Goodbye, Whiskers

By Kay Helbling


Planning for your pet’s death.


Whiskers was in our family for 16 ½ years. He was definitely old, but his death was unexpected since he was still in good health. Anyone who has lost a pet knows that no matter what the circumstances it’s always painful. What I wasn’t expecting is all the decisions that had to be made, immediately. Decisions I wasn’t mentally or emotionally ready to make.


When I carried him into the vet, I hoped we’d be talking about recovery, instead I was faced with questions. Do I want him returned in a box ready for burial, or do I want him cremated? Do I want his paw print set in clay as a keepsake? At that moment all I could think of was how I’d tell my sons they had lost the wonderful playmate they’d grown up raising. All answers had to be based on what would ease them through the transition. My head wasn’t able to easily sort past my own grief to make reasoned decisions. 


I learned that planning for your pet’s death and burial arrangements are better made long before they’re needed. While he is still purring and playing would be a better time for a casual talk. Would we want him buried in our back yard in a box resting on his favorite blanket or should we spread his ashes among the grass where he liked to (think he could) catch birds?


After your pet is gone, you’ll think about him at every turn. How can he be a part of your house for over a decade and not still see him reach at your legs to play as you walk up the stairs, hear him play with the door stop in the morning to let you know he wants to come in, and feel him curl up around your pillow when you go to sleep at night. How do you get past all these feelings? Here’s a few ideas that may help you fill that void and I’m sure you all may have others you can share with us.


When you are taking video film of your family, don’t forget to film your pet playing with your children or simply purring by your side. Keep a photo album dedicated to pictures of your pet. I’m so glad we did. We called ours “Whisker Pics”. It has been so wonderful to look through the many hats the boys had him wear over the years, how he used to sit like Old King Cole with his belly showing, and how my son carried him around the house like a boa around his neck.


Keep all the worn name tags he may wear over the years. These are great keepsakes to add to your key chain. So, in other words, don’t just make the necessary pre-funeral decisions, also prepare for having him as a part of your life after he’s gone.


Now, I’d like to add one last note to all our friends who so kindly sent us a card of sympathy. How wonderful they were to receive. Sharing your own words of experience, wisdom and empathy in dealing with our loss were so comforting. Having the knowledge he is probably playing in a big meadow where he is actually able to catch one of those birds has les us smile through the tears. We thank you.


Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner, and a teacher for ten.  But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys watching them as they played and loved their cat, Whiskers. 


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