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The Ralph Site - pet loss support

Welcome to The Ralph Site Blog

Hello, and welcome to The Ralph Site Blog.

We celebrate the unique place that pets have in our lives through regular features and practical advice on pet bereavement and other animal-related matters.

Pet loss support

The Ralph Site is a non-profit online pet loss support resource which provides support to pet carers coping with the loss of a beloved companion. There are a website and an active Facebook community with a public page and a private group.

Pet carers’ community

The Ralph Site aims to provide a non-judgmental and supportive place for those pet carers who have lost a much-loved member of the family. We know all too well the pain and heartbreak that accompanies the passing of your pet. And whilst these pets can never be replaced, we may find room to enrich our lives further with others when the time is right.

At The Ralph Site, we understand the special bond between you and your pets.

Thank you for your support.

 

Ten fantastic children’s books about pet bereavement

In one of our recent blogs, we suggested nine family-friendly ways to memorialise a loved pet. This is because children often struggle with the loss of a pet as much as we adults do and it can be helpful for them to have an outlet for their feelings.

Family pets represent friendship, unconditional love and daily routines for children of all ages. Their passing can provoke a new understanding of mortality and a maelstrom of emotions.

If you’re wondering how you can talk to your child about your pet’s death or the grief they may be feeling, there are some fantastic books written for children to help them make sense of their bereavement.

We already have a page on the main Ralph Site that lists book recommendations from other members, so do be sure to check it out here.

As a companion to this, we’ve put together the list below of ten of our favourite children’s books about pet bereavement. We hope you and your family find one or more titles helpful:

1.      When a Pet Dies (First Experiences)

By Fred Rogers

Although the pictures in this book are dated, the words are timeless. Fred Rogers gently walks young children through the experience of loving a pet that becomes ill and dies, and the emotions they might feel afterwards.

The tone is matter-of-fact but compassionate. Rogers acknowledges that grief hurts and we will want to be able to bring our pets back but that we simply can’t. The message is hopeful – there will come a day when we can remember the happy memories of our pets and know that they will always be with us because of the love we carry for them.

This is a lovely book for little ones that still offers pearls of wisdom to us big ones. We also like that it features different pets.

2.      Jasper’s Day

By Marjorie Blain-Parker

This touching book tells the story of Jasper the Golden Retriever, an old dog who is increasingly in pain with incurable cancer. His family (mum, dad and son, Riley) have to decide whether euthanasia is the ‘last gift’ that they can give their beloved companion. Before his final trip to the vet, the family gives Jasper one last wonderful day doing all of his favourite things. Jasper’s last day is the hardest day of Riley’s young life.

This picture book is ideal for helping four- to eight-year-olds understand what planned euthanasia is, why it is sometimes necessary and what they might feel about it.

3.      Saying Goodbye to Lulu

By Corinne Demas

This story is about a young girl and her ageing dog, Lulu. It tenderly describes the decline of old age as Lulu stops being able to do all the things she loved in her younger years.

When the girl’s dad says they can get a new puppy when Lulu dies, it makes her angry. She doesn’t want a new dog, she wants Lulu to be young again.

Lulu dies one day while the girl is at school. What follows is a realistic, beautifully drawn insight into the intense grief she feels. The girl misses Lulu all the time – the thump of her tail, the smell of her. In the spring, she plants a special tree by Lulu’s grave.

Eventually, the family decide to get a new puppy. The girl knows it will never be Lulu but she will love the puppy with all her heart too.

This book is aimed at four- to seven-year-olds but most ages would get something from it. Told from the young girl’s perspective, the story is gentle and honest about the feelings associated with loss.

4.      Desser the Best Ever Cat

By Maggie Smith

For those of you wanting a cat-focused children’s book about bereavement, Desser the Best Ever Cat is ideal.

In this story, the oldest daughter of Desser’s human family tells the story of his life. The words and illustrations show how the pair grew up together and the precious moments they shared.

The story shows the family preparing for Desser’s death, talking about their good and bad memories, and burying Desser in a special spot in the garden. Ultimately, the girl and her family take in a new rescue cat with whom the girl shares her memories of Desser.

This is a poignant but realistic story that doesn’t shy away from the truths of old age and death. The message is a positive one about keeping memories alive, talking about our lost pets and knowing that, when the time is right, you can give a new pet a home without forgetting your old friend.

5.      The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

By Jane Yolen

This is another poignant story about pet loss that features the titular cat, Tiger Rose. Tiger Rose is very old and has grown too tired to live any longer. She spends her final day saying goodbye to all the joys and comforts in her life, from the children and dog in her family to her favourite shady patch in the garden.

