Losing a pet at any stage of life is not easy and can be a heartbreaking process. Nadia Crighton speaks of her first-hand account of losing her beloved Dobermann, Jazmine in a boarding kennel while holidaying overseas.
I’ve been owned by Dobermanns, since I was a young child, even sharing my playpen with an eight-week-old puppy, known as Sam. They are a breed that my family simply adores, so it was no surprise that when leaving the family-nest, the breed was on the top of the list to grace my new home.
Jazmine was our ‘first’ puppy as a couple and an absolute challenging delight. She was highly trained and made an impression everywhere she graced with her long features and immaculate looks. We often went away on holidays alongside her, however, on occasion, she would go into boarding kennels. She thrived in these environments interacting with other people and pets.
Jazmine had been with us through the most memorable moments of our journey, becoming an Editor, getting married, moving to a new country, and having children. She was an integral part of the family and we loved her dearly.
But that was all to change one hot summer day while traveling overseas on a family holiday.
The phone rang in our hotel suite. My husband answered the call as I entertained our two children and prepared them for another flight to visit my mother for another week away. He indicated it was the boarding kennel, my mind began to race as our elderly cat, Merlin, who had underlying medical conditions, was also boarding in the same establishment. I thought something had happened to him until I heard…
“But how did she die….”
She? Jazmine was the only female pet out of two cats and two dogs. I remember falling to my knees and crying inconsolably. How could my precious six-year-old girl be gone?
The pain was raw and imaginable. It was completely paralyzing. No planning, no goodbyes, just emptiness and shock.
The boarding kennel was amazing. The owner cried over several conversations that we had over the next week until we flew home. I shed countless tears. The owner organized my vet to come and collect Jazmine, he was insistent on an autopsy. But my mind simply could not fathom the thought. I was suffering from immense and sudden grief.
In hindsight; I wish we had allowed the vet to perform the autopsy. The constant thoughts persisted with me, in early morning sleepless hours, for many years. What exactly happened to Jazmine? We were told that they had found her the next morning, with her brother curled up beside her. Peacefully dying in her sleep.
As a journalist with many years’ experience with dogs and training, and being taught in my profession to always question, I wondered if this was true. Had something more sinister occurred to my precious girl? Jazmine was a big dog, could be boisterous at times if you didn’t understand her level of training. To an amateur; she could be a handful. To an experienced handler, she was a superstar V8 dog with a knack for pushing the limits.
A few years later, I had a wonderful reconnection with an old work colleague from overseas. She had also owned Jasmine’s littermate. He had also passed away, in a boarding kennel, from massive congestive heart failure. It was hereditary. The puzzle pieces began to fit together. Jazmine had a cough that we had investigated with the vet prior to her going into the kennel, they were not worried. Later I learned this was one of the symptoms of her heart issue.
What did I learn from all of this?
For pet owners; ask questions, lots of them.
- Ask your boarding kennel of their ‘death of pet’ policy?
- How do they deal with this type of situation?
- How would they take care of your pet after death?
- Would they call you when it happened or wait until you got home?
Many pet owners have asked me if I would have preferred to have been notified of Jazmine’s passing when I got home, instead of when I was away.
In hindsight, I think it would have been easier to be told in person when we had returned. But everyone is different. Before experiencing this I’m 100% sure I would have said: “yes call me immediately if anything happens”. But now knowing the pain and being completely helpless, unable to do anything, or be close to her, I would now choose to wait.
Consider; if your pet did pass away suddenly, at a young age, with no underlying conditions, would you consider an autopsy? Have this conversation with your vet. Have it carefully thought-out and added to your pet’s file. Is it one component that you cannot logically deal with, during the initial phase of loss, and one that may bother you for some time after.
For boarding kennels – be prepared and ready to answer the same questions over and over again. Ask your clients with all pets, regardless of age, or medical history, if something was to happen would you want to be notified immediately or on your return?
Have one person who deals with the client, this relationship is very important. Be very clear on what has occurred and how you are caring for the pet. Work with the client’s vet and both come up with a distinct plan of how the pet will be cared for until the owner returns. Don’t be afraid to cry, it’s not unprofessional, it’s what pet lovers do.
Jazmine (or Wiggy-Woogle as we lovingly called her) is now buried on our family property, overlooking the river she loved so much, alongside her Siamese brother, who passed the following year. She will always live in my heart, and bring a tear to my eye, until the day we meet again.
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