A cartoonist drew a touching tribute to his dying dog.

His readers gave him an outpouring of sympathy.

Stephan Pastis’s tribute to his dog, Edee.

By Michael Cavna

Stephan Pastis ducked into an Arizona coffeehouse last September and began to grieve. He sketched and cried as he wrote the words, “We put our dog to sleep on Wednesday.” The plot twist was, about 800 miles away, Pastis’s dog was still alive, though her time drew near.

Edee, a loving and gentle springer spaniel, was the only dog Pastis had ever had. Now here he was, a cartoonist who uses drawing as a coping technique, on a personal trip far from his Northern California home, unable to comfort Edee and say goodbye to her one last time before she was put down.

The resulting art was not the sort of sentiment that readers usually expect from Pastis, a former lawyer. As the creator of the popular comic “Pearls Before Swine,” he entertains millions of fans by often trafficking in darker and snarkier human emotions, as channeled through a gallery of animal characters, including the self-serving Rat and the wide-eyed innocent Pig.

Although some comic-strip creators draw upon events from their personal lives for inspiration, most cartoonists don’t share their experiences directly through their work, free of fictive elements or filtering techniques. But on that emotional day in Phoenix — where Pastis was visiting his father, who has Alzheimer’s disease — the cartoonist decided to get as directly personal as an artist can get. “I’ve always run to my creativity to cope with life,” Pastis says.

The main characters in “Pearls Before Swine,” by Stephan Pastis.

So he wrote that Edee had cancer. He wrote that she was so sweet that “even kids that were afraid of dogs would pet her.” He wrote that she would “protect” him from squirrels and a stuffed mallard duck while he worked in his Santa Rosa studio. And he wrote of the “hurt” in the hearts of his family, including his wife, their 21-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter.

The punchline-free purity of that comic strip, published in December, struck a chord. Hundreds of readers contacted Pastis. And this week, his syndicate, Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel, announced that the Edee strip was its most buzzed-about comic of 2018, with nearly 500 comments and almost 1,200 “likes.”

That speaks, his syndicate says, to the power of going personal.

“It connects the readers to the comic at a whole different level,” says John Glynn, president and editorial director of Andrews McMeel Syndication. “It can, however, be jarring if the audience isn’t used to it.

“Stephan has done it well and regularly enough over the years,” Glynn continues, “that his readers know that they see a version of the cartoonist that you don’t see in most comics.”

A recurring character in “Pearls Before Swine” is an avatar of Pastis, comedically depicted as a beer-bellied, stubble-faced, overambitious and pun-happy hack whose work is insulted by the very characters he has created. But on occasion, Pastis the avatar will share an honest, true-life slice of himself.

When those genuine ideas come, Pastis says, he typically tries to draw them, even if he ultimately doesn’t publish them — because he doesn’t want to gum up the creative flow.

“When I sit down to write,” he says, “what’s there is there. When something tragic has happened” — from the death of a relative, say, to the enormity of a terrorist act — “the ideas seem to have a narrow spigot, and what’s there is something you have to get out — you have to write it.”

Last September, though, Pastis was feeling especially emotional. He had just come from being on set for a Disney film adaptation of his kids’ book series, “Timmy Failure.” Now here he was in Phoenix, where his father did not recognize him, and then his wife called to say that Edee would need to be put to sleep within hours to minimize the pet’s suffering — much sooner than they had expected.

“I was all by myself out there,” he says.

Edee, the family pet of “Pearls Before Swine” creator Stephan Pastis.

The cartoonist walked to the Lux Central cafe, pulled his ball cap down low and got lost in his art, listening to such mournful music as “To Build a Home” by the Cinematic Orchestra. He was trying to communicate through pictures both his love for his pet — he never had a dog as a boy and had come to fear dogs after once being bitten — and the degree to which Edee had become a part of the family over six years.

Edee was due to be put down at 11 a.m. Pastis finished drawing and headed to the Phoenix Art Museum — where he gazed at Frida Kahlo’s 1938 painting, “The Suicide of Dorothy Hale” — before calling his wife to hear how Edee’s final moments went.

Pastis had touched many readers in 2003, when he created a heart-wrenching comic after watching a news report about a bus attack in Jerusalem that killed six children. And the cartoonist got especially personal in 2012 when a poignant “Pearls” strip eulogized his father-in-law.

