Remembering Abby

Published in Woonsocket Call on September 4, 2016

In March 2009, we formally adopted an impaired chocolate Labrador with a host of medical problems. With the signing of legal papers, four-year-old Abby met Murray, her elder adoptive canine sibling, who was also a chocolate Labrador.

Four months earlier Abby had arrived at the Pawtucket Animal Shelter, weak, malnourished and showing signs of abuse. She appeared to suffer from blindness and a host of other medical ailments. Animal Control Officer John Holmes had sought veterinary care for her, but the medical testing came back inconclusive. It could be a brain tumor or lead poisoning affecting her vision, he would tell us, which for many potential families seeking adoption may be unappealing.

Officially Adopting Abby

According to Holmes, Abby’s Labrador Retriever breed made her a very popular candidate for adoption, but when people learned about her medical issues they had second thoughts. Abby might just be a good younger companion for our 11-year-old chocolate lab, Murray. We had good luck with this breed and were looking to adopt another chocolate lab.

Six months prior to Abby’s “official adoption” we made an unusual request from the Pawtucket Animal Shelter asking if a “foster care” arrangement could be made to see how well Abby got along with Murray. Having nothing to lose and everything to gain – they agreed.

When Abby came home our first priority was to try to make her gain some weight, which she eventually did. She adjusted well to Murray and her new surroundings, but during the first week she would have a seizure. We watched helplessly as this four year old canine shook all over, with her tongue lolling, her mouth foaming and her eyes rolling back into their head. It was not pleasant to watch, and we initially thought she was dying. Ultimately, with anti-seizure medication her seizures were under control and Abby thrived by gaining weight and becoming increasingly playful to the aging Murray.

We were extremely happy with the new addition to the family, even though we were now taking care of two medically needy pets instead of just one. Abby was given her daily pill in peanut butter to control seizures and Murray, a diabetic, was given insulin shots twice a day.
Health issues would force us to put Murray down in 2010. It would take months for Abby to adjust to his passing. She just knew her companion was gone. But, over the years she adjusted to being the only pet in our household.

Getting Into the Household Routine

A new regiment took over, and every morning, like clock-work, Abby would carefully walk up the stairs, ending up at my bedroom door. The routine shaking of her head, her dog tags would jingle, sending the message to me that it was time to start the day. She was telling me to get up, serve her breakfast and let her outside. As the years began to pass and she grew older, her medical issues became more prominent and it was difficult for her to walk those stairs.

Abby’s internal clock would also place her at the front door at 9:00 p.m. for her nightly walk, too. She had now become a visible fixture in my neighborhood of Oakhill. Neighbors would see us taking our daily nightly walk, but when I began walking by myself they hesitated before asking me “is Abby ok.” No, I say, she is not.

The Moment of Truth

It happened quickly the day before we were to take her on vacation with us. We came home to find her with legs spread out on the floor with no ability to stand up. Her once healthy appetite suddenly diminished. After almost a week of veterinary care my wife, Patty and I came to a decision to end the suffering of Abby, our 11-year-old chocolate Labrador. Looking to ease her pain and reduced quality of life, we made the hard and painful decision to put her down. After all, Abby was an integral part of our family.

Pet owners will share the trauma of putting their furry friend to sleep. Many may even tell you they relive their decision for decades, while some vow never to get another pet for fear of reliving the moment.

So as I pen this weekly commentary in a very quiet house. Abby’s water and food bowls are put away. Her cremated ashes and collar will be placed next to Murray’s wooden box containing his ashes, which sits on the mantle of our fireplace in the living room.

We think about her daily, may be more than once. But, perhaps there will be a time when we will bring another shelter animal into our house, hopefully a female chocolate Labrador. Maybe even two.

To cope with the loss of your pet go to https://rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm.

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Keep Fido and Fluffy Safe When the Weather Turns Cold

Published in Pawtucket Times, January 10, 2015

According to ABC 6 News, early New Years Day, Toni Liberatore, a Burrillville resident walking her dog in the extremely cold weather, called the Town’s animal control officer after she discovered an elderly Italian Greyhound lying almost unconscious under a truck parked near her home, freezing from the frigid weather.

