What to do in case of pet grief – Part 2

Well, here we are, three months later…the worst thing a blogger can do is leave an unreasonable amount of time between posts, so if you are still with me, I am truly grateful and honored.

The original Angel of Grief in Rome.

The original Angel of Grief in Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can get up to speed by reading my last post, “What to do in case of pet grief – Part 1.”

As suggested by one of dear Rumpydog’s followers, I located a grief counselor, named Crystal Bailey. She was not a pet grief counselor but a counselor re the death of humans and was connected to Bailey’s Funeral and Cremation Care in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Actually, she had been recommended to me by one of the provincial health therapists.

I was really nervous at our first Skype meeting — there sat a rather pretty, rather youngish (to me, anyhow) woman, with a gentle voice, who looked just as ill-at-ease as I felt. That’s when I started relaxing. So she wasn’t some tiger who was going to pounce on me and preach at me. I didn’t think she was going to judge me either.

Crystal Bailey, Grief Therapist and Celebrant (Photo credit via Bailey's Funeral )

Crystal Bailey, Grief Therapist and Celebrant (Photo credit via Bailey’s Funeral and Cremation Care, Yorkton)

We introduced ourselves, and I explained the situation.  “Are you okay with the fact that the deceased is a dog (just Oreo had passed on back then) and not a person?” I asked. It seemed a little unusual when I found out she was the grief counselor at Bailey’s. The service was no charge and provided primarily as a courtesy to aid Bailey’s clients.

“I’ve never done it before–that is, counsel someone because of a deceased animal–but grief is grief. We can try it and see,” she answered with a kindly smile. I couldn’t help smiling back.

“Where do I start?” I asked.  We only had an hour and I didn’t want to waste her time, but the butterflies were getting restless again.

“I think we already started,” she said. “Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself.”

That seemed like a pretty good idea. Like most people, I enjoy talking about myself. After an hour of describing how close Oreo and I were and the things we did together and how cute he had been, I realized I had hardly talked about myself at all.

Oreo, putting his paw down on Ling Ling (Photo credit: Sandra Kirchman)

Oreo, putting his paw down on Ling Ling (Photo credit: Sandra Kirchman)

I apologized for straying and tried to bring the conversation back on track. She smiled and told me to talk about whatever I wanted to, that I seemed to be dealing with the healing very well on my own. That heartened me, and pretty soon I was babbling away a mile a minute about how Oreo was such a gentle being but could put his paw down with “the girls” when he thought it necessary. Most of the time he let Ling Ling be top dog because he loved her, but he wouldn’t let her get away with EVERYthing, especially not a brand-new chew stick.

Time was up.

I was amazed at how quickly it had gone. And I still hadn’t talked a whole lot about me but did talk a whole lot about the three dogs and especially Oreo. It was the first time since Oreo had passed that I had been able to talk about him so extensively, and I told Crystal so.

“That’s good,” she said, “but you have to remember to take care of yourself.”

I paused, then nodded thoughtfully.

“If you want to, we’ll continue this next week, same time,” Crystal said. “In the meantime, you might want to practice being kind to yourself and taking care of yourself.  There’s not too much anyone can do about preventing someone’s death, but we can choose how we deal with it.  You could start thinking about how you want to deal with Oreo’s passing, and we’ll talk about it next time.  Also, why don’t you write a letter to Oreo telling him all the things you didn’t have a chance to say when he was here?”

That was a new thought for me.  Actually the whole thing was a new thought for me.  Crystal sat there smiling, and I waved until the screen went blank, and I was alone, except for Ling Ling snoring in her basket behind my desk.

We’ll continue Part 3 next week (or as soon as I can get to it). If I can, I will also fill you in on what has happened this last three months.  See you then!

Go here for comments attached to the last picture.

    Copyright © 2015 by
    Sandra Bell Kirchman.
    All rights reserved.

What to do in case of pet grief – Part 1

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling:  "Yes, we're quite comfortable, thank you for asking."