This story is a celebration of life, which concludes with Tiger Rose taking a leap into the blue sky and becoming one with the natural world she has loved so much.

Unlike many of the other pet bereavement books on this list, it doesn’t feature Tiger Rose’s family adopting a new pet. This can be helpful if you’re all a bit fed up of people suggesting that you get a new companion as soon as possible.

6.      Tenth Good Thing About Barney

By Judith Viorst

The boy in this story is heartbroken when his cat Barney dies. His mum and dad promise that they will give Barney a funeral in the garden the next morning and his mum asks the boy to think about ten special things to say about Barney during the service. He can only think of nine.

After the funeral, the boy’s friend, Annie, says that Barney will be playing in heaven now but the boy isn’t convinced. Isn’t Barney just in the ground? The boy’s dad says no-one knows and that people believe different things. Annie says if heaven exists, there’s definitely room for a cat like Barney.

The boy is troubled by the idea of Barney being in the ground because this is what he believes. His dad takes him out into the garden where they plant seeds together. He talks to the boy about how seeds change in the ground to become plants. He says Barney will change in the ground too, becoming one with the soil and helping everything in the garden to grow.

The boy knows this is the tenth good thing about Barney and a pretty amazing achievement for a cat.

7.      The Invisible String

By Patrice Karst

This book isn’t about bereavement. It’s about the feeling of missing someone or something that we love very much when they’re not with us.

When twins, Jeremy and Liza, are scared by a thunderstorm, they don’t want to go to bed because their mum will be in a different room. Their mum gently reassures them that she’s always with them and connected to them by the ‘invisible string’ that is tied between people (and animals) who love each other.

In the story, the mum explains that when we feel a tug in our heart from missing someone, it’s the string pulling at the other end and letting us know that we’re still connected. The twins still feel the tug from their uncle who has died. The mum says people feel it for their pets too.

The message of the book is that we always carry love with us and the invisible string binds us to our loved ones, even when we can’t be together.

8.      Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children

By Bryan Mellonie

“There is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive. In between is living.” This is how Lifetimes begins.

Using large illustrations and simple but clear explanations, this book explores how every animal, bird, tree, fish, plant and person has a lifespan, and that some lifespans are longer than others.

Lifetimes discusses how lifespans can be affected by when and where something lives. Living things can also become ill or get injured. The book reassures children that, in many cases, living things can get better but that death occurs when the body is no longer able to keep itself alive.

The beauty of this book is that death is treated very much as a natural part of living, an essential part of the life cycle. Birth and death are mentioned throughout but the real focus is on the lifetimes in between.

9.      Gentle Willow: A story for children about dying

By Joyce C Mills

Although this book isn’t specifically about pet loss, it is a tender and comforting story about death.

In this tale, squirrel Amanda and her friend Little Tree come to love Gentle Willow, a tree who grows on the opposite riverbank. Gentle Willow sings songs that sound like crystals chiming as she says good morning every day. Yellow butterflies play in her branches. Her roots make the perfect hiding place for Amanda’s acorns.

But, one day, Amanda notices that Gentle Willow is changing – her bark is covered in lumps and bumps. The tree wizards tell Amanda that Gentle Willow has an illness that can’t be cured. She will be going on a journey where she will change forms, a journey humans call ‘death’.

Gentle Willow is scared but Amanda comforts her with a story about how the yellow butterflies that dance in her leaves were once caterpillars that went into the darkness of their chrysalises and emerged in a new, better form. This comforts Gentle Willow.

After her passing, the butterflies gradually return to the place Gentle Willow once stood and the whisper of the wind through the long grass sounds like her song. This reminds Amanda and Little Tree that Gentle Willow will always be with them.

This book for nursery and primary age children gives a gentle introduction to the concept of death.

A book for pre-teens and upwards

10. Wonder

By R J Palacio

Number ten on our list is a book aimed at slightly older children – pre-teens and upwards – but will resonate with all the family.

While Wonder isn’t specifically about pet loss, this beautiful novel and its film-adaptation both sensitively explore the relationship the main character, Auggie, has with the beloved family dog, Daisy, as a key subplot.

Daisy has always been a non-judgmental friend for Auggie, a ten-year-old who has facial deformities caused by Treacher Collins Syndrome. Daisy’s death due to old age is particularly poignant for Auggie because she has given him unconditional love and been a constant presence, especially each time Auggie has recovered from surgery.

The way Daisy’s death affects the whole family feels very recognisable to anyone who has lost a family pet.