During the news story, Liberatore  told reporter Samantha Lavien that the severely neglected dog was in bad shape.  She described the female Greyhound as being very thin, having extremely long nails, and diseased teeth.

An emotional distraught Liberatore described the condition of the dog after finding it under the truck.  “She was like holding an ice-cube to my body.  She was frozen.  She was pretty much in and out, said Liberatore. “She couldn’t hold her own head up she was extremely emaciated, I could feel every bone in her body,” she observed

ABC News exclusive story went viral, being placed on Facebook and tweeted throughout the internet, sending the story to all corners of the world.

Burrillville animal control officials moved quickly to save the elderly animal, in need of veterinary care, states Police Lt. John Connors, who oversees the town’s animal control division.  The small Greyhound, showing signs of hypothermia, was immediately transported to an emergency animal clinic for treatment. After emergency care, using heating pads and fluids to increase the animal’s body temperature, the dog, now dubbed Elsa, was than transferred to Northern Rhode Island Animal Hospital for further medical care.

After the first day of medical treatments, the dog’s temperature became normal, noted Lt. Connors.  Elsa was released two days ago.

No Intent of Abuse

Lt. Connors stated that the owner of the dog contacted his department after photos began appearing on Face book on New Years Day.  The dog had accidently escaped from his house on New Years Eve without his knowledge, the owner reported. After a through Burrillville Police investigation, with interviews of family members, friends, and neighbors, no “intent of abuse,” was found, says Lt. Connors. The veterinarian’s report did not indicate or substantiate a criminal charge for abuse or neglect, he says.  As a result, no charges were filed against the animal’s owner.

With latest blast of arctic air approaching Rhode Island, weather reporters noted that yesterday was to be the coldest day of the winter.  Throughout the day temperatures plunged to near zero, with gusts of wind lowering the thermometers to 15 degrees to 25 degrees below zero.

Neglect, abuse or mistakenly believing your pet is inside the  house, like what occurred to the elderly Greyhound in Burrillville, will put animals in severe danger if they are left out in extremely frigid weather.

Keeping Your Pet Safe

There is no excuse to leave animals outside when you go to work especially when the media gives you advanced notice that temperatures are going to plunge below zero, says John Holmes, Pawtucket’s animal control supervisor.

Holmes was prepared to handle dozens of medical emergencies resulting from the frigid weather at the Pawtucket Animal Shelter. “We were staffed, had adequate supplies and equipped to treat animals,” he says.

Although he was prepared, Holmes, a 40-year City employee who oversees two animal control officers, was relieved that only one call came in as the temperatures dropped below zero.  He attributes the lack of calls by the warning of media not to leave pets unattended outside.  “People seem to be paying attention,” he says.

Common sense will tell you when you should not leave your pet outside, says Holmes.  “Put on a warm coat.  Wear heavily gloves and a hat.  If you are cold, it is the same for your pet,” notes Holmes, stressing that people easily think that animals are not cold in frigid weather because of their thick coats of fur.

“This is just not true,” says Holmes.

Frigid Weather and Hypothermia

According to Holmes, frigid weather can result in hypothermia, when an animal’s body is no longer able to maintain normal temperature.  Severe hypothermia can result in coma and ultimately death.  Smaller breeds, very young animals, and older pets are more susceptible to rapid surface loss of body heat, putting them at a higher risk to get hypothermia.

Holmes notes that the symptoms of hypothermia depend on the severity.  These can include shivering, a slow shallow breathing, and weakness in mild cases. Muscle stiffness, low blood pressure, a blank stare, slow and shallow breathing are symptoms in the moderate state and fixed and dilated pupils, a heartbeat that’s hard to find, difficulty in breathing or coma are seen in severe cases of hypothermia.

If hypothermia occurs, Holmes recommends that the animal be wrapped in a warm blanket and quickly transported to a veterinary emergency clinic where treatment can be provided.

