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Guilt is all consuming

by Karin Baltzell, Ph.d

 

I have a major dilemma that is weighing very heavy on my heart and I am looking for guidance and hopefully forgiveness.

First, please know, I would never do anything to intentionally harm an animal. I am an animal lover – through and through. So much so, that I say a pray for “road kill”. (Pardon that expression) I personally have one kitten and I find it difficult to say “no” to her. I feed and tend to two Chihuahuas, two goats, and two other cats at my house (none of which are mine) on a daily basis. Also, there are nine or ten cats at my place of business that I tend to as well. Additionally, I carry cat food (both dry and moist) in my vehicle, just in case I see a stray in a parking lot or along side the road. Since it is difficult to catch strays, I simply leave a pile of food for them to eat so, they will not go hungry, at least for one night.

The reason for my heavy heart is this: There is a stray cat that has made a home at my place and has been there for over two years. She has become part of the family. She had five kittens a few months ago. One passed away and I buried it near the house. A friend of mine and I were going to find good, loving homes for the remaining kittens once they were old enough. (Then get the mommy cat spayed.) Recently, as I was stopped at a red light, just a few miles from my house, a lady behind me came and told me that she saw three kittens fall from under my vehicle. I turned around and headed back the way I came. And, yes, unfortunately, I did see two of the precious kittens. They were already dead. I looked for the third and was unable to locate it. The last of the five, I fear was also a part of the tragedy; however, I saw no signs of it.

Please know, this was in no way, shape or form, intentional. The guilt is all consuming at this point. Please advise. Is there anyway God can forgive me and if so, how do I forgive myself?

 

Dear Softertears,

Thank you for writing to Beyond Indigo. It is wonderful to hear that there are such kind, compassionate people like you taking care of the stray and homeless animals. Please feel good about all that you do to help so many creatures.

We are so sorry for your shock and horror at discovering the kittens that their mother no doubt stashed up under your car somehow. There is absolutely NO way you could have known about that, or any way you could have prevented that. It is a miracle that if hasn’t happened more often, with all the pets you care for.

I could tell you many stories about this type of thing happening to pet owners, so don’t feel the least bit alone about this happening to you. In fact, a friend of mine ran over her own large dog that was sleeping behind the back tire of her truck. These things happen.

If you can still locate the mother cat, you can at least keep the mother from having more kittens by your generous intention to get her spayed. I would do it soon.

I’m more than sure God will give you some peace about this, as there is nothing to forgive as you did nothing wrong. Ask for inner guidance and continually affirm, “I am at peace, and all happens for a good reason.” You might not know, or see that reason now, but trust me, it is there! If the cats had been left to themselves in nature, they most likely would not have survived. Mother Nature has a way of making sure only the toughest, and the smartest, are allowed to survive and these methods often look cruel to we humans.

Hopefully, these last few days have helped you to begin to heal. Let us know how things are going for you. We care.

Karin


Karin is a staff writer and editor for Beyond Indigo. She holds her Ph.D in Psychology.


Getting Another Pet

by Karin Baltzell, Ph.d

 

Dear Karin,

I was just searching the web for grievance websites (my grandmother just passed away) when i found your column. My pet cat, Kitty actually was her name, died more than 2 years ago. I was away at the time, I had started a new job 1000 miles away and had left Kitty at home with my parents where she had lived all her life instead of taking her to an empty apartment with me. She passed away about 6 moths after I left apparently due to multiple organ failure. The thought of this still brings tears to my eyes.

This death still affects me today as much as it did the day I found out and I sometimes wonder if that’s normal. I’m also afraid to get another cat. Part of me feels that there’s no point because I will again get attached and it will most likely end in sadness for me. I did get a pet bird when I moved, and he’s great, but its just not the same as a cat. Do you think it would be healthy to get another cat? Do you think that I will change? I really do love cats and I loved my cat so much and treasured her companionship, I’m just afraid of another attachment. Any advice would be appreciated.