Any recommendations?

These are just a handful of the wonderful books out there written to help children make sense of pet loss and bereavement. If you’ve come across any other titles that have helped your own family, please do send us the details so we can share them with the wider Ralph Site community.

As always, know that you’re not alone.

Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Nine family-friendly ways to memorialise a pet

Are you looking for family-friendly ways to memorialise a lost pet and help your children come to terms with their bereavement?

For many kids, the death of a much-loved pet is their first experience of death and grief and something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

People often talk about children and pet loss as if the grief they feel is a dress rehearsal for a human loss further down the line. But, as many of us know, whatever our age the grief can be as real, profound and life-changing for a pet as for a person.

As such, if we can teach our children that anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness and the myriad other feelings associated with grief are all natural, we can hopefully support them now and help pave the way for the future – how they handle life, death, love and more.

At various points on The Ralph Site, you’ll find advice about children and pet loss and ideas for memorials for a lost pet companion. In this article, we wanted to look specifically at family-friendly activities you can do with children of all ages to help them process their loss.

1.      Create a jar of memories

One lovely idea – if your family is up for a bit of paper folding! – is to create a series of origami hearts (here’s a great tutorial) and write a different memory about your pet inside each heart.

Whenever one of you feels sad, from the littlest to the biggest in your family, you can pull a heart from the jar and read the special memory. This activity can help to get children talking about their favourite happy memories and offer comfort for years to come.

2.      Frame a favourite picture of your pet

Although some people find it difficult to look at photographs of a loved one after they have died, it’s worth asking your children whether they would find it comforting to have a picture of their pet near them.

Perhaps your child would like a favourite photo in a special frame on their bedside table or on a bookshelf? Would they like to decorate the frame?

3.      Put together a memory box

Choose a box of some kind, whether it’s a shoebox that your children can decorate or something more permanent, and get everyone in the family to add mementoes of your pet. This could include their favourite blanket, toy, hairbrush, collar, lead, photos and other items.

Like the jar of memories, you could write down some of your happiest or funniest memories and add them to the memory box too.

This will be a box to open up and rediscover during times of grief and reflection.

4.      Create a tribute video or slideshow

Again, this won’t sit comfortably with anyone who finds it tough looking through old photos and videos, but many families take satisfaction from editing together old videos or photos to create a highlight reel of their pet’s life set to a favourite or meaningful song.

Free video editing software such Open Shot or slideshow creators such as Adobe Spark help to make this process as easy as possible. Knowing how technologically adept most children are, we are sure this is something your kids can help with/do!

5.      Make a memory bracelet or string of beads

Another lovely idea is to buy a selection of mixed beads and give your children the opportunity to make a special memory bracelet or string of ‘meditation’ beads. Each bead could have a special significance – for example:

  • A bead that’s the same colour as your pet’s fur, feathers or scales
  • A bead that’s the colour of your pet’s favourite toy
  • A bead that represents the time of year/month your pet was born
  • A bead that makes your children think of their happiest memory with your pet
  • A bead that best represents your pet’s personality
  • A bead that reflects the love they feel for your pet
  • And so on….

This is a memorial that can be worn and touched to bring back the associations with each bead.

6.      Paint a stone

The next time you’re somewhere with lots of pebbles, go on the lookout for some smooth, flat(ish) stones that you can each paint with words, paw prints or pictures to memorialise your animal friend.

You can also buy smooth beach rocks for crafting on sites like eBay.

If your pet is buried in the garden, you could lay the stones around their grave. Alternatively, the stones could sit on a shelf indoors as a reminder of your pet’s presence.

Another idea is to paint the rocks and then hide them in your local area with your name on the back and the message “Share on FB <insert page/group name. Keep or rehide”. There are rock sharing Facebook groups all over the world now where people can share their pictures of found rocks. Here’s an article about rock sharing in Nottingham as just one example.

This is a beautiful way to tell other people about a special pet and bring a smile to their face when they find the rock.

7.      Colour a patchwork heart

Another idea for creative family members is to draw and colour a patchwork heart that depicts what you each most loved about your pet when they were alive. Give each characteristic, activity or memory a different colour and make the patches as big or as small as you want. Every heart will be unique.

For example, your heart could feature a big red patch depicting how much you loved it every time your dog wagged his tail or a big green patch for when your cat loved to sunbathe in the garden. There could be a blue patch for all the times your dog jumped into water when he shouldn’t or how he loved splashing in a paddling pool in the summer.

You can add a key underneath the heart to remind you what each colour means.