It is easy to protecting your pets from the cold weather, adds Holmes. Don’t take elderly, young or sick pets, especially small short haired breeds outdoors unprotected in below zero weather, for long periods of time. Just let them go out in the back yard for a few minutes if necessary. “A short walk around the block won’t hurt your animal,” he says.

Holmes asks that all concerned neighbors who notice dogs being left outside in inclement weather to call his office at the City of Pawtucket’s Animal Shelter.  We would rather be safe than sorry. . “Each and every call is taken very seriously and checked out,” he warns. After an investigation, if it is found that someone knowingly abused or neglected an animal, that person will be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions

Frigid weather is hazardous to your animal’s health. With winter’s temperatures now dipping into single digits, even below zero, make sure you keep your pet safe and warm in your home.  Be responsible.

To report a complaint about alleged animal cruelty: City of Pawtucket, contact John Holmes, Animal Control Supervisor, at 401 722-4243. Or write Animal Control Division, 121 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 0286. Web site: http://www.pawtucketanimalshelter.org.  Or call 401-722-4243.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer that covers medical, aging and health care issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Frigid Weather

Published January 11, 2013, Pawtucket Times

Regardless of the hot temperatures in summer, or the frigid weather in winter, dog owners take those daily walks outdoors with their beloved pets. At press time, New Englanders will see unprecedented warmth this winter with temperatures rising into the 40’s, but don’t get complacent – this year’s Farmer’s Almanac predicts that “Old Man Winter will return with a vengeance.” This annually published periodical, famous for its long-range weather predictions, wagers that the eastern half on the nation will see plenty of cold weather and snow before Spring approaches.

While those chilly air temperatures and blustery winds may make you shiver and bring on chills, it has the same effect on your pets, and in some cases, becomes deadly, cautions E.J. Finocchio, D.V.M, President of the East Providence-based Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA). This 141 year old nonprofit society that advocates for the welfare of all animals also promotes being responsible pet owners, as well as advocating pet overpopulation control.

Location, Location, Location

With Rhode Island being located in the nation’s “cold zone,” Dr. Finocchio says that the occurrence of hypothermia is not unusual, with the state’s below zero temperatures in winter. When the core temperature of the animal’s body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it, that is when hypothermia can set in. “Dogs that are especially prone to hypothermia are puppies under 6 months old, elderly dogs, short hair breeds, small sized dogs, dogs with health issues (arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) and pets that are obese or underweight,” he says.

“Symptoms of hypothermia in animals is similar to that found in humans, as well as in all warm blooded animals,” notes Dr. Finocchio.

According to Dr. Finocchio, mild cases in dogs might include shivering, whining and the animal begins to act lethargic or tired. For moderate cases, he adds, the animal loses its ability to shiver and loses coordination and appears to be clumsy. At this point the dog may lose consciousness. If it gets to this point, the dog’s life is in serious jeopardy. Finally, he notes that for severe cases, at this point the animal will have collapsed, it will have difficulty in breathing, its pupils will become dilated. The dog will become unresponsive. If hypothermia gets to this point it is critical that the animal be warmed quickly and taken to an emergency vet center.
A rectal thermometer will enable you to gauge the temperature of the animal’s internal organs to confirm hypothermia, notes Dr. Finocchio. A normal temperature falls between 101 degrees to 102 degrees. If the temperature falls between 96 – 99 degrees it is considered a mild case; moderate falls between 90-95 degrees F and a body temperature of under 90 degrees F, is a sure sign of severe hypothermia.

Going to Court for Animal Cruelty

Finocchio says that if a pet’s death is determined to be caused by hypothermia, through a necropsy (autopsy performed on an animal) and a history of exposure, the pet’s owner would be charged with a misdemeanor for animal cruelty. If the city’s prosecuting officer determines that the investigative report submitted constitutes a valid case, the compliant is filed with District Court. If the defendant pleads nolo or is found guilty by the court, the judge can order that the defendant not be allowed to live with any animal for up to five years if charged with a misdemeanor or up to 15 years for a felony conviction, says Finocchio.