 

Dear Reader:

It would seem that you have a desire to get another cat after two years, or else you would not be asking the question. Even though you have pain over your kitty’s death after these long months, you will never forget her. She will always remain special. However, getting another animal might make your life feel more warm, loving, and secure. Yes, when your new kitty dies, you will feel loss and pain, however, it would seem you are feeling that right now, without a cat. Perhaps if you got a new kitten, it would give you many years of happiness and comfort, without the pain. When it is his or her time to die it will hurt, but it will also give you a feeling of having been better for having loved, and been loved, by another creature.

Once we experience a loss, we are quite sensitive to not wanting to feel that way ever again. However, it is my experience with many people that we cannot “save” ourselves from pain. We can only go bravely forth and enjoy all the good times. Then, when the bad times come, we have a little cushion to fall on, or, if you like, you have some emotional money in the bank to draw on because of the nice times. And, with that thought, you can change/will change, and you will probably surprise yourself!

Do let me know what you decide. Thanks for writing us at Beyond Indigo. And blessings on you now that you have lost both your cat and your grandmother.


Karin is a staff writer and editor for Beyond Indigo. She holds her Ph.D in Psychology.


Euthanasia Guilt and Your Pet

by Kitty Walker, LMSW-ACP

 

Dear Kitty,

How do we work through the guilt of putting down our 10-year-old rottie, even though she was fully aware and mentally sharp but arthritis had made her back legs useless?

A and T

 

Dear friends,

I am sorry that you had to go through this experience with your rottie. Making the euthanasia decision for a beloved pet has to be one of the most agonizing crossroads a human can confront in life. Obviously, you made the decision based on seeing her struggle with a poor quality of life, and now you are left with the pangs of guilt that are common to all who travel in your shoes.

In terms of “working through” the feeling of guilt, I would recommend that you first of all see them as an inevitable part of the grief process—especially for those who are forced into the decision regarding euthanasia. One works through the feelings by first of all allowing them, then talking about them and perhaps writing about them. When you feel bogged down by guilt feelings, it might be helpful to consider the memory of your healthy, mobile rottie and the loss of her quality of life when arthritis took away the use of her legs. You could not give her back her legs, which I am sure you would have done if you could, but you could ease her pain and suffering in a way that she could not do for herself.

My heart goes out to the two of you at this time. May your healing be deep, and may you find comfort in both your memories and the knowledge that you did the best you could when confronted with the most painful dilemma a pet owner has to face.

Kitty


Ask Kitty is a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss issues which humans encounter when their pets die. She has worked in this area for a number of years, providing counseling to people at this special time of need. She also provides consultation and education to employees of veterinary clinics in her area.


Dog’s Recent Death

by Karin Baltzell, Ph.d

 

Dear Karin,

I am having a hard time coping with my recent dogs death. It started back in Feb. when he started becoming sick we didn’t know why. Well soon they took an X-ray of his stomach to find out ” they thought he had a tumor and wanted to know when they open him up if it wasn’t removable do we want to wake him up” I was so upset well I said yes wake him up. The next day they found out he had a piece of carpeting from I don’t know where stuck in his stomach. They removed it and he came home a week later. He was back to his old self playing with the Frisbee and his football, he acting like he was 2 not 8.

A couple of weeks later I noticed he wouldn’t put his head down to pick up the ball or to drink the water. I took him to the vet and many tests over many weeks were done. Because he was also losing function in his back end. They did everything from Lyme tests to X-rays. Damen then stopped eating. We took him to an internal medicine vet our vet had referred. They thought he was ulcerating in his intestine from the anti-inflamatory’s he was taking. They did an ultrasound in his abdomen and it appeared normal. The next day he had taken out his iv and spiked a fever again after they just got it down from 105. They did another ultrasound of his abdomen and saw something in the corner by his esophagus. They X-ray that and saw his esophagus was the largest they had every seen. They called the disease megaesophagus. Which they thought came from a disease that attacked the limbs making them weak. They had said there really wasn’t anything they could do because it was so bad.