For Edee, Pastis let that creative spigot again flow.

“Sometimes when you write from the heart, in a moment like that, it has a way of distilling the essence of what is in you in a very straight, direct way,” Pastis says. “What comes out is sometimes pretty meaningful.”

When the strip ran Dec. 9, the immediate response was strong and uncommonly large, the cartoonist says. Many of the readers who contacted him had recently lost their pets.

Wrote one commenter on the syndicate’s GoComics.com site: “Your comic is really hard to read. I can tell because my eyes are starting to sweat.” Some readers offered thanks and condolences and spoke of a pet’s afterlife across “the Rainbow Bridge.” Another commenter said: “Sometimes the best comics are the sad ones.”

A comic strip like that, Pastis says, “provides a sort of release of emotion — it becomes this thing they can connect to.”

And comics have the ability, he continues, “to comment on your life in a way that helps you and the people around you.”

Complete Article HERE!

4 Amazing End-of-Life Celebrations for Beloved Pets

By: Joel Boyce

John Grogan, the author of “Marley and Me,” perfectly sums up the unique love that humans have for their animal companions:

Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.
It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.

And he’s far from the only person to lament the short time we have with a beloved pet. After all, we’re together in sickness and health.

So what do you do when your animal friend inevitably faces the end of their life? Here are a few anecdotes that demonstrate just how important pets can be to their human families.

1. Mayor takes cross-country road trip with 10-year-old dog

As the mayor of a town in Massachusetts, Paul Heroux hadn’t taken a vacation in over three years. But that changed when his beloved Mura was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer and given only a few months to live.

Heroux dropped everything and embarked on a cross-country road trip that was all about making his dog happy. Mura has even been picking their destinations, apparently pulling him south toward California once they hit the Pacific Coast.

I definitely agree that when going out for a walk or a ride, your dog should be at least as involved in making decisions as you are.

2. Photographer spends 100 days remembering her beloved cat

Preston Gannaway, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, processed her grief for her recently departed best friend, Isis, the only way she knew how: by poring through 17 years worth of photographs to share on Instagram for 100 days.

Sometimes pets are lost suddenly, and we don’t have much time to give a proper goodbye. In Gannaway’s case, she needed months after Isis’s death to finish saying her final farewell. The result is a testament not to a cat’s final days but to her entire life with her human companion.

3. Foster Family Has Goodbye Party for Dying Dog

It doesn’t happen as often, but sometimes it is the animal that loses their human first — and this was the case with Peanut. Fortunately, after her owner died, a rescue shelter and a foster family worked together to ensure that her final days were good ones. They even gave her a big goodbye party – an incredibly kind gesture to celebrate a dog that they had known only a short time but had fallen in love with nevertheless.

I’m sure the owner that predeceased her would have appreciated this loving gesture.

4. Veteran and His Dog Have a Perfect Day

In an excerpt from the book, “Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die,” author Jon Katz tells the story of Harry, a former soldier, and his canine best friend Duke. Suffering from a weakening heart, the dog was expected to pass away soon. To celebrate his life, Harry spent an entire day with Duke, visiting all of their favorite places — and even prepared a special dinner of sirloin steak for the animal.

Many little moments in this story make it special, but there are two important takeaways for me. First, Harry didn’t plan this perfect day just before an appointment for euthanasia. He didn’t let the day be soured by the thought that it would be his last day with his dog, because it wasn’t.

Second, this day was not about a huge grand gesture like a big party or a trip, but it was still special. It was all about revisiting and enjoying familiar sights, with a focus on making Duke happy — which, in turn, made Harry happy.

Complete Article HERE!

Heartbreaking Photo Series Documents the Raw Final Moments Owners Spend With Their Dying Pets

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Any pet owner will tell you that losing them is as great a pain as losing any member of the family. It’s in these moments we’re at our most vulnerable. One brave photographer has taken on the task of capturing such fragile moments in a series that documents owners struggling to cope in the last moments of their animal’s life.

Ross Taylor’s powerful new series is one that’s sure to bring a tear to the eye of any pet owner. His inspiration came after being “profoundly moved” by witnessing a friend struggle with the deteriorating health of her pet and her subsequent decision of euthanasia. The collection of images, he says, explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond, specifically “the last moments before and after the passing of a pet at home with their owner.”