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling

As many of you know, my husband and I have lost two of our three beloved shih tzu dogs in the past four months — the youngest, Oreo, at age six on October 24, 2014 — and the oldest, Tilly Tot, at (about) age twelve on February 14, 2015. The first loss was agonizing; the second, paralyzing.

Oreo:  "My toy!"  A squeaky fave.  Photo credit:  Sandra Bell Kirchman

Oreo: “My toy!” A squeaky fave. Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Oreo’s death, totally unexpected, left me in a rage of tears and anger. The pain wrenched at me so badly, I wondered how much more I could stand.  I cried even when I wasn’t aware of it, often waking up from a fitful sleep with tears on my cheeks. You see. Oreo was my loving buddy. While the other two played, or went outside in our big back yard, Oreo stayed by me, sleeping at my feet while I typed away on my computer. The two of us were together pretty much 365/24/7. His absence felt like one of my arms or legs was missing. How could I get along without it/him?

The Adorable Duo - Tilly Tot (rear left) and Ling Ling (front right).  (Photo credit:  (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman)

The Adorable Duo – Tilly Tot (rear left) and Ling Ling (front right). (Photo credit: (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman)

But I hadn’t taken into consideration our two remaining fur babies. Of course they missed Oreo, and they sensed that my mourning had something to do with him. In any event they redoubled their efforts to amuse, entertain, tease and titillate me. It seemed to be working a little.  By the beginning of February, I was able to sleep the night through and awaken with dry eyes and cheeks. I even started dabbling with my blog a bit, nothing too original, but at least I was thinking of returning and had my followers’ best interests blogwise at heart.

Tilly Tot comes to her forever home.

Little sweetheart,Tilly Tot

Then, on Valentine’s Day, our little sweetheart Tilly Tot passed on in the night from a blood clot after dental surgery. At first, grief encased me in a prison of numbness: I couldn’t cry, or laugh, or talk.  I moved around in a daze. After a few days, my outer appearance seemed normal — I talked, did my chores, poured love onto our one remaining fur child, Ling Ling.

However, inside was another story — my heart seemed crushed and my will to live retreated. Sleep became problematic, and I started looking really bad, to the point where the Big Guy (my husband) insisted I go to the doctor. The BG afterward told me I looked so bad, he would not have been surprised to come home from work to find me gone from the earthly plane.

A Ling Ling-Oreo-Tilly Tot story

Ling Ling – And then there was one…

On no account did this mean that I wanted to do myself in. On the contrary, I had made arrangements to start sessions with a grief counselor before Tilly passed, because of the slowness of regaining control of my life after the loss of Oreo. I fully intended to continue with this counselor…I wanted to live again, and I couldn’t as long as I wandered around the twilight zone I found myself in.

Next week, in Part 2, I’ll talk about the grief counseling, some of the other steps I have taken and the results. We are actually in the middle of my recovery: I am documenting it for my own reference, as well as for you in case, God forbid, you should find yourself in a similar situation.


Related articles

And then there was one…

Tilly Tot daytripping (with her human "sister"). Photo credit: Laurie M. Hamilton

Tilly Tot daytripping (with her human “sister”). Photo credit: Laurie M. Hamilton

With a heavy heart, I am letting you know that Tilly Tot, our elderly shih tzu rescue dog, passed away this morning after surgery. My husband and I are, as you might guess, completely devastated. Two of our three dogs gone in four months.

I thank you all for travelling on this journey with me. I will have to do some soul-searching, but I doubt I will continue this blog. Your interest in our three dogs has been gratifying. I am going to leave the blog up for a little while because I do believe that these articles are of interest to some people who haven’t seen them yet.

The Rebirth of Puppy Dog Tales

The Adorable Duo - Tilly Tot (rear left) and Ling Ling (front right). (Photo credit: (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Hello, dear Puppy Dog Tales readers.  If you have read the preceding post, you will know why the month-long hiatus has occurred.  I have done much soul-searching about what to do with the Puppy Dog Tales blog.  As I mentioned before, without Oreo there didn’t seem to be much point.

