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Saying Goodbye

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The Editor’s letter as published in the October Issue of Pet Age.

It was 2001, right after Sept. 11, and right before my birthday. I was a senior in college and got a call from my Dad.

“Zookie’s not doing good,” he said. “She can’t walk and keeps having accidents. I think we are going to have to put her to sleep, because there is nothing else we can do, and she is suffering.”

“Do you want me to come home,” I asked.

“No, you have too much to do with covering Sept. 11, running the newspaper, your sorority and classes,” he said.

I hung up my phone and sat emotionless on the bench outside my college’s student center.

While Zookie was my Mom’s dog, she was still the fluffy 16-pound ball of fur I grew up with since I was 5 years old.

She was there for many of my life’s milestones, everything from my first date, to my high school graduation.

She was a part of my family, who had been a daily part of my life for 16 years, and now it was time to say goodbye.

No matter what the animal, whether it is a snake who you had hand-raised from a baby, or your child’s goldfish, losing a pet is always difficult.

Back then when we lost Zookie, there were limited options when it came to a proper way to grieve. We couldn’t go to our local pet store and find a product we liked that would hold her ashes, and those who wanted to show their sympathy, had a hard time doing so.

Our local pet store was also at a bit of a loss as to what to say to me when I walked in to buy by something for my hamster a few days later, and asked if I needed dog food, too and I broke down in tears.

Fast forward to today, and this segment of the industry has many more ways to give your pet a proper goodbye, something that is especially important when it comes to children, who might be experiencing loss for the first time.

Deciding to write about this topic for our October issue was not an easy decision, but it was one that we thought needed to be addressed for a number of reasons.

First, people are talking about it, and it’s not just within the industry. The pet bereavement industry has their own conference, and has been covered by mainstream media outlets like CNN and Bloomberg News.

Walk around any pet industry trade, or consumer, show and there are various products from teddy bears you can put your pet’s ashes in, to eco-friendly urns that can be buried in the ground. For those who want to show their sympathy, there are special candles, cards and mementos that directly address this issue.

These are also items that you likely won’t find in a big box store, because many times, unless you’ve gone through losing a pet before, you don’t think about how these important products can help you, or someone you care about, though such a difficult time.

Pet owners, whether they have an iguana or a ferret, come to their local retail pet store for advice when they first bring their animal into their home, and throughout the duration of the pet’s life.

It’s important that these same people be there for them with sympathy, advice and products that can comfort them at the end of their pet’s life, too, because little things like that make a big different.

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