He had aspiration anemonia too and had probably lost 20lbs. My husband and I came up to see him one last time with our other 2 dogs he was definitely uncomfortable. We decided to stay with him when they put him down. I thought it would make him less nervous. The doctor was trying to get him to lay down but I think it was uncomfortable the way he was pushing on him to lay so I think that made him nervous then the next thing I knew he was gone. That quickly I am having a hard time adjusting since just last month he was running around with so much energy. I am doubting my decision to put him down and having a hard time coping with what he probably was thinking we were doing to him. Please help me.

 

Dear Reader: So sorry to hear about your dog’s death. What a difficult time for you!

Dogs are very intuitive, and although Damen may have seemed like he was thinking unkind, or worried things when you put him to sleep, most likely he was trying to tell you that he would be fine, once this procedure was over. I’m sure he knew that you and your husband loved him very much!

From what you told me, it would seem that you had absolutely NO choice in the matter, and putting Damen down was the very best thing for him. I know it appears harsh from our human perspective, but giving your dog a chance to be healthy and pain free is a wonderful thing. Death is not the end for an animal, and it seems often as if they are able to move right out of their physical body and keep on playing and being happy! It is just us poor humans that don’t see that and of course, it makes us sad.

Perhaps in time, you will find some peace in your absolutely correct decision. I hope so. Meanwhile, collect happy memories, and perhaps get a picture of Damen and frame it, and put it someplace where you can see it, and allow it (and Damen) to make you feel more settled about what had to be done. Think as many happy thoughts about him as you can, and I’m sure he will feel how much you still care!

Do let us know how you are getting along.

Karin


Karin is a staff writer and editor for Beyond Indigo. She holds her Ph.D in Psychology.


Connecting With Mr. T. C. After Death

by Kelly Baltzell, M.A.

 

Dear Karin,

I had my Mr. T. C.(kitty cat) for 17 1/2 years; he was 20 1/2 when he died. I found him at the age of 3 wondering looking for a home and most of all love.

My question is how can I connect with him after death? I have purchased a locket and plan to put some of his ashes in the locket, will that help to connect with him or should I use some of his hair in the locket.

As you have guessed, he was my best friend.

Please. advise me.

 

Dear Reader:

How wonderful that you want to be in touch with your Mr. T.C. Of course, it is always so sad and difficult to loose some darling pet, and we are sorry for your loss. I really think the locket is a lovely idea, and should help you feel “connected” to your kitty in a nice way.

I don’t think it would matter which remembrance that you put in the locket, hair or ashes. My feeling is that you should let your intuition guide you, and put in what you feel is best…or maybe a combination of the two. The important thing is the loving link you have with Mr. T.C. Sometimes the most powerful way to link with a pet is to go sit in that special spot that your cat loved, and close your eyes, and think of him, and all the happy times, or only one happy time, you had together. See yourself being with him, doing what he loved to do with you best, and allow all the happy thoughts, the loving thoughts, surround and fill you.

Best of memories, and do keep in touch and let us know how you are doing, and what worked best for you. Perhaps your discoveries will help others some time along the way.

Karin


Kelly Baltzell is the founder of Beyond Indigo. She has her masters in Counseling and Psychology.


Winter

WINTER – MY CAT, MY FRIEND , MY BABY

by Lisa Johnston

I adopted Winter on June 17, 1999. He was a beautiful white Maine Coon with bright blue eyes and a little gray patch on his head. He was no older than three months when he came to live with us. He was a gift to my kitten, Whiskey, who was the same age. He was so scared when I brought him into the house, but Whiskey happily greeted him. Winter would not come out of the corner for three days. Then he finally realized that Whiskey, my husband and I were his new family.

Winter was such a beautiful cat. He was always skinny but really tall. He could jump higher than anyone. He had a tail that went on forever. Whiskey and Winter were the best of friends, and never left each other’s side. Winter followed Whiskey everywhere. He was this big cat with a squeaky voice. We quickly learned that the only way to get him to eat was to yell “Food Food” because the lady who bred him did that. So his many nicknames began, starting with “Mr. Foo-Foodie” and “Bow-Boney”.