Ling Ling and Tilly snuggling with Daddy.  Note where LL has placed her little butt.  Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Ling Ling and Tilly snuggling with Daddy. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Anyhow, with the realization of how much help Oreo had been to the entire family during his short life, I decided to continue this blog.  Some of it will be taken up with stories of other dogs.  I will be also sharing some stories of “the three Holy Terrors,” plus new stories on the Terrible Twosome (my new name for Tilly Tot and Ling Ling 🙂 ).

The first story in this new era will be published next Sunday, Nov. 30/14 (Thanksgiving weekend in the States). Thanks for being patient and bearing with me in this hard time, and thanks to all the people who offered comfort, support, and suggestions.  I’m not sure yet what the next story will be, but we’ll get back on track and carry on, and it’ll be fun.

P.S. Many thanks for the tender care that Dr. Audrey Tataryn and her wonderful staff took of Oreo in his last days at Prairie East Veterinary Clinic in Langenburg, Saskatchewan.

If you have any pet stories you
would like to share, please either
leave your comment below, or
email me at raya at fantasyfic dot com.

Text and photos copyrighted
© 2014 by Sandra Bell
Kirchman. All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.11-1, Nov. 23, 2014)

Beloved Oreo

Beloved Oreo. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Beloved Oreo.
(Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)


Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die…

Mary Frye

Please forgive me for not having posted Sunday. I have sad news to tell you. Our beloved dog Oreo passed away unexpectedly in the early morning hours of Friday, October 24, 2014. He was six years old. I was simply unable to write about and publish a happy Halloween story.  I could not even write to tell you about what happened to Oreo.  But I can now.

Oreo had started acting unwell during the weekend of Oct. 17-18-19. We noted that, whatever it was, it was not getting better by itself, and we took him to the vet on Oct. 21.  Our veterinarian, Dr. Audrey Tataryn, wanted to keep him overnight because the blood test results showed he had diabetes (unsurprising), complicated by pancreatitis (shocking).  She hoped he would be well enough so that we could pick him up the following day.

When we phoned to find out if we could take him home, she said that he was not responding to the IV drug treatment and wanted to keep him at least another day.  It turned out to be two more days, much to our disappointment.  Ernest and I planned to phone her on Friday.  If she wanted to keep him longer, we were going to ask if we could go and visit him Friday afternoon.

Some inner part of me knew then, but I refused to accept it. Consequently, when the phone rang at 7:20 Friday morning, I was awakened from the sound sleep of the person who is relatively at peace with the world.

It was Dr. Audrey.  She sounded grave as she asked for me…then she said the words that sounded to me like a death bell tolling.

“I’m so very, very sorry, Sandra…” she said.

My heart stopped.  I think I also forgot to breathe. I felt frozen as she finished her sentence.

The Rainbow Bridge - click for story

The Rainbow Bridgeclick for story or select fine art print poem

“…but Oreo passed away in the night.”

I couldn’t speak. The silence stretched on and on.  Dr. Audrey waited patiently on the other end of the phone, seeming to understand my shock, my pain, my paralysis.  Finally, I broke free enough to ask a couple of questions, thank her, and hang up. Ernest came home after I phoned him, and we clung together, our sorrow bonding us instantly.

Ernest went to the vet clinic and picked up Oreo’s remains (it hurts to write that for some reason). Working together, we buried his remains in a lovely spot shaded by an oak tree.  I couldn’t help but think that the novel I was writing, about the end of the world, contained a chapter that seems prophetic.  It was about Oreo being killed by an evildoer.  I can’t think of anything more evil than pancreatitis.

Our whole household is realizing what energy Oreo put out…as my constant, loving companion during the day; Ling Ling’s loyal buddy and eternal friend; Tilly Tot’s gentle protector; and Ernest’s constant, loving companion during the evening.  The house seemed empty, listless, unappealing.  I know our grieving contributed to this; at the same time, it was a bit of an eye opener to find that one little dog could so strongly affect a whole household and all its inhabitants.