Last year, John Holmes, Pawtucket’s Animal Control Officer, notes that his office responded to 44 calls to investigate alleged cases of animal cruelty, some resulting from a person leaving a pet outside in frigid weather. Although a few of the cases were unfounded, Holmes and his staff found in other instances that the pet owners needed to be educated about responsible pet ownership practices, along with state laws and city ordinances involving animals.

Holmes asks that all concerned neighbors who notice dogs being left outside in inclement weather to call his office at the City of Pawtucket’s Animal Shelter. “Each and every call is taken very seriously and checked out,” he warns. After an investigation, if it is found that someone knowingly abused or neglected an animal, that person will be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions

“We don’t in general see hypothermia in stray or feral cats,” notes Finocchio, stating that that these animals can usually seek out small places to stay warm, specifically under cars, sheds or porches or under the hoods of vehicles. .“They can usually get themselves out of harms way.”

Livestock animals with thick fur, including cows, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs, are able to withstand severe frigid temperatures, especially if they are healthy. “We often times get complaints from concerned people about livestock, especially horses standing in a pasture with an inch of snow on its back,” Finocchio says, noting that the caller fears that the animal is going to freeze to death. “But larger animals can handle the cold environment more than our small domestic pets.”

Just Use a Little Common Sense

Finocchio advises pet owners to just use common sense when it comes to protecting their pets from the cold weather. Don’t take elderly, young or sick pets, especially small short haired breeds outdoors unprotected in below zero weather. Just let them go out in the back yard for a few minutes if necessary.

If hypothermia does occur, Finocchio one of the state’s most visible animal advocates, recommends that the pet be brought inside. Do not submerge the pet in hot water. To warm up a pet, wrap the ailing animal in a thermal blanket [warm by placing in a dryer for a couple of minutes], use a heating pad, or wrap a towel with a hot bottle, around areas with less hair, specifically in the groin or belly areas, or arm pits, Consider placing the animal by a radiant heat appliance or roaring fire place. You can even take your pet and place in the footwall of the car and turn on the vehicle’s heater.

If the dog will drink, give it warm water.

However, if the animal’s internal temperature falls into the severe hypothermia range, go immediately to a veterinary emergency clinic where emergency treatment will be provided, he urges.
.
For dog owners who own large breed dogs (especially those with thick fur that can protect the animal from frigid weather), you can get permission from your veterinarian or animal control officer to keep the animal outside for over 10 hours and not violate state law.

So, why keep a small pet outside in extremely frigid temperatures that would result in hypothermia and lead to death? “It only takes common sense to protect your animal from hypothermia and keep it safe, nothing else,” say Finocchio.

If the weather is uncomfortable for you to be outside even when you are wearing layers of clothing, gloves and a hat, it becomes obvious that putting your pet outside as the temperature dips well into the teens, will be detrimental to the health and well-being of your pet.

For more information about hypothermia, contact the RISPCA call, Dr, E.J. Finocchio, D.V.M, at 401 438-8150. Or write 186 Amaral Street, East Providence, RI 02915. Web site: http://www.rispca.com.

To report a complaint about alleged animal cruelty:

City of Pawtucket, contact John Holmes, Animal Control Supervisor, at 401 722-4243. Or write Animal Control Division, 121 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 0286. Web site: http://www.pawtucketanimalshelter.org.

City of Woonsocket, contact Animal Control Officer Glen Thuot, at 401 766-6571. Or write: Woonsocket Animal Shelter, 242 Clinton Street, Woonsocket, RI 02895. Website: http://www.ci.woonsocket.ri.us/adopt.

The RISPCA and the two City’s Animal Shelter gratefully accept donations.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer that covers medical, aging and health care issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

When Death Cometh to Man’s Best Friend

Published November 23, 2012, Pawtucket Times

Like many of my fellow aging baby boomers who are childless or even empty nesters, I am a pet owner.  Over the years my pets have evolved into my pampered little “children” and have become my ‘faithful companions.’ However, when death comes to our little furry, four-legged friends, coping with their death can make even the most Spock-like “intellectual” person shed rivers of tears and become emotionally unraveled.

