
  • What about painting a picture of your animal – we learned about a client that painted a picture of her cat and how meaningful that was
  • Journaling about the animal’s Life Review and writing about all your adventures together – I often refer to my Pet Remembrance Journal that I filled up in the days and weeks after Sandy passed away.

So these tools are all food for thought. While my pack is doing well – I’d rather prepare and at least think about these beautiful ways to remember my four legged friends.

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There are 13 Comments

  1. Cathy Armato says:

    It really is too sad to think about losing our precious furbabies. They are a joyous gift we don’t get to keep forever. These are good tips to help you through losing a beloved pet, thank you for sharing. I don’t know if you can ever really prepare, but I think it’s a good idea to try to be prepared to deal with it as your pet gets closer to ending their time with us.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • I love how you phrased this – they ARE an amazing gift. I hope these tips helped or at least something to think a little about and the concept of preparing being easier before you’re wrecked. 🙁 The whole topic is so sad but the workshop was full of things we all should know. 🙁

  2. We really need to stop hiding from the fact that our pets and our loved ones die. So few people want to talk about it, and it leaves us completely unprepared at the end. Thank you for sharing this

    • I totally agree. The last two animal deaths I experienced I was totally overwhelmed and unprepared and absolutely no one in my life wanted to talk about this and I felt helpless. I think if we’re practical before we’re emotional, the planning part helps when you’re absolutely heart broken and I know I couldn’t think straight – thank you for commenting. I was hoping this wasn’t a total downer post…

  3. Lindsay says:

    Oh my goodness this post made me cry. My dogs have made my life so much more rich and profound that I could never express what they mean to me fully. I think it’s SO important to be compassionate at the end of life. This made me think a lot of Quincey, my moms Bichon that passed in April. I miss him so much…. my mom and I talk about him all the time. She had a vet come to the house and he passed peacefully. Its literally the worst thing that they don’t live with us forever….. 🙁

    Thanks for the read and tears, too, Christy. xo

    • Wow. Thank you for this comment. The workshop was super sad and everyone cried and shared stories about dogs that passed away. I also cannot express what my three (and those that passed) mean to me – it’s hard to put into words. I remember seeing your post about Quincey – it’s so heart breaking. The fact they live such short lives is overwhelming and when it’s time I want to try and strong and unselfish for my guys. I cried writing this. Glad it helped a little as far as practical stuff. 🙁 xo

  4. Chery Esau, R.N. says:

    Yes, what wonderful comments. I lost my Rufus & Maja within 5 months of each other. I attended the Death Doula work shop as well. When my two babies passed I was not prepared either. I did not know Ute Luppertz very well at the time, but I knew she could help. She came over and did a special reading for both dogs. She was spot on, and it helped my husband & myself very much. It does help to journal about it. I actually wrote a metaphysical children’s book about all the amazing things that happened after they passed. I am grateful that new ways of doing and thinking are opening up for our pets & ourselves now. And Ute seems to be leading the way.

    • Thank you, Chery, for sharing this. It was so nice meeting you. I’d like to journal as well especially as both Bruiser turns 13 and my other dog turns ten. Would you mind sharing the title of your children’s book? I’m also grateful there are new ways of thinking when it comes to our pets and us! How grateful we all are for Ute!!

  5. Denise says:

    I have never heard of a death doula but now that I’ve read about it the concept totally makes sense. Support for pet parents during this very difficult time is so important. It is so hard that they are with us for such a short time but oh how they bless our lives while they are! I love your list of rituals and have done many of them all too recently.

    • I hadn’t either until I took this workshop which was super intense. I think support groups are really key for folks going through this. It’s just hard to talk to people that don’t understand how you feel. Hope you’re doing ok. I know it has only been a few weeks… thinking about you.

  6. I’m a little late commenting here, but I’ve been helping the hubby deal with health issues these last few weeks. He will be ok, but it’s been stressful.

    Anyway, surprisingly enough I was able to get through this article without shedding any tears. Callie’s been gone a little over two years now – and there are always going to be days when it seems like yesterday – but the best thing I did for myself was write that blog post that same afternoon, after we had all said goodbye to her. I just wish I could have helped Shadow more/better through her grief. They were constant companions, snuggle-buddies; and to this day it breaks my heart to see how much Shadow misses her sister. Oh, she’s a happy girl most of the time – and really healthy for a 13 yo Golden – but I can tell how much she misses Callie just by the places she chooses for her naps. And I know one day she will join Callie in Heaven, but for now I tell her (and try to show her) how much I love her constantly.

    • Thank you so much for commenting! I’m glad your hubby is ok! Oh I agree with you – there are always days where it feels like they just left us, that happens when I think of Sandy. it’s so hard when one of the members of our pack loses another they are so close too – and honestly, I’m not sure how to help them prepare. I guess it’s comforting knowing they will see each other again. I tell my guys how much I love them to -probs too much and I know I make them crazy!