After Winter, we adopted 4 more cats which he accepted – he was like their father figure. He was always so sweet. He had this thing that he loved to eat string. He use to shake when you gave him cheese and sour cream. He loved to go into the bathroom and be petted. He loved to sleep under the covers between me and my husband. Sometimes at night him and his little brother Weston would curl up together on the bed and sleep all night in each others arms. It’s hard to think of him as gone.

Winter died at the age of 3 years and 7 months on December 14th, 2002. He had an illness called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. It affects the left ventricle in the heart and causes blood clots. It’s hard to diagnose, since there are not many symptoms. We never knew he was sick. He didn’t act sick. One night he had a cough, but we thought it was only a hairball. He was running around with his brothers and then he jumped on the window sill, then collapsed in mid-jump. His eyes filled with fright and he landed on the rug. His leg twitched and that was it; within 20-30 seconds, he was gone.

I freaked. We were all just watching TV and, bam, he was gone. It was too much to handle. He lay on the floor until my husband got a blanket. As he lay there, I saw his best friend in the whole world, Whiskey, give him a last kiss on the head like he was saying goodbye. I lost it.

We brought him outside, where the clear sky was full of stars. It was beautiful. Then I saw a shooting star. I believe that was Winter’s spirit going to Heaven.

A memory came to me when I looked at Whiskey: Once, Winter, Whiskey,and Weston went outside. Winter came back after a few minutes, but we couldn’t find the other two. I put Winter on the leash and brought back outside. He meowed and left his scent everywhere so Whiskey and Weston could find their way home.

And now we light a candle for Winter every night so he can find his way home.

Whiskey is okay. He looks for his lost friend everywhere, and he wants to be with us all the time. It breaks my heart to see him hurt, but I know it will get better with time. Someday we will all be together again and that will be my heaven. We love you Winter, always!!!


Lisa Johnston posted her story on the Grieving.com Message Boards.


The Day I Lost a Good Friend

by Skozak665

It’s hard for me to even type at this moment. Where do I begin? Up until two days ago I had a pet bunny. His name was Bamajama, he was the sweetest, kindest, most loving animal in the world.

I got up Monday morning, late as usual for work. I walked in the computer room where Bam was said my usual, “Hey buddy morning.” I noticed he was in his litter box shaking and that there was diarrhea in his cage so I hurried and cleaned it. Then I called and told my fiancee’ about it and asked him to keep an eye on Bam when he came home for lunch.

When I got home the first thing I did is run up the stairs to check up on him. He wasn’t his usual hopping around self so I knew something was wrong. I called the vet but she was gone for the day and so they advised me to take him to the emergency vet. By this time it was 7 p.m.

I drove to the emergency vet, but discovered they didn’t open till 8 p.m. so I went back home. I drove back to the vet at 8:40 p.m., sat in the emergency area. Around 9:43 I was still waiting in the waiting room for Bammy to be seen. He took a big gasp of air & I panicked — my fiancee’ yelled & they told us to go to the next room. Then they told us he had no heart beat and he was dead.

I haven’t stopped crying since that day. I am heart broken. I feel guilty that I should have brought him to the vet early morning he would have been alive. I feel that he depended on me to be his voice and I let him down; he died because I didn’t speak out at the emergency room. I feel so sad and horrible for Bamajama that I let him down when I was supposed to be his voice!


This is a story about my bunny — I am devastated.


Love for Lizzie

by Lynne

My cat Lizzie was a truly unique cat. She acted like a dog, in that she ran to you if you called, she followed you or strangers down the sidewalk, visited the neighbors, she followed commands, and jumped from the ground into my arms. She was very vocal, and responded in meows when I spoke to her, so much that people commented that it sounded as if we were having a conversation. She was a very important part of my life.

Lizzie was an indoor/outdoor cat, and I thought she didn’t go into the street. I had her for 8 years until the day that an ex-boyfriend curiously showed up at my work, with a strange look on his face. He said he had bad news for me, and held out his hand. I couldn’t fathom what in the world he was doing with her collar, as he knew she needed to be wearing it. He described finding her on the road, hit by a car. He had taken her to a vet, but she was dead.