The End is Near

The early Sunday morning call from our Seekonk-based veterinary clinic delivered a message we were not prepared to hear.  We were told that “Murray’s temperature had soared to 105 degrees and his system was beginning to shut down,”    It was no longer regulating the insulin for our 13 year old, diabetic Chocolate Lab  – or trying to find a cure for the sudden onset of arthritis that reduced his movement to a very painful crawl.  The doctor recommended we come down to the office as soon as possible – to end Murray’s suffering.

Just two days earlier, concern with Murray’s declining health led us to take him to our long-time veterinarian for a Blood Glucose check.  Maybe our diabetic dog’s blood sugar was not under control.  We expected that his sugar was off, and adjusting the amount of insulin he received twice a day would be an easy fix to these sudden medical problems.  Or perhaps the new medicine prescribed to reduce his arthritic pain would finally kick in making it easier for him to walk again.  Our faithful frail pet, blind from cataracts, was well into his 90s, if you calculate his age in terms of human years.

Saying goodbye to those things in life that you love does not come easy.

Traveling to the vet’s office we drove in silence.  Tears flowed as we drove past each memorable landmark, while flashbacks of fond memories brought me back to the happier days over the last decade.  In my minds eye I watched a younger Murray chase a bouncing yellow tennis ball in my backyard or seeing him taken a belly-dive in the Slater Park pond when no one was looking –  chasing the resident swans or Canadian geese.  These always put a smile on my face.

For 13 years, Murray, our “little boy” gave us comfort – always by our side, and now the time had come to put him down.  On Sunday, June 5, 2011, in the sparse examining room we approached Murray, laying uncomfortably on top of a floor scale cushioned by an old blanket.  He was panting and his eyes fixed straight forward.  I noticed the portal injected in his back leg – ready to accept the lethal dose.    In a matter of seconds, when I gave the doctor the ‘ok’ – she would begin the medical procedure to put my pet out of his pain.  Patty and her son Ben, tearfully bent over, saying their goodbyes – stroking him, making sure he knew he was not alone.  Stroking his face I whispered one last “good boy.” With tears rolling down my cheeks it was time to end his suffering.  Calling for the lethal pink drug led to a quick injection of that deadly substance.  Within seconds our 13 year old Chocolate Lab lay motionless on the blanket.

Murray’s collar, plastic bowl, worn black leash, chewy toys and a few old photographs are the few tangible items reminding us of his existence as a member of our family, but the memories are plentiful.  While grieving his loss, those special times swiftly came back to me from over the years…his backseat rides in our car with his head hanging out the window; or saying the name “Sheba”, our neighbor’s female yellow Labrador, which brought him to the window to look across the street at her house; and how he warmly accepted the adoption of a rescue dog, Abby, into our household. We adopted the younger Chocolate lab from the Paul J. Wildenhain Memorial Animal Shelter.

A pet’s death, like my wife, Patty and I experienced recently, did have the same emotional impact as experiencing the loss of a parent, sibling or even a closest friend.  However, we seemed to cope with this loss quickly, but for many it often times takes months or even years to heal.  Some have even told me that they would never adopt or purchase another dog or cat because of the intense and emotional pain and trauma they experienced.

Murray was cremated and his ashes have been placed in a wooden box, which sit on the mantle of our fireplace in the living room.  Someday we plan to bury his ashes in his favorite stomping ground, our back yard.  When this occurs, sitting outside in the cool nights of summer, Patty and I will surely remember our beloved Chocolate Lab, Murray.

Grieving Over Your Loss

My family and pet owners world-wide know it’s painful to lose your pet, considered to be one of the family. It even took months for our grieving dog, Abby, to begin to eat her food.  Sometimes she still walks the house wondering where her companion is, sniffing out areas around the house that still has his scent.

Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed., author of Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, in her website states that intense grief over the loss of your pet is both “normal and natural.”  While some people may not understand your strong emotional bond to your pet and pain after the pet dies, “all that matters is how you feel,” Allen says.