Leigh Zahn fights back tears as she lays with her dog, Spencer, in her lap a final time, just moments after Spencer passed.
“She’s always been my companion. Coco was there for me when he was on deployment,” said Rebecca Cassity, as she fights back tears. Her husband, Drew, was in the military. Dr. McVety reassures her with a hug and consoling words: “This is better treatment than any one of us would get.”

The images were taken in Tampa Bay, Florida throughout 2017-18 and involved working closely with the families involved. The pet owners seen in the images were aided by veterinarians from Lap of Love, a pet euthanasia service that allows for a peaceful passing at home. Founded by Dani McVety, the organization has been working with Caring Pathways, all of whom Taylor expresses utmost gratitude for. “It couldn’t be done without their willingness to participate and belief in the project… They have my respect,” Taylor said.

In one of the most intense moments I’ve ever witnessed, Wendy Lehr cuddled beside her dog, Mimosa, shortly after she passed. The muffled sounds of her cries filled the empty room as she nuzzled against her face. She cried out: “Oh my baby, oh my baby. What am going to do without you?”
“It’s tough saying goodbye,” said Carrie Peterson after she dropped sunflowers over the grave of her dog, Asia. The smell of freshly turned earth is what I remember and how peaceful Asia looked within it.

While difficult, the at-home euthanasia process can be one that mitigates some of the painful reality of the end of life. It’s worth noting that the vets I’ve worked with are some of the most compassionate people I’ve met and always offer the families a chance to have a respectful moment afterwards with their beloved pet. It’s in stillness of these moments that I sometimes felt the most emotional for everyone involved.

Bob Zahn touches his dog, Spencer, just moments after the dog passed. His wife, Leigh, left the room immediately, as it was too much for her to take. “She’s going to take it harder maybe than the loss of her parents. Your parents can tell you when something’s wrong, but your dog can’t.”
Vanessa Gangadyal consoles her son, Ian, 8, while her husband, Michael Gangadyal, pets their dog, Ally, shortly after its passing.
“When I was sick, she knew something was wrong,” said Bob Lutz about their dog, Heidi, who looked up at them moments before she was euthanized due to recent substantial declines in health. His wife, Cindy, added: “she helped take away our pain.” At right, watching, is their other dog, Winnie.

If you were as moved as we were by this powerful series, you can see more of Taylor’s work (some of which saw him nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) at his website and Instagram.

Complete Article HERE!

When the family pet dies, children deserve the chance to grieve

If you think telling your child Fido, Fluffy or Feathers has “gone to live on a farm” is a good strategy when the family pet dies, think again.

Involving your children in your pet’s death helps them grieve.

By Kellie Scott

You’re likely missing an opportunity to help them grieve and learn about death, no matter their age, according to the experts.

But what you tell them and how involved they should be is dependent on developmental stage and personality.

Being prepared is an essential part of helping your child through the pet grieving process.

We spoke to a child psychologist, vet and mum-of-two who experienced the loss of a family pet for advice.

Why lying about a pet’s death won’t help

“Pet death is a very big opportunity to learn how to talk about death and how to cope with future death, like extended family, for example,” says Elizabeth Seeley-Wait, clinical psychologist and principal of a children’s psychology clinic.

Children who ask the most questions are usually worriers.

Dr Seeley-Wait says the modelling a parent shows around processing and coping with the death will go “a long way for their children”.

“Everyone is different in their coping style, but what parents at least want is to be honest about what is going on, and as open as they can be in the process of feeling sad and going through those emotions over time.”

After all, she says, children will often catch you in a lie.

“And if not, they will figure it out later and feel pretty uncomfortable with that.”

What to do when your pet dies

Whether your pet dies naturally, in an accident or is euthanased, kids will have questions.

How you answer those questions will depend on their developmental stage and personality, says Dr Seeley-Wait.

“The younger the child, the more simple terms you should use, and you probably want to be more general,” she says.

When children reach the pre-teen and teenage years, naturally they are going to want more information, warns Dr Seeley-Wait.

“Parents should use their best instincts on that, because they will have a sense of whether their child can handle details.”

She says the children that ask a lot of questions tend to be worriers.

