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When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Preparing for the Transition of Your Beloved Pet

Foreword by Victoria Nicholls
Published by Findhorn Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
LIST PRICE £6.99

Practical guidance and compassionate support for pet owners before, during, and after the death of a beloved companion animal

• Explores how best to prepare for the death of your pet, including recognizing changes in your animal’s well-being, palliative care at home, taking care of your pet’s remains, ceremonies, and more

• Offers practical exercises and activities, such as what to discuss with the vet when euthanasia is anticipated, how to retain a center of inner calm when making decisions, and how to find the courage to say goodbye when the time comes

• Addresses the emotional components of the bereavement process--fears beforehand, guilt and anger afterward--and offers advice on self-care throughout

Our pets are members of our families. The death or separation from a beloved animal friend--whether anticipated or unexpected--can unleash a roller coaster of emotions. In this compassionate guide based on 20 years' experience helping individuals and teaching veterinary professionals, Angela Garner offers practical support and guidance to help you prepare for your pet’s death ahead of time, do your best by your animal friend when the time comes, and work through your grieving process afterward.

The author explores how best to prepare for the death of your beloved pet, including recognizing changes in your pet’s well-being, palliative care at home, taking care of your pet’s remains, ceremonies, and more. She discusses natural death and euthanasia and offers exercises and activities to help you work through difficult issues, such as what to discuss with the vet and how to stay focused on your pet’s welfare when euthanasia is anticipated. Sharing her own experiences and those of others, she explores practices to help you cope with fears and overwhelming emotions, retain a center of inner calm when making crucial decisions, and find the courage to say goodbye when it is time.

Angela Garner also addresses the different emotional components of the bereavement process--fears beforehand and guilt and anger afterward--and includes a compassionate discussion about children and pet loss as well as how to support a grieving companion animal in the family. Offering step-by-step support throughout, this guide brings hope and reassurance that, while grief may feel insurmountable, you will come out the other side to once again reengage with life.

From the Introduction

As I finished writing this book I found myself suddenly immersed in some of the issues it covers. My elderly dog became seriously ill--lethargy and refusing to eat were the first flashing red warning signs that all was not well and so the vet visits began. Initially, clinical examination could only hone the problem down to his lungs, and although he was put on antibiotics and pain relief I did not know if the medication was really helping him.

Everything in me was screaming to understand--was my dog suffering and could anything be done to help him? I found myself see-sawing between despair and hope with an increasing anxiety about wanting to do what was best for this beautiful little dog who had graced our lives for 13 years. When he was kept at the vet practice to have intravenous fluids the house felt hauntingly empty, and each night as I lay in bed listening to his breathing, I wondered if it was our last one together. I began to feel the stability of my life as I knew it, in which our little dog was central, falling apart. I dreaded having to say Goodbye but desperately wanted to avoid him suffering if his death was inevitable in the near future. It was a roller-coaster of emotions that I simply had to ride out--and it hurt. To stop my mind racing from one potential outcome to another, I knew we needed to find out more about his condition and prognosis so that we had more facts with which to work. This meant asking our vet some pertinent questions.

This personal experience reminded me how important the subject of this book is for guardians trying to find their way through such a confusing, emotional, and stressful time. I was aware and grateful that I had my husband and friends with whom to talk things through, but I know from supporting guardians over the years that some people have to go through this on their own.

This book was written so that no one has to feel totally alone on this journey. It offers understanding, compassion, and practical guidance, including activities about how to talk to your vet in the section on “Preparing for Pet Loss”.

From Chapter 2: Talking to Your Vet about Possible End-of-Life

This is an area that is difficult to consider but immensely important. A good starting place is to talk openly and honestly with the vet staff about end-of-life issues. This will allow you to ask about the things that worry you so that you can be best informed about your pet’s condition, what to expect, and what you can do to keep them comfortable during the time they have left.

Remember that the vet team have your pet’s best interests at heart, and want to do what they can to prevent your animal suffering. They also want to make sure that when the time comes for you to say goodbye, it is an easy and kind death. But they are also there for you, the guardian, to offer guidance as you find your way through this distressing time. This first activity is to help you to prepare for the crucial initial discussion with your vet so that you can find out everything you need to know before deciding whether euthanasia is the kindest option for your beloved companion animal.

Give yourself some time to think about and jot down what you need to ask your vet.