We also discovered that Oreo was the messy one and laughed through our tears.  Here we had laid the blame on Ling Ling and Tilly Tot for the carefully orchestrated mess in the living room, the scattered toys, the dragged around puppy pillows, the tracked in leaves, dirt and small sticks.  Now, with Oreo gone, the living room remains relatively pristine.

I will be going on hiatus for a couple of weeks…and decide what to do with Puppy Dog Tales.  The heart seems to have gone out of me to write any more stories about the “three Holy Terrors.”  The two remaining Terrors don’t seem so terrible anymore. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want Oreo’s passing to cause a void…I’d like it to be some kind of meaningful.

Please feel free to leave comments.  I learned that the birthday wishes I received, which I had dreaded, actually helped. I am very interested in what you have to say and what you have done in similar circumstances to regain your equilibrium in life.

Thanks for being here thus far.

Say goodnight, Oreo. Oreo: Good...*yawn*...night.

“Goodnight, beloved Oreo. Rest in peace.”
(Photo credit: Oreo’s loving mommy.)


Puppy Dogs Posing for Pictures

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling:  "Yes, we're quite comfortable, thank you for asking."

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling: “Yes, we’re quite comfortable, thank you for asking.”

Below is the gallery of photos that I promised you. Most of the shots show one or more of the three holy terrors–Ling Ling, Oreo, and Tilly Tot. A couple of pics of other dogs are thrown in to throw you off track. Just to refresh your memory, Ling Ling came to us first, by way of Pekabout Kennels in Calgary. Consequently, we have more pics of her than the other two.

Oreo came to us from another breeding kennel in Alberta, and, finally, Tilly Tot came to us because she needed to be rescued and had to have a forever home to live in. The time period for these pics range from April 2, 2007 (Ling Ling’s birthday) to the present.

I have inserted a brief comment under each image. If you want more information, check out some of the previous posts in this blog, starting at the Introduction.

For a larger view of the pictures, click on the first thumbnail photo. This will not only also reveal the caption, but it creates a sort of slide show, so you don’t have to switch back and forth. All the photos were taken by me (Sandra Bell Kirchman), except as otherwise credited. All the photos of Ling Ling on a baby blanket were taken by Pekabout Kennels; they belong to me. If you have any questions about the pictures or the stories, write to me at raya@fantasyfic.com. Please enjoy.

Good night, all.

Are you an avid shutterbug? Do you keep on snapping if your
pet(s) is/are seen napping ‘cuz they are so cute? We’d love to see them.
Send me your pics at raya@fantasyfic.com along with your name,
the name of your pet, and any caption you would like
to provide (optional).  Please also state you have
the rights to that photo and that you give
Puppy Dog Tales the right to publish it.  Thanks.

 (Next week watch for the horrible, adorable, doggie trick or treaters in “Halloweenies”)

Text copyrighted © 2014
by Sandra Bell Kirchman.
Photos copyrighted © as
marked. All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.10-3, Oct. 19, 2014)

Adorable or Annoying – Tricks and Traits of Dogs – Part 2

Last week in Part 1, we talked about the unnerving tendency of proud pet parents (p.p.p.) to whip out their wallets and unfold a baker’s dozen pics of their fur babies. You, the reasonably innocent bystander, are expected to exclaim, ooh and ahh like any discriminating connoisseur of baby pictures, furred or otherwise. We took a look at the sweetness of Tilly Tot and the energetic cuteness of Ling Ling. Now we continue with an annoying trait of Ling Ling’s and some delightful or bothersome aspects of Oreo

Ling Ling – Cons

Ling Ling: "I know what I want and I want it now...please." (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Ling Ling hears a noise. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Ling Ling also has some annoying traits, for instance, her reaction to some noises. Three noises scare her to the brink of involuntary peeing…one is the sound of our toaster. It took us months to figure out why, since our toaster is comparatively quiet as toaster monsters go. We thought back a couple of years to remember that one time the toaster element trapped a piece of bread, which caused smoke to waft up and torment the fire alarm. That went off with a great hullaballoo and scared the behoosis out of Ling Ling. Apparently she connected the horrific alarm sound with using the toaster.