“Kids ask a lot of questions, but they also ask questions they can’t handle the answers to.”

What should be consistent through all the ages, she says, is children being involved in some way to grieve properly.

When Kasey Drayton decided to put down her 16-year-old dog Max, her daughter and son, aged nine and 11 at the time, knew it was coming.

“He had been sick for some time, so we were hoping he would pass away naturally, but that didn’t happen,” she says.

“We explained he was possibly in pain, and it was the kindest thing to do.

“There was a bit of resistance in that they didn’t want to lose him, but once they understood it was better for him, they were fine.”

How to decide if your child should attend the pet’s euthanasia

The younger they are, the less they need to see, recommends Dr Seeley-Wait.

“To be honest, there would be some teenagers who don’t really need to see that.”

Sydney vet Sandra Nguyen says in her observations, including children in the euthanasia can help them process the death.

Being prepared is an essential part of helping your child through the pet grieving process.

“I feel it’s hard for a kid to understand that their pet has gone to the hospital and won’t come back,” she says.

“I’m relatively comfortable for kids to be there if we are putting the pet down — not all vets are the same.”

Kasey included her children in Max’s passing, something she says was a beautiful experience.

“On the day, we explained the vet will come here and it will be quite quick,” she says.

“We all took turns in holding him and saying goodbye. Tears were flowing.

When children are present for a euthanasia, Dr Nguyen keeps her language around the process as simple as possible.

She explains the euthanasia process as an injection that is an overdose of anaesthetic.

“I do tend to use pretty frank language, but I soften my voice,” she says.

“A friend of mine who is a childcare worker said not to say ‘put to sleep’ as kids can then associate sleep with dying.”

Dr Nguyen also prepares parents for how children might react.

“I’ve seen kids absolutely sobbing … but as they are leaving the pet hospital they will turn to Mum and Dad and ask for a new puppy,” she says.

“The parent can get quite upset that the child doesn’t seem to be mourning the loss.”

But ultimately, Dr Nguyen says having your child attend a euthanasia is a case-by-case situation.

“Some parents don’t want their kids’ last memories to be of the pet dying, and that is the same with adults — some people decide not to be there for the euthanasia themselves.”

How to deal with the aftermath of a pet dying

No-one grieves the same way, explains Dr Seeley.

In Kasey’s experience, her two children dealt with Max’s death differently.

“My daughter put a little shrine up in the bedroom and kept his collar and his old dog toy,” she says.

“She still refers to him and keeps his spirit alive, and that was her way of grieving.

“My son grieved quite differently. They both felt it acutely, but very different.”

Rituals like burying the pet or planting a tree are worth making time for, Dr Seeley-Wait says.

“Do something that commemorates the life of the pet,” she says.

Max has a headstone in the backyard of Kasey’s property.

“Those moments are pretty special and memorable. And at least really model to the child that you should take a moment out of your busy lives to commemorate the passing of someone important.

“Talk, remember their pet, share stories, and let them feel a part of the process of the ritual of letting a loved one go.”

In Kasey’s home, Max lives on.

His body was cremated, and his ashes are in an urn in the backyard with a plaque.

“We still very much talk about him. That sort of helps.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Pet Cemetery

Filmmaker Sam Green was just about to fly out of Columbus, Ohio when his friend offered to make a quick detour. “She asked if I wanted to see a little pet cemetery that’s across the street from the airport,” Green told The Atlantic. Armed with his camera, Green captured the tombstones of a menagerie of dearly departed animals, some dating back to the early twentieth century. His short film, Julius Caesar was Buried in a Pet Cemetery, featuring an original score from Yo La Tengo, showcases the pets’ final resting place—and the human love they once inspired.

Green said that he finds graveyards for pets especially moving because the headstones tend to be much more emotive than those found in human cemeteries. “You can say, ‘Buster was the best parakeet who ever lived,’” said Green. “With human graves, everything is so much more constrained. People love their animals in such an intense way and are able to express that love in a much freer way than they can about people they’ve lost.”

“You have gone and left such emptiness that time can never fill,” reads a grave for a dog named Jiggs Boy, who died in 1933.

Help for Pets of Dying Owners Brings Peace of Mind

For many ailing people, their pet is their life, experts say

By Kim Painter

Roland Carter, 78, of Stafford, Va., has advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, suffers from dementia and spends most of his time in bed. Missy, one of his four dogs, usually is there with him.

