Pet Loss Library


Who gets custody of the pets?

by Kitty Walker, LMSW-ACP

Dear Kitty,

My boyfriend and I have two Pugs; Angus & Ryker. We adopted them jointly 2 years ago. Recently, my boyfriend and I have not been getting along. I know we won't be staying together much longer. I know there is a good chance that I will never see my Angus or Ryker again. I just don't know how to deal with this, how to say goodbye to my babies, how to go on each day without pouring their food or taking them for walks. How do I leave them? Honestly, I know they will be loved, and in good caring hands. But, how do I accept that those hands won't be mine?

Shari

Dear Shari,

I am very sorry that things are not working out in your relationship, and I hate that it means you will have to say goodbye to the dogs you own jointly.

I guess that first I want to ask if it really has to be that way. I have known couples in a similar circumstance who made allowances for both to continue to see the animals, despite one having "primary custody." Visitation, on a periodic basis, can be a very meaningful endeavor for both human and animal.

If, for whatever reason, that is not possible, you will definitely be in for a grieving process. I am glad that you know that they will be "in good caring hands," as that could otherwise be a source of great anxiety and pain.

I recommend that you have a special time set aside just to say good-bye to them. Perhaps it can be the last thing you do before leaving the household. Engage both of them in some kind of routine activity that you have enjoyed together, such as a walk around the block or a game of Fetch. If you have a habit of being vocal with them, you can tell each of them what they have meant to you, and how sad you are to have to leave them.

After you have done the physical leaving, try to set up some time to talk to someone who understands your bond to them. Take every opportunity to express your feelings of loss, verbally and in writing. The stages of grieving: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance don't occur in the same order or same intensity with everyone, but the acceptance stage is usually after all the others. In other words, it could take a while to reach.

Be gentle with yourself and allow your grieving to unfold.

My Best,

Kitty


Ask Kitty is a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss issues which humans encounter when their pets die. She has worked in this area for a number of years, providing counseling to people at this special time of need. She also provides consultation and education to employees of veterinary clinics in her area.

I feel very lucky to have a place where our animals are cared for professionally and compassionately and one where I know they will be treated as individual patients and not just another number. Doctors Velasco and Runnfeldt are some of the best veterinarians in our area and I am very proud that we are able to utilize their services for our companion animal pet rescue.

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We have been bringing our pets to All Animal Clinic for over 25 years. The degree of knowledge and professionalism displayed by the doctors is unsurpassed, and the entire staff’s positive attitude, compassion, and understanding give us total confidence. We always leave with peace of mind, knowing our pets have received the best care possible.

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Since the early 90s we’ve been coming to All Animal Clinic and just have to say, they are wonderful. Our dogs Zeus & Thor are happy, healthy, and appreciate the kind and caring atmosphere of the clinic. We’ve lived all over the country with our dogs nowhere has come close to keeping our animal family as happy and as healthy as All Animal Clinic.

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My dogs have been clients of All Animal Clinic for 15 years. I have found the doctors and staff to be excellent in all areas of care. Their ability to diagnose and treat every situation I have taken them in for has been amazing. They are all professional, caring, and efficient. I recommend this clinic and their doctors without hesitation.

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15 years ago we moved from California with seven dogs, and knew right away we’d have to find an excellent vet to care for our "children". Deciding on All Animal Clinic was the best choice we could have made. The facility is spotless and filled with the most modern equipment. The staff is professional and knowledgeable, caring and considerate. Most of all, the doctors are truly excellent.

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