According to Allen, grieving pet owners can also express their feelings and memories of their deceased pet in poems, stories and letters to the pet, Allen says. While feeling the loss, the person may feel guilt for not doing enough, denial of the death and anger at the veterinarian who failed to save the pet.  Grieving can also cause depression, too.  .

Allen recommends, “Don’t deny your pain and grief and acknowledge your feelings.”  She recommends that a grieving pet owner work through feeling with family and friends, their veterinarian or ask a local human association to recommend a pet loss counselor or support group. (For more information about pet loss, go to, Allen’s website, Pet Loss Support Page, at http://www.pet-loss.net).

As we grieve, life gets busy with the day to day activities of living, strangely healing our pain.   But we will always remember Murray, the best dog and companion we have had in our over five plus decades of living.

Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

When Death Comes, Coping with the Loss of Your Pet

        Published August 4, 2011, Pawtucket Times   

        It’s universally true. When that time comes to saying goodbye to a parent or even a loyal pet, tears flow and emotions unravel.   Many aging baby boomers, whether childless or empty nesters, have had pets who became their pampered “children” or a closest faithful companion.   

           A pet’s death, experienced by my Oak Hill neighbors, Vanessa Greenier and Larry Sullivan, a few years ago had the same emotional impact on them, like losing a parent, sibling or even their closest friend.  The grieving young couple found, like many do, that coping with this significant loss often takes a pet owner months or even years to heal.  

Intellectual Coping…Emotionally Painful

             Everybody in my neighborhood knew Winston and Isabella, the two large bulldogs who were regularly walked by Greenier and Sullivan twice a day aroundPawtucket’s Oak Hill plat.  “Hellos” were exchanged as the dog owners caught up with their neighbors while walking their “children” on their regular daily route. 

            One day,  neighbors quickly noticed that Winston came out for the daily walk, without Isabella – and something didn’t seem right. 

            Four years ago, Greenier and Sullivan had lost Isabella to liver cancer. Greenier, a Greenville-based internist, along with her partner Larry Sullivan, an Information Technologist, had provided tender loving care to their furry family Winston and Isabella for four years.   Now the couple grieved with the passing of Isabella.

            In 2007, neither Greenier, 41, nor Sullivan, 43, had ever owned a pet as a young adults or during even during their childhood years.  After five years of dating, they moved toMarbury Avenuein the City ofPawtucket, and two years later, Sullivan would push for getting a bulldog.  With Vanessa’s support, he began a search on the internet for the perfect bull dog.  He would later locate Winston, a young four month old male puppy, put up for adoption by a Georgia-based bull dog rescue group. Four months later the Oak Hill couple sought a companion for Winston, and Isabella, a newborn puppy, joined their home.

            At four years old, Isabella’s health suddenly took a turn for the worst.  “Isabella just stopped eating and in three weeks we had to put her to sleep,” said Greenier, noting that the bulldog had lost about half of her 53 pounds to liver cancer.

            Sullivan, who had cared for the ailing Isabella, took the death better than Greenier. Even though Greenier, a physician,  sees death close up on a regular basis, it was very difficult for her to see Isabella put to sleep.  “Experience allows you to intelligently cope with it, but emotionally you are still not equipped to deal with it,” she said.  .

            With Isabella’s quality of life deteriorating, Sullivan would make the decision to put their bull dog to sleep.  Greenier sat with the bull dog as the veterinarian euthanized Isabella.    Sobbing into her pet’s head, the grieving physician kept telling her bull dog that she was a “good girl,” as the pet was slowly stopped breathing. “I wanted to look her in the eyes while she was being put down so she would not alone,” she said.

             Greenier cried for a week after Isabella’s death.  “It was just a horrendous experience to go through,” she recollects. “Death and dying can have the same impact, whether it happens to your beloved pet or family member. “Love is love and it doesn’t matter if it is directed to a human being or a pet.”

            Weeks after Isabella’s untimely death, over a dozen cards had been sent to Sullivan and Greenier, even flowers from their veterinarian. The bull dogs ashes sit on a book shelf by those cards.  “People who have lost pets have given us kind words and support and really helped us get through,” Greenier added.