8.      Write a thank you letter to your pet

When a pet dies, it’s inevitable that our hearts turn to what we have lost. You might be questioning whether it’s worth the pain or whether you were wrong to expose your children to the inevitable grief that comes with our pets’ short lifespans.

A thank you letter to your pet can be a powerful way for you and your children to acknowledge what you gained from having loved your pet rather than what you have lost.

From companionship and cuddles to laughter and occasional embarrassment, encourage your children to write down everything they would like to thank their companion for doing and being.

9.      Plant something

If you have the space in your garden, you could create a little memorial area for your pet where you and the kids plant a special bush, tree or flowers. The act of having something to tend or seeing something grow and flourish with your care can be very comforting after a loss.

Share your feelings

Hopefully, one or more of these activities will bring you together as a family to talk, laugh and cry about the loss you have all suffered.

One of the most healing things we can do for children is showing them that we all experience grief and that there are no right or wrong emotions. Activities like these above can help to create an outlet for expressing their feelings and remind that none of you is alone in your loss.

Until next time,

Shailen and The Ralph Site team

The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Why it’s fine to ignore the five stages of grief

When talking about grief of any kind, including pet bereavement, someone inevitably mentions ‘the five stages of grief’ – in other words, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

People mean it as a comfort but feeling that you should be grieving in a certain way can be distressing, especially if you feel like you’re doing it wrong.

With how the five stages model has been (wrongly) interpreted, you’d be forgiven for thinking that grief should follow a clear progression from one stage to the next until the bereaved eventually finds peace and acceptance by stage five.

In The Ralph Site Facebook group, people often express that they should be done grieving or that they’re ‘silly’ for dwelling in one of the so-called ‘stages’ of grief. There’s a sense that they must move from stage to stage quickly and quietly and put their loss behind them, usually because other people don’t recognise the scale of the bereavement.

In reality, grief is deeply personal and rarely fits with the ‘five stages’ template. Bereavement doesn’t come with a clearly defined end point. It would be so reassuring if it did – if it could be orderly and neat – but, sadly, that just isn’t how it works.

What are the five stages of grief?

The five stages of grief were originally defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book ‘On Death and Dying’. This was written over 30 years ago as Kubler-Ross listened to and observed people living with terminal diagnoses.

Over time, the five stages that Kubler-Ross identified have become a blueprint for what people believe we ‘should’ feel when we experience grief.

Even people with very little interest in psychology can usually name the five stages of grief as they’ve become part of our collective consciousness.

But this was never Kubler-Ross’s intention. She was trying to help name and normalise some of the emotions that we might experience when grieving, not what we must experience. She wasn’t trying to structure a right or wrong way to grieve or give our feelings a ‘Use by’ date. She just wanted people to know that they weren’t alone.

Forget the five stages of grief

As a bereaved pet carer, you have lost someone you love, someone who shaped the rhythms of your life, often for many years.

How you feel and express your grief will be unique to you. It will also be unique to your pet.

It certainly won’t be linear, a movement from one neat stage to the next with no stage to be revisited (see The Myth of the Grief Timeline).

You may find that you’re full of anger and a sense of injustice one day, peaceful the next, then enraged again with no warning. Your feelings may dart and stretch between guilt, confusion, joy, peace and fear from one hour to the next.

That’s OK. There is no right or wrong when it comes to grieving, although most agree that we should try to acknowledge our feelings rather than pretending our grief doesn’t exist.

As tempting as it is to cling to the five stages of grief as a checklist for what you should feel, we’d strongly recommend ignoring them. Instead, remember this:

  • Grief is different for everyone.
  • It doesn’t follow the same timeline for anyone.
  • There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • Grief and love are part of each other.
  • You don’t have to justify your grief – you have a right to think and feel your own thoughts and feelings.
  • There will not be a final moment of ‘closure’ but, with time, you will be able to carry your loss more easily.
  • You may feel emotions such as fear, guilt or anger – many people see these as ‘negative’ emotions but they can actually help you to make sense of your loss.
  • You will feel lighter sometimes and that doesn’t mean you don’t care.

Love never ends

There’s a beautiful saying that is shared on The Ralph Site a lot:

Grief is just love with nowhere to go.

This might be one of the truest statements about grief. And because it is love, it will never come to an end. However, like love, it will change and soften with time.

Like love, grief is too big, too all-encompassing to be neatly contained within five simple stages. Kubler-Ross knew this – towards the end of her life, she said, “I am more than these five stages. And so are you”.

People mean well when they try to give you a blueprint to grieve but your pet was one of a kind so it’s only right that your grief for them is too. The only way to do it is your own way.

