Beloved pet is part of the family

Patches provided emotional support when a senior member of the family suffered a stroke. Photo: Aubrey O'Hara

There are few things as precious as the unconditional love of a pet. So much so that our pets often become like family.

Patches came into the lives of my close friends as a three-month-old stray pup.

She was found under the car whimpering in fright. No amount of coaxing could dispel her fear of humans. Finally, after a night of heavy rain, Patches decided to squeeze herself through the gates of their home. She curled up in a dark corner, exhausted.

This bag of bones was groomed into a fluffy fur ball that resembled a cross between an Australian Shepherd and a mongrel.

Patches became their official greeter of the day with her unconditional love.

Pets give so much to their humans. They provide us – especially those facing terminal illness – with joy and companionship. They are our friends, our family.

When a senior member of this family suffered a stroke, Patches provided emotional support. She was able to alleviate the stress of everyone at home, just by being present and alert.

My friend relied on her pet to make her mornings brighter and her evenings quiet as she shouldered the burden of nursing her mother-in-law.

Her passing made Patches confused, but animals realise very quickly that life must go on for the rest of the family.

Unfortunately, Patches herself was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. The vet advised that treatment would be aimed at providing quality of life, instead of interfering with the disease. She continued without any early signs of distress.

However, as time went on, Patches started to lose her appetite and became lethargic. She lost her ability to defecate and urinate, and was not strong enough to move, as the tumour on her chest grew larger.

Her restlessness and inability to sleep peacefully was observed. Multiple lymph nodes were forming on other parts of her body.

Patches kept to herself mostly, and was reluctant to walk or play because of the pain caused by the cancer that was also spreading to the bone.

Recognising the signs that a dog is dying is a subject that is difficult for every dog owner. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that our dogs do not live forever. We owe it to our dogs to learn more about the natural death process since they have filled our lives with so much joy for many years.

Learning to help our dogs transition by offering proper end-of-life care and loving support through their difficult journey is very important.

Pet loss is not easy to discuss but being aware of the various stages of natural death will help their owner in the grieving process.

Most importantly, recognising that the dying process in dogs (much like that in humans) takes place months, weeks and days prior to actual death. Just as dogs are unique in their own ways, so is the dying process for each one.

Sadly, Patches is declining quietly, even as she remains present and affectionate to the hand that feeds her.

Her caregivers have not decided on euthanasia – eu literally means “goodly or well” and thanatos means “death”.

Witnessing a pet’s death unfold is a difficult thing. Although not an easy decision, euthanasia is often a human option for helping your dog to transition. It is often considered the last option should the dog be in unmanageable pain.

Patches’s family members have decided to provide end-of-life care under the guidance of a veterinarian. Even though Patches is experiencing social detachment and solitude, her time on earth will only be decided by natural death.

As the owner of a senior dog myself, I am committed to learning about the end-of-life process to ultimately make a personal decision to put my trusted furry companion to sleep peacefully.

As pets age, the increased risk of poor health or sudden terminal conditions are unavoidable. I believe that it always best to be prepared in order to help your dog in the most humane manner possible, to alleviate discomfort and anticipatory grief.

Death for any of our fur companions is not the end of the journey. International Dog Day, celebrated on Aug 26 every year, raises awareness of the importance of rescuing our furry friends, as there are so many dogs in the world that are in need of a stable home and a loving family.

Dog Day acts as a gentle reminder to us to try and help these exceptional animals where we can. Sadly, many rescue centres and shelters are bursting at the seams with dogs that have been abandoned through no fault of their own.

Often, dogs are loyal and will sacrifice their own safety to selflessly protect their humans.

Whether you choose to welcome a new dog into your life or memorialise a beloved pet, you will always have the joyful paw prints you made together to hold on to. They really do deserve a round of “a-paws”!

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Dog Day , dogs , man's best friend , dog behaviour


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