Pet loss inevitable, hard

Jan 272004
Authors: Jesse McLain

Rob McNeill’s family home does not seem the same since the

decision to euthanize his dog, Rusty.

McNeill, a CSU senior mechanical engineering major, said his mom

was hardest hit by the loss.

“My dad is always away on business, and when my sister and I

moved up here my mom was alone a lot of the time with my dog,” he


McNeill can’t really remember a time without Rusty.

“He has been around since I was in kindergarten or something

like that – he was 15,” McNeill said. “People have as many feelings

for their dogs as you would a regular family (member).”

With pets living relatively short lives compared to their human

companions, dealing with their deaths is an inevitable part of


Tammy Mimms also dealt recently with the loss of a pet when she

had to euthanize Lissy, her 6-year-old cat.

“She had a lot of problems. It was a better decision for her,

not only for me,” Mimms said. “She had a lot of problems and I

couldn’t afford to do all of the testing.”

Mimms, the communication coordinator of Argus Institute for

Families and Veterinary Medicine at CSU, thinks that many people

should think more seriously before deciding to become pet


“It’s something very important to consider when getting a pet,

there are a lot of long-term factors in owning a pet,” Mimms said.

“I think a lot of people just go out and adopt a kitty-cat and

don’t really think much more about it.”

The Argus Institute, a referral hospital of the CSU Veterinary

Teaching Hospital, has a mission to “prepare veterinary teams to

successfully meet the emotional needs of pet-owning families.”

Argus sees 1,000 to 1,500 clients a year, most being devoted pet

owners who have seen a vet through CSU, Mimms said.

“We take calls pretty much daily from across the country,” Mimms

said. “We’re one of the pioneers of this type of veterinary


Many pet owners who visit Argus are having difficulty dealing

with tough decisions concerning their pet or grief from the loss of

a pet.

“People grieve for pets exactly the same way that they grieve

for humans, and it can be harder because it’s not as accepted,”

Mimms said. “There is kind of a stigma surrounding people that get

too attached to their pets.”

Hard decisions may have to be made by pet owners considering


“There have been cases where people didn’t figure that

euthanasia was an option, I’m sure there are even some vets opposed

to it,” Mimms said. “We’re very lucky that we can choose to

euthanasize a pet. Lissy died very peacefully and very quiet.

Dr. Mickey Wiltz, a vet at the Big Thompson Animal Hospital, has

many variations of pet owners in his 18 -year history.

“If you do this job long enough you see every end of the

spectrum, really and truly it does run the gamut,” Wiltz said. “You

have some people that want everyday possible with their pet no

matter what and some who just want to remember the good times and

give up at the beginning of the process.”

Wiltz said the best thing to do is to balance the needs of the

pet and the owner.

“You’re an advocate for the client but also for the pet,” Wiltz

said. “It’s a hard thing to do but you really know you’re stopping

the pain and helping the animal.”

Still, seeing the owners’ grief doesn’t get easier over time for


“Dealing with the grief of the families can be overwhelming and

I’m not sure if you ever get used to that.” Wiltz said. “Although

it may not be on par with the loss of a human family member, it is

the loss of a family member.”

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