What to do When Your Pet Dies Unexpectedly

A good friend is hard to find, but each animal finds a special place in our heart. While the beginning chapters of Lady’s remain a mystery, we wanted to give her a well-deserved rest in peace. Lady wandered the streets until strangers picked her up as a stray and brought her to the local shelter where she lived long-term until my family adopted her in the Spring of 2017. That is where the final chapter of her tale begins…

what to do when your pet dies unexpectedly

Lady: The Final Chapter

We weren’t in a rush to bring another creature into our pack, but on Mother’s Day, Charlotte (my six-year-old daughter) and I took a trip to the local animal shelter. We previously discussed the possibility of adopting another dog when the ‘right one’ came along. We’d visited local shelters like Wayside Waiffs and Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, but hadn’t found the right fit for our family- until that day.

Lady hobbled inside from a walk with a volunteer when we met her- at that moment we knew she was special. There was a sweetness about her. A kindness in her eyes that instantly drew our hearts in. We knew we may only have a couple years together due to her age, but the instant connection made our hesitation disappear. Lady deserved a loving home and we were going to give it to her. After a few more visits and a meet-and-greet with Winnie, our 11-year old dog, we welcomed Lady into our wolf pack.

what to do when your pet dies unexpectedly

Given Lady’s condition (she had trouble walking & bad arthritis), we knew the transition into a new household would take time. But hope is a seemingly magical thing which made Lady’s transition much smoother than we anticipated.

What to do when your pet dies unexpectedly

The day we adopted Lady, she had limited movement. Even navigating stairs seemed like an impossible task. Each day I carried her up and down our stairs so she could relieve herself and enjoy time in our backyard with Winnie. I came to terms with the fact that Lady was going to need extra care– but she surprised me.

Within a couple of weeks, the dog that could barely walk was running (literally running) around the backyard and climbing the stairs on her own. I truly believe that Lady needed the hope, love, and encouragement that only a loving family can bring. Lady found her forever home and we found a piece of our hearts that we didn’t know was missing – and summertime was wonderful.

what to do when your pet dies unexpectedly

Summertime brought freedom for our dogs to explore outdoors and relax on the lawn. Together, they spent a few hours a day taking in the fresh air. When I opened the door to call them in, both would come running as fast as they could to greet us. Lady wasn’t just a cared for member of our pack, she became my friend.

I found myself looking forward to my favorite parts of the day, when Winnie and Lady would run towards the house. I never envisioned the possibility of Lady being active when we’d first met, but little did the dogs know that I cherished those joyful moments just as much as they did.

what to do when your pet dies unexpectedly

Over the span of a few months, Lady became an important part of our pack- part of our family. Fast forward to the night of October 21st, 2017.

As it started raining, I rushed to the backdoor to call the dogs in – expecting to see them both run in, excited to come inside. That didn’t happen. Lady got up to come towards me, but collapsed suddenly on the lawn. I ran down the yard and helped Lady get back to her feet. As we tried to get up the stairs, Lady collapsed again and that’s when it hit me – Lady was going to die.

I honestly can’t tell you how I knew, but I could sense it. I knew what to do. My job was to make sure that Lady, my friend, was comfortable and loved in her final moments. The progression happened so quickly, there wasn’t time to think much about keeping her comfortable. By the time we got inside, her back legs had stopped working all together and her body was shutting down.

I brought her inside my bedroom and we said our goodbyes. As I petted  and soothed her, Lady kept trying to inch closer to me – all she wanted was love. I finally moved her on top of me as I laid with my back on the floor. Nothing prepares you for having someone that you love die in your arms. It’s one of the most difficult things I have experienced but it was exactly as it was supposed to be.

Lady passed away in the comfort of my arms, surrounded by the love she experienced in her final months on Earth. I am grateful we were a part of her journey, no matter how difficult it was to lose her. I don’t know how her story started or what adventures her early chapters brought, but I know her final chapter was beautiful, and I’ll never forget her presence in our lives.

The aftermath of losing Lady was challenging because it’s something that I have never been through before. However, the experience is something I want to share with your family if you find yourself in a similar situation.

What to do When Your Pet Dies Unexpectedly

After Lady passed away, I knew we needed to have a plan of action in place. Given the fact that it was late at night and on a weekend, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the situation. When your pet dies unexpectedly, like ours did, here are some helpful steps:

-Evaluate the situation. Try to feel your dog’s heartbeat asses if they have passed. CPR on animals can revive them in instances where you are unsure.

-Call for help. This is not a situation you want to handle on your own. Call a friend or family member if you are alone- we all need support.

-Be Quick. It’s not fun to think about, but Rigor Mortius sets in 10 minutes to 3 hours after death. Taking the necessary steps as soon as possible is important.

-Wrap your pet up in a blanket, towel, or some type of cloth.

-If you have plastic bags to wrap around the bottom half of your pet, do it. They will sometimes release some of their bodily fluids after passing away.

-Place your pet in a box or container to transport them.

-Know your options. We utilized Pet Cremation Services, out of Martin City, who were wonderful to work with. We called early Sunday morning and brought Lady to their facility Sunday afternoon. Pet Cremation Services reviewed several options for our family and handled our delicate situation with special care. From group cremation, where they spread the ashes in their memorial garden, to options where you can keep your pet’s ashes after their gone, Pet Cremation will help your family find the right option for you. Your family can find details online or call 816-941-2009. Pet Cremation Services handled it amazingly- so gentle and kind. I cannot begin to tell you how comforting their support was in the aftermath of Lady’s passing.

My biggest piece of advice is to understand WHAT to do if this ever happens to you. It’s hard enough losing a beloved pet unexpectedly. Knowing the next steps will make it easier for you in moment. Knowing what I know now, would I decide to welcome Lady into our family again?! Absolutely.

Lady’s presence in our lives wasn’t just a gift to her, it was a gift to our family as well. She was a gentle, sweet, and kind soul that we are lucky to have known. Not only was she our family pet, but Lady was also our friend. We miss her every day. When you have the chance to love others, both people and pets, do it. You’ll never regret spreading kindness and love.

From my family to yours,

Holli