“Missy stays on his bed all the time — she protects him,” says Carter’s wife, Barbara, 72. So when she recently told Roland that she was not sure she could keep caring for the dogs, along with him, he was distraught.

“He said, ‘Please don’t get rid of my dogs,’“ Barbara Carter recalls.

Thanks to a program called Pet Peace of Mind, the Carters still have their dogs. The growing program, now offered through 120 hospice and palliative care organizations in 40 states, helps about 3,000 sick pet owners and their animals each year, says founder and president Dianne McGill. Other groups offer similar services, though they may be more limited.

Helping Care for Pets Who Are Family Members

In some cases, volunteers feed and walk the pets or take them to veterinarian and grooming visits. Sometimes the program pays for pet food and other essentials for dogs, cats, horses and even snakes. Many participating organizations will, when needed, place pets with new families, often after owners die.

A serious illness can make pet care difficult. Owners may no longer be able to walk dogs or clean litter boxes.

McGill, of Salem, Ore., says she realized the need for such services nearly a decade ago. She was working for another animal welfare group and heard from a woman who wanted to help a dying friend. The friend was desperate to keep her beloved cats and ensure their care after her death.

“Her son was going to put the cats down because he didn’t want to take care of them,” McGill recalls. “The woman I spoke with couldn’t take them because she had terrible allergies.”

McGill started calling hospices and learned that they often saw similar situations and typically had no way to help.

Pet Peace of Mind started soon afterwards, as a pilot program in Oklahoma. In 2015, McGill launched it as a freestanding charity, offering assistance to palliative care and hospice organizations nationwide.

Promoting ‘The Human/Animal Bond’

“There’s a lot of research out there about the value of the human/animal bond,” McGill says. For example, studies show pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of depression and loneliness, according to the nonprofit Human Animal Bond Research Institute.

Hospice and palliative care workers see the power of pets all the time.

“We have patients where all they have is their dog or their cat,” says Terri Roberts, director of volunteer services at Columbus Hospice of Georgia & Alabama, based in Columbus, Ga. “That’s their family. That’s the reason they get up every morning.”

But a serious illness can make pet care difficult. Owners may no longer be able to walk dogs or clean litter boxes; exhausted caregivers may not have the energy for such tasks. Money can be a problem, too. Some people are so determined to take good care of their pets that they may skimp on their own needs, Roberts says.

“We have patients getting Meals on Wheels who are giving most of their food to their animals,” she says.

Variety of Services

Roberts’ organization offers Pet Peace of Mind services to clients cared for in their homes and in a 25-bed in-patient facility. Solutions vary, person to person and pet to pet, she says. In one recent case, a woman had to go to a nursing home that would not allow pets. A volunteer adopted her dog and took her to see the woman every week until she passed away.

For the Carters, the most urgent need was veterinary care for their three boxers, Missy, Max and Buck, and their Pomeranian, Molly. Because Roland needs almost constant care, Barbara had been unable to get out of the house long enough to take the dogs for rabies shots and other care.

Capital Caring, a hospice participating in Pet Peace of Mind, sent veterinarian Stacy Horner-Dunn to the Carter home to get the job done. Horner-Dunn also took Molly to her office for a much-needed nail-trimming. In addition, the program has provided dog food.

“It really has given me peace of mind,” Barbara Carter says. “I know they are well-fed, they’ve had their shots and they are healthy.”

And they are still there for Roland, she says: “Sometimes when he gets confused about where he is and he sees the dogs coming to him, he’ll say, ‘We’re home,’ and I’ll say, ‘Yes, we’re home.’‘’

Keeping Animals Healthy

It is fitting that pet care has become part of the mission of so many hospice and palliative care organizations, Horner-Dunn says.

But animals need to be kept healthy for their owners’ sake. “When pets are sick, it’s not a good idea to have them around people who are sick, too,” she says. Pets who are up to date on their vaccines and dental care and free of parasites as well as other ills are safer, happier companions, she says.

Pet Peace of Mind lists all participating care organizations on its website. It also provides a state-by-state list of animal rescue groups, veterinary colleges and other organizations that might be able to help people who do not have access to the program.

Complete Article HERE!