            Now Greenier is beginning to put the bad memories behind her and is on the mend.  Isabella’s crate is now put in the garage.  Winston is now taking the sole owner’s attention.  “The overwhelming sadness is gone, replaced by a calm remembrance,” she says.  The couple did not have to go for grief counseling but instead received support from their colleagues, family and neighbors who comforted them as they walked Winston, without Isabella.

 Death Came Suddenly and Swiftly

             The Sunday morning call from the vet delivered the news I was not prepared to hear.   “Murray’s temperature had soared to 105 degrees and his system was beginning to shut down”.  It was no longer regulating the insulin for our 13 year old diabetic Chocolate Lab  – or trying to find a remedy for his arthritis.  The doctor recommended we come down as soon as possible – forMurraywas suffering.  Just two days earlier, concern withMurray’s declining health led us to take him to our long-time veterinarian.  My wife, Patty, and I thought his sugar was just off a little bit and adjusting the amount of insulin he received twice a day would fix the urinary incontinence.  Or the pill prescribed to rid his body of arthritic pain would quickly kick in making it easier for him to walk again.  Our faithful pet, blind from cataracts, was well into his 90s, if you calculate his age in terms of human years.

          Saying goodbye to those things in life that are good does not come easy.   The tears flowed, the fond memories brought me back to the happier days – when watchingMurraychase a bouncing ball or taking an impromtu dive into theSlaterParkpond chasing the swans, put a smile on my face.  For 13 years he gave me comfort – always by my side,  and now the time had come for me to do the same for him. In the sparse examining room we approachedMurray, laying uncomfortably on top of a floor scale cushioned by an old blanket.  He was panting and his eyes fixed. .  In a matter of seconds, when I gave the vet the ‘ok’ –  he would be put out of his pain.    Patty and her son Ben, tearfully bent over, saying their goodbyes – stroking him, making sure he knew he was not alone.  With tears rolling down my cheeks it was time to end his suffering.  Calling for the lethal pink drug led to a quick lethal injection.  Within secondsMurraylay lifeless.

            On Sunday, June 5, 2011, Murray, our 13 year old Chocolate Lab, was put to sleep thru injection after the onset of sudden medical complications, resulting from his diabetes and old age.   His collar, food bowl, leash, chew toys and a few old photographs are tangible items of his existence in our family.  But memories come back to me from over the years…his backseat rides with his head hanging out the window; saying the name “Sheba”, our  neighbor’s female yellow Lab, brought him to the window to look across the street at her house; and how he warmly accepted our recent rescue dog, a younger Chocolate lab into our household.

            Murraywas cremated and shortly we will bury his ashes in his favorite stomping ground, our back yard.  Sitting outside in the cool nights of summer, Patty and I will surely remember our beloved Chocolate Lab, Murray.

            He’s the best dog and companion we have had in our five decades of living. 

Coping with Your Pet’s Death

            Greenier and Sullivan, my family, and pet owners world-wide know it’s painful to lose your pet, considered to be one of the family.  Even Abby, who walks the house wondering where her companion is, sniffing out areas around the house that still has his scent .

            Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed., author of Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, states that intense grief over the loss of your pet is both “normal and natural.”  While some people may not understand your strong emotional bond to your pet and pain after the pet dies, “all that matters is how you feel,” Allen says.

            According to Allen, grieving pet owners can also express their feelings and memories of their deceased pet in poems, stories and letters to the pet, Allen says. While feeling the loss, the person may feel guilt for not doing enough, denial of the death and anger at the veterinarian who failed to save the pet.  Grieving can also cause depression, too.  .

           Allen adds, “Don’t deny your pain and grief and acknowledge your feels.”  She recommends that a grieving pet owner work through feeling with family and friends, their veterinarian or ask a local human association to recommend a pet loss counsel or support group.

          For more information about pet loss, go to, the Pet Loss Support Page, at http://www.pet-loss.net/coping.shtml.

          Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.