Krups Toaster

Krups Toaster (Photo credits: West Elm)

The second thing is Ernest’s air nailer gun. We still haven’t figured out why this frightens her so badly, while none of his other electric tools, like his drill and his stapler gun, produce no more than a cocked ear before she drifts back to sleep. The annoying part is the way she runs around like a headless chicken when the air nailer starts up. It is a crazy, unaware scrambling, and no amount of calming or holding or feeding or playing will distract her from this reaction. I’m not unkind, but, when it gets to this frenetic part, it drives me even battier than I usually am.

Ling Ling is also afraid of thunder (but only because Oreo has a real fear of it and she has picked that up).  Again she reverts to her headless chicken imitation, helping Oreo to keep everyone around her awake for the duration of the storm.

Oreo – Pro and Con

Cuddly Oreo. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Cuddly Oreo. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Oreo’s biggest cute trait is his lovability. He is willing to cuddle or be petted any time of the day.  After a remark made in a movie we watched, we promptly nicknamed him “Sergeant Snuggles.”  It fits him so well.

I would mention that he is willing to cuddle any time of the day “or night,” except that’s not true. At night, he is an untouchable. Oh, he’s polite enough, but he sets the boundaries right there. It’s time for bed, so no touching, no cuddling, no snuggling. It’s  fun to watch the way he communicates his bedtime rules. If you try to scoop him up in bed for a cuddle , he will politely but firmly decline by turning into a piece of cement. When you recoil in surprise, he wiggles out and belly crawls away to avoid recapture. You have to really want to play this nightly game to entice his unwilling wee body from the far end of the bed. I have found myself laughing so hard at his innocent little maneuvers that I shake myself up from drowsy mode to wide awake mode and have to work at getting sleepy all over again.

On the flip side, one of the most annoying things about Oreo is his greediness. He will eat almost anything (except lettuce or mushrooms – mushrooms aren’t good for him anyhow). He will go to any lengths to sneak food away from the other two. Ling Ling loves to take a treat outside to lie in the sun and dreamily munch away at it. Oreo will go out after her and start barking at some imaginary intruder presumably on the other side of the fence. Ling Ling will jump up immediately to add her voice to his in a valiant effort to scare the intruder away. Except his voice is no longer there. He is busy back at the treat site, gobbling up her treat.

Final Outcome

Tilly with pink tongue out

Sweetheart Tilly with little pink tongue sticking out between her teeth.  (Photo credit:  Sandra Bell Kirchman)

So here we are, late Sunday morning. Ernest is shingling the roof of the house with his air nailer gun. Ling Ling is going nuts, which is driving me to think unkind thoughts about my lovable little dog. Grrrr. It is approaching the noon hour and Oreo is pacing, waiting for his lunch, right now, if you please, Mummy. Grrrr. And Tilly Tot keeps flopping on the ground in front of me, wanting a belly rub, causing me to trip and throw my body sideways so I don’t crush the life out of her. Grrrr. Yet I wouldn’t trade one of them for the best behaved canine in the West…or the East for that matter.

Who’s a Big Cutie Pie, Then?

Who's the cutest of them all?  (Photo credit:

Who’s the cutest of them all? (Photo credit: “Background image courtesy of Stuart MilesFreeDigitalPhotos.net“)

Look at the photos and the fond smile on the face of the pet parent who is showing you pics of his/her baby. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

I know for a fact that Oreo, Ling Ling
and Tilly Tot are not the only adorable
pets on the block. Do you have any
stories about your pet’s cute
or annoying habits? We’d love to hear them.
Just insert your story in the comments section below.

(Watch next week for Part 1 of “Caring for Others’ Pets Temporarily”
 – Note:  This is, in part, the famous story of Alice the Cat.)


Text and photos copyright ©
2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman
except as otherwise marked.
All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.9-2, Sept. 14, 2014