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Without a doubt – the very worst part about having a pet – is having to say goodbye. Sometimes they’ll simply pass in their sleep but sometimes we can provide a final gift of asking our vet to put euthanase them to put them out of their pain.

It’s a tough call for all of us pet owners for sure – and one we’ve personally experienced 4 times – so far. We’ve currently got a very old dog and I’m starting to dread her inevitable passing.

And while all of this is extremely normal – most people don’t realise they can get help from a grief counsellor with extra training in helping pet parents deal with the loss of a ‘fur-child’. Like Karen Jaques from Paws4Reflection

 Includes full transcript if you prefer to read.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:

KAYE:
Thank you for joining us, Karen.

KAREN:
Thank you for having me (Our pleasure).

KAYE:
Do you ever get to see the results of the work you do with people? And is there one thing that really makes it all worthwhile?

KAREN:
What I do get a really big buzz out of is seeing people that come back months later and they've changed their whole life around. They've gone from almost being at that suicidal stage and getting back to how people deal with grief. I had an interesting case which was a woman who had lost their family dog and she had a new born baby and she couldn't pick up her child after the dog died and for a period of around about two months there was just a complete disconnect.

There was no emotion that she felt towards the child. She didn't want to get out of bed. She was suffering depression and I was a little bit concerned because I thought it might be postnatal but it purely was coming down to she started thinking, how would I be if I lost my child?

If this is how I feel after I've lost my family dog of 17 years then how would I be if I lost my child? And she was terrified of possibly losing her child and the impact that it would have on her. Once we actually identified that that was the essence of it. She just moved on and made a full recovery and really just ended up her happy self again and reconnected with her child. But for  or  months there it was very fragile.

KAYE:
I can really understand that. And also at the other end of life often perhaps I've heard stories where someone has been widowed and all they've got left is the late partner's pet and they're terrified that that pet might die and that would be the last connection.

KAREN:
Yes, the connection. And that happens a lot. And yeah, finally when that pet does pass, they are again grieving the grief that they had for their partner or whoever they have lost resurfaces again. And on top of that, they're then having a double whammy in they're having their grieving for two people.

KAYE:
Mmmm and our veterinarians of course who do look after perhaps our pets all their lives...I mean, one of my dogs was days away from her 18th birthday and we had to put her to sleep and the vets were just absolutely distraught because they loved her too.

KAREN:
Yes, Yes. Because they have a connection. And like you say, you know, and especially as your pet starts to get older, that association because of your increased visits to the vet, they're starting to build up more and more and more of a relationship. So when the pets are young and they go there once a year and they get their shots and they're all healthy and bouncy and they walk out. When they start to get into that being the elderly sort of pet range. And they’re more frequently being monitored for all of their little conditions.

Yeah, the vets do grow very, very attached to them. And even now, with home euthanasia and all that kind of thing, that's fine. It's very, very difficult in those situations. And like you, I had an 18 year old dog and Dr Anne Fawcett looked after her for pretty much most of her life. And yeah, when we say goodbye, it was devastating all round. And it was nice knowing that somebody felt my pain too.

KAYE:
That helped both of you presumably?


KAREN:
It does. But again, getting back to vets and how much they take on board... over in America they're now starting to look at ways to alleviate stress because of the suicide rate over in the states to its vets. And some practices are now only having a certain number of euthanasias per week, to try and alleviate the stress that it's causing and also especially on the younger staff. And again, like your receptionists and all those kind of people who are dealing with distraught people on their way out and having to ask them for money so that in itself is really hard to manage.

BRIAN:
What about pound workers who have to euthanize animals on a literally a daily basis? I mean, surely there must be some stress there?

KAREN:

Aww huge! Huge.

BRIAN:
So how do they deal with that huge stress?


KAREN:
I think that usually comes down to in a lot of cases. You see it quite often and it's substance abuse. So what will tend to happen is people will just drink a lot when they get home or they'll get into recreational drugs and all that kind of thing just to alleviate it. Eventually, it does take its toll and a lot of those workers either break down or they get out because they can't cope with it any longer.

KAYE:
My goodness. Well, we could spend hours talking to you and I hope you'll come back again and we'll talk some more. So thank you very, very much for being with us And thank you for caring enough to spend a little bit of time with us.

KAREN:
Thank you very much.

BRIAN:
I'm actually amazed at what a happy, bubbly person she is given the work she does Karen Jacques

KAYE:
Well, I think it's also because she gets monitored every year as well, being a professional grief counsellor.

BRIAN:
Yes she's a professional grief counsellor as you say... that's a good point. And don't forget the bottom line… If you need it seek help. Ask your vet, do you use a grief counsellor? If not, there are services available? I guess you just have to go online and Google it…  that will hopefully bring up your local community service outlet and ask them about grief counselling.

KAYE:
Yep… You don't have to suffer alone. Grieving is normal and you can get help.

 
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