Activity: Consulting your vet

Here are some possible questions that you can use or you may prefer to write your own. Leave a space next to each question so you can jot down what the vet says in response.

What I need to ask about my pet’s prognosis

--Can you do anything to help my pet to comfortably live longer, such as surgery or medical treatment?

--What would my pet go through, e.g., how would they feel during the treatment?

--How long do you think the treatment would give them?

--Without any treatment, how long do you think my pet will live before they need to be put to sleep?

--What would you do if this were your pet?

Once you know that your pet is nearing the end of their time, free-floating worries and fears can surface because you don’t know what to expect as their condition gets worse. This next activity is to help you to work out what is on your mind and what you now need to ask the vet team.

Activity: Finding out what to expect as time progresses

Make a list of all the things that you feel you need to find out. Even though it is painful to articulate your thoughts in this way, write everything down so that it’s in black and white out in the open, ready to discuss with your vet. Don’t feel under pressure to list everything at once, as what you need to know may change as time progresses.

A few example questions are given to help to get you started, but ignore any that don’t apply and add your own. Make sure you leave a space next to each question to jot down what the vet says.

What I need to ask

--What should I expect as time progresses?

--What changes may I see in how my pet behaves as they get weaker?

--How will I know if my pet is in pain?

--What can I do about it?

--Are there any side effects from their medication?

--What will help to keep my pet more comfortable? (E.g., softer bedding, greater warmth/shelter, special diet, less handling, a quieter environment, etc.)

To recap, this exercise is to work out what you need to ask your vet and to keep a note of what is said, so you can refer to it later. Some of it will probably change over time.

Angela Garner, animal bereavement specialist and former nurse, founded a national support service in the UK to help people through the grieving process, developing a wide range of pet bereavement support resources. Awarded a fellowship by the Society of Bereavement Practitioners for her work, she lives in Devon, UK.

  • Publisher: Findhorn Press (February 16, 2021)
  • Length: 160 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781644111222

“Most pet owners know how painful it is to lose a much-loved animal companion, and I am pleased that all those who suffer this unique loss can now benefit from the compassion and support that runs throughout When It’s Time to Say Goodbye: Preparing for the Transition of Your Beloved Pet by Angela Garner. Every aspect of loss is touched on, all with Angela’s special blend of understanding, practicality, and empathy. I recommend it for all pet owners to help them through the inevitable sad loss of their beloved pet.”

– Melinda Hill, founder and project manager of Environmental Animal Sanctuary and Education (EASE)

“I am impressed by Angela’s approach to this delicate subject. She has a solid grasp of the many different aspects to be considered and discussed with owners who need support when losing their companion.”

– Dr. Shannon Gaffaney, BVetMed, member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS)

“In her beautiful book, When It’s Time to Say Goodbye: Preparing for the Transition of Your Beloved Pet, Angela Garner gives a very comprehensive and thorough guide to pet loss. She gently and caringly holds the reader’s hand through all the difficult aspects while offering simple and practical advice. Angela’s holistic approach focuses on the well-being of both people and their pets prior to bereavement, and she offers a unique understanding of how grief affects us and how to cope with the distress it brings. She validates pet loss and treats it with the same significance as the loss of a human loved one. I will definitely recommend this book to any of my clients who face the loss of their pet.”

– Deirdre Chitwood, Tellington TTouch practitioner for companion animals, Level 2 (Guild certified)

“Humans are meant to outlive their pets, but what do we do when the death of our companion looms? Angela Garner’s advice on how to support ourselves, our children, and other family pets through the grieving process is wise and compassionate.”

– Jesse Sternberg, mindfulness teacher, master dog trainer, and founder of the Peaceful Alpha Project

“A conversation about our pets passing on is uncomfortable for most of us. It is one we tend to avoid even the thought of until the time might be upon us. When It’s Time to Say Goodbye empowers and guides people at a very emotional time, before and after an animal has passed. Saving the guardian unnecessary toil and emotional trauma, the information and activities in this book prepare and steer you step by step with sensitivity. Long overdue, this guide will be an immense help and support for many at a difficult time. A MUST read for every pet owner.”

– Diane Budd,, animal communicator, healer, and author of Energy Medicine for Animals: The Bioenergeti

"An absolutely essential read for anyone with an animal companion, When It's Time to Say Goodbye: Preparing for the Transition of Your Beloved Pet is especially and unreservedly recommended for all community library Pets/Wildlife collections."

– Midwest Book Review