My head began to spin, my heart began to pound, and I felt the most indescribable pain and sadness that I can still remember to this day, if I allow myself to go there. (This was 8 years ago.)

He didn’t seem to understand why I would want to get her body from the vet. Of course I want to bury her, I told him. I was unable go retrieve her, to hold her lifeless body when just that morning she was the epitome of life.

I asked my sweet Dad to get her for me. Unfortunately, the ex-boyfriend who admittedly was upset by the situation had not given any thought to the probability that I would want to bury her, and didn’t give the vet my name or contact information. Without that info, the vet called the city to dispose of the body.

My father spent 2 hours trying to locate her for me, with- out any luck. Talk about added pain to an already agonizing day. The bright spot of the day was when a co-worker came to my house with flowers, and a card signed by almost all of my co-workers, and a granite marker with Lizzie’s name on it. I may not have been able to bury her, but I was able to honor her in a beautiful garden setting at my mother’s house. I will never stop missing her.


I am a pharmaceutical rep and I live in North Carolina, USA.


Love of my life

by Freddysmom

Yesterday morning, just 24 hours ago, I had to put my beloved puppy, Freddy to sleep. I can not begin to describe the pain I am feeling. I have lost every single family member except for my sister and none of those losses can compare with how I am feeling now.

Freddy was diagnosed with stomach cancer in November 2004. She was operated on and had half of her stomach removed. She came through the surgery fabulously. We then put her through 4 chemo treatments though they were experimental. She was a trouper through it all! A month after the last treatment, she had an ultrasound and things looked great. They told us to bring her back in 6 weeks for another ultrasound.

She was doing quite well for a month but then she vomited. We were alarmed that the cancer had returned but also thought it might have just been a coincidence. Two days later she threw up again.

We called Ohio State University where all the work had been done. They suggested bringing her in for another ultrasound. This time they saw a thickening in the area where the tumor had been. No other treatment was advised. We thought perhaps we would have her for months or more.

Within a week, she was throwing up more. Yesterday morning she followed me everywhere and was making her noise that she made when she wanted something. she became more persistent. I thought I would take her to the park but she kept making the noise in the car. She had never done this before. I brought her back home and realized she was in pain. She couldn’t get comfortable.

I called the vet and she came right over. We put Freddy to sleep and my heart is shattered. I never thought I could feel so empty. She and I had a soul connection. We were inseparable. I want her back. My heart has a hole as big as the universe and my house no longer feels like a home. The loss of her energy is everywhere.


I am 52 years old and just lost my most beloved companion of 10 1/2 years.


When an Animal Loved One Dies

by Katie Boland

In the summer of 1997, my entire pet family left for heaven. The first to go was nine year old Rosie, the Brittany I had rescued some five years earlier. She had eaten raw sewage when the pipes had backed up and burst, and she was so ill, I had to put her down. I had faced mountainous vet bills her entire life for thyroid, incontinence, allergy and digestive problems. I felt guilty that I had not bonded with her like I had with the others. She was hard to love because she ate poop in the backyard and I couldn’t kiss her. She gagged constantly. (Wouldn’t you?)

Two days later, my dear 18 year old Siamese, Sasha, had a stroke and his kidneys failed. He was deaf and senile, having spent a good deal of his final year sitting on a (formerly) white chair, shrieking and screeching at the living room wall while vomiting intermittently. He would have died on his own within days, but I saw no reason to prolong his life and made another trip to the vet. As shaken and sad as I was, I consoled myself with the fact he’d had a wonderful, long journey and had not suffered at all. He looked like a kitten in repose.

Less than three months later, it was time to help my cherished and adored Weimaraner, Alex, leave this earth. For two years, his back end had been deteriorating. I had always said that when he was incontinent, that would be it for me. But when he was, I wasn’t ready. Sometimes Alex could still stagger outside to relieve himself, but his legs would collapse and he would fall in his poop and I’d have to clean him up. One day after returning from the vet, I placed him gently on the driveway while I locked up the car. I turned to catch him rolling down the hill, looking frightened and helpless. I knew it was time to let this mighty dog, who had been so proud in life, go on. And yet, I wasn’t ready to let him go. And he would need my help to leave.

