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LIVING WITH: Saying Goodbye by Tania Holmes

ENDING A LIFE

A sad reality is that all life eventually comes to an end. Our pets are blessed in that we can prevent the suffering of a terminally ill dog that is not afforded to ourselves. We all hope that our dogs will die peacefully in their sleep and as shocking as it is to find your dog has died in the night one morning it's most certainly the nicest way for the dog to go. However, there are many situations when you have to call time and people often ask how they will know if it's the right time. Put simply you'll just know but don't allow any dog to suffer just because you can't bear to say goodbye.

Having to call time your bulldog's life is the most difficult thing you will ever have to do, but should you find yourself in a situation where it is necessary it will most likely be the kindest thing you could have ever done for him.  Don't not do it because it hurts you, they won't thank you for it in the long run.

The average lifespan of a bulldog is 8-13 years and it’s not unusual for them to suddenly grow old in a very short space of time. It's something that bulldog owners are not necessarily prepared for and it can come as a shock when your spritely bulldog suddenly stiffens up and isn't quite so active. It's a sad fact that the breed as a whole can suffer "sudden death". Again it's a nice way for the dog to go but its one hell of a shock for the owner who in some cases can take years to come to terms with what happened.

One of the hardest things that will ever happen to you is losing your bulldog; they have such a human personality and take so much looking after that it's only normal that you should feel the need to grieve your loss as you would any human member of your family. So many feel it's wrong to mourn a dog and certainly something that has been said to me; "It's just a dog" is not only insensitive but one of the most wicked things anyone can say to you. Allow yourself to mourn and take as long as you need, some want another dog straight away, others need to wait a long time before they feel ready to have another, but certainly one thing that happens to almost all of us is that no matter how much heartache your bulldog gave you, no matter how much he cost you and no matter how much his manners embarrassed you; you will almost definitely get another bulldog. One of the good things about having a dog with a human like personality is that they are all different, although they have specific bulldog traits such as the irrational fear of hoovers, bin liners and carrier bags; they also have very different personalities from each other so it's almost impossible to replace one bulldog with another.

Old age affects bulldogs the same as it affects any other mammal, arthritis, deafness, blindness, strokes, cancer and in some cases dementia can affect them all at some point and seeing your dog through his old age brings with it some real responsibility to get the timing right. Trust your instinct and listen to your dog.

HELPING YOU TO COPE

Every one copes in different ways, it's very easy to dwell on that last day and forget that there was an entire life time ahead of that last awful moment. For some talking about their dog really helps, but others finding talking too upsetting. You have to deal with it in the way that suits you. Children find it particularly difficult to come to terms with, especially if they have never encountered a death before. There is a poem – ‘Rainbow Bridge’ that may help them to make some sense of it and I've found in the past that asking the child to paint a picture of their bulldog waiting at Rainbow Bridge gives them the opportunity to put it into some kind of perspective. It also gives you a focal point to talk to your child about what happened. No matter what your religion (if any) the thought of your dog waiting for you to join them is very comforting.

One of the saddest losses is on a dog that you've maybe not had for very long. It happens from time to time with rescue dogs, especially the older ones, I actually have a theory on dogs that leave their families soon after they have joined them. Read through the poem Rainbow Bridge - if it helps, I believe that these dogs don't leave until they've found the person they want to wait for. Sometimes these dogs have had awful pasts, or owners that were not particularly kind to them. Once they find you they realise they've found the one they want to wait for. It may not feel like it now, but take it as an honour.

Other dogs

Other dogs in your family will also miss a companion and it’s not unusual for them to pine or search for the one that has died. It often helps to change the routine, as dogs learn by association it often helps to change the old order so they become used to a different routine. Something that we’ve always done is to allow the other dogs to see the body of the one that has died, and if you plan to bury your dog in the garden (ensure there are no bylaws preventing you from doing this) allow them to attend the funeral, it just helps them understand so it doesn’t appear like the dog that has died has simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Thankfully the memory rarely lasts long and only after a few days or weeks the other dogs will appear to have moved on – don’t be offended if they do – it’s instinctive to them.

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