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS

I had my own live, call-in talk radio show here in LA at the time, and I did several shows looking for answers on letting go. Not everyone agreed it was time. When I told of Alex’s plight, one listener suggested wheeling him around in a wagon. That smacked of selfishness. Would he want to be dragged around like that? This once regal, powerful, incredibly fast dog? My instincts told me no. I kept wishing he’d die on his own. I hated having to decide. Looking back, I am most glad that I was with him; that he died in my daughter’s and my arms; that our faces were the last ones he saw. Animals sometimes need our help to leave.

My radio callers had told me to celebrate his impending passing, so we had a farewell party. Our friends all came to bid him Godspeed and we fed him filet mignon. The next day, one of my girlfriends arrived with a Whopper for his last meal. He gobbled it gratefully as I spooned with him on my bed. We took pictures and prayed and sang to him. We lit candles and played my daughter’s birth music (my friend calls it “soul-traveling” music) and waited for the vet. Alex started to tremble. The vet was mercifully swift. Alex simply laid his head down in my lap and was gone. I stayed by his side until the people from the crematorium came for his body. Then I broke out the vodka and peanut M&M’s.

Alex’s ashes are still on my nightstand. I made an altar with candles on the spot where he used to sleep, with his obedience trophies and photos, and the collars from all three animals. It was comforting to think of them all together. But the house was deathly silent.

The pain was sharp and raw. I swore I could hear his tags jingling. I could hear all their tags. I saw wisps of Alex turning a corner. I felt his presence constantly and longed to touch him one last time. We had taken lots of pictures that we framed and placed all over the house. We had made a video. We had even kept some fur when he was shedding that last summer. I used to put my face in that fur, hoping for one last whiff, before all scent of him faded away. I felt gypped because he had lasted only eleven years. He had been the hardest dog to raise: stubborn and willful and really hyper. But he was my Boo Boo. I felt afraid without my watchdog. As a single mom, I had never feared with him around. His menacing looks belied his sweet heart.

People said, “It’s only a dog.” Well, I lost my youngest brother, Robert, to muscular dystrophy and Alex’s loss felt the same. There was no difference. My daughter didn’t feel the loss like I did. After awhile, when I would cry, she would become exasperated with me. I had to find other “pet” people, who understood, with whom I could wail. I just needed to talk about my dog. Now my daughter and I reminisce, which I can do mostly without tears, and we regale each other with stories.

Animals teach us many lessons. Their deaths gave me some perspective on the fretting we all do about our shapes. I have realized that the body is only a shell, a container for the soul. If you’ve ever seen a dead body of any kind, you know it is empty without spirit. Losing an animal makes you spiritual in a hurry. That shift is a great example of pain causing growth. That’s why pain is a gift. Our animals continue to give to us even as they cease to live. I also felt that watching me care for the elderly animals, and seeing me make adjustments in our lives as they aged, enriched my daughter immeasurably.

I was so bereft after Alex’s death that my therapist gave me a tape called Animal Death, A Spiritual Journey by Penelope Smith, an Animal Specialist. She communicates with animals telepathically, both living and dead, and counsels owners to assist them toward a more ideal relationship with their animals. She also performs grief counseling for those whose animals have left the earth. Now, for some of you, this may seem a bit out there, but if you are wallowing in sorrow and desperate for relief, you may find you are open to things you never before considered.

I wept away my grief to the sound of Smith’s soothing voice. Although I was overwhelmed at times, I knew I wasn’t stuck; I was moving, however slowly, through the worst of it.


Katie Boland, Director and Founder, is the author of the popular I Got Pregnant. You Can Too! How Healing Yourself Physically, Mentally and Spiritually Leads to Fertility. Boland was diagnosed with lupus during her 3-year battle with infertility, a battle she ultimately won. She is the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, Mimi. While researching her book, she discovered the Infertility Program at Harvard and vowed to bring it to the West Coast. The Mind/Body Institute was born in the Fall of 1999 in Los Angeles.  http://www.mindbodyinfertility.com/