Until next time, remember that you’re not alone.

Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Keeping animals in your life when you’re not ready for a new pet

If you’ve recently lost a pet, you may not be ready to bring a new animal into your home. Some people feel that they can never open themselves to that kind of pain and grief again, while others decide to take some time before making any decisions.

There’s no universal right or wrong, only what feels right for you and your family.
As an animal lover, you may still want to incorporate animals into your life in some way. This can help you maintain some of the animal-focused aspects of your routine and give you a sense of purpose and satisfaction, even as you mourn your loss.

So how can you keep animals in your life when you’re not ready for a new pet?

Volunteer to work for an animal charity

One of the most obvious courses of action is to volunteer for a charity that rescues and rehomes animals.

Organisations such as The Dogs Trust, the Blue Cross, RSPCA, PDSA and Cats Protection all rely on help from volunteers. Dogs in shelters benefit from being walked, while socialisation is important for most pet species so you could provide valuable human contact.

It’s not just the big national charities or dogs and cats that need support. It’s worth having a look on Google (or another Search engine!) to see what smaller charities exist in your area. There may be a guinea pig or rabbit rescue that offers a cuddle with the animals in exchange for cleaning them out, running waste bedding to a compost pile at a local allotment, or handling adoption enquiries.

It’s understandable if you find being around other animals too difficult at the moment – some people feel it’s a painful reminder of what they have lost. There are other ways to support animal charities though – fundraising, manning a stall at a charity event, marketing, social media, doing the laundry, cleaning, etc. are all essential activities that contribute towards improving the lives of countless animals.

Volunteer with a specialist charity

Depending on your interests, experience and local opportunities, you may be able to volunteer with a specialist charity such as Assistance Dogs UK, Riding for the Disabled Association, The Wildlife Trusts, or Pets as Therapy.
This can be a wonderful way to enrich the lives of other people while still spending time with special animals.

Foster

Many charities are crying out for fosterers who will give animals a home on a short-term basis until a forever home can be found for them.
Some of these animals, particularly dogs and cats, may have behavioural issues or have been victims of abuse and will benefit from spending time around an experienced carer who can read their body language and help them adjust to a kinder life.
If you’re not ready to commit long-term to a new pet, foster caring can be an incredible way to make a difference.

Most charities that use fosterers will cover the veterinary costs and offer support throughout the fostering process. Charities that rescue small animals often need fosterers too, especially over the winter when indoor space is at a premium.

Borrow a pet

You may have heard of The Cinnamon Trust, a nationwide charity that provides care and support for the pets of elderly or terminally ill people.
Through the Cinnamon Trust, you may be able to walk a local dog on a regular basis, feed and hang out with a cat, or care for small animals in the pet’s own home. This can give older people or someone with a terminal illness peace of mind that their animal’s needs are being met, even if they are unable to provide practical care themselves.

Another option is Borrow My Doggy, a website that connects dog carers with dog ‘borrowers’ for walks, weekends and holidays. The idea is that, instead of leaving a dog at home alone all day or limiting their exercise because their carer doesn’t have the time or health to walk them, willing borrowers can step in to walk them instead. The creator of the site, Rikke Rosenlund, set it up after walking her neighbour’s dog; she realised lots of people would love a dog in their lives on a part-time basis and that many dog carers could do with a helping paw.

Closer to home, do you have a friend who would let you walk their dog occasionally or who needs a reliable pet sitter for when they go away? Maybe you could join them on their daily walk from time to time?

Donate or fundraise

Again, if you’re not ready to spend lots of one-to-one time with animals, you could still make a difference by donating to your favourite charity or supporting their fundraising efforts.
Animal charities are often over-stretched and under-resourced, and rely on donations from the public to continue offering vital services.

The world needs animal lovers like you. As heartbreaking as your grief is, it’s a sign of your kind, loving heart. There are so many animals in the world that need help and a compassionate touch that whatever you decide to do, the world will be a better place for it.

Until next time, Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

11 tips that will help your pet have a stress-free vet visit

Does your cat or dog go into hiding if you so much as whisper the word ‘vet’? Does even a routine check-up fill you and your pet with dread? Is your pet hard to handle when being examined?

As it’s essential that your pet is seen by a vet for routine and emergency care, we’ve put together some of our favourite tips for helping your pet (and you) to have a stress-free visit to the vet.

1. Visit your vet regularly when they won’t need anything invasive done

Often, we only take our pets to see the vet when they’re feeling very unwell. At this time, they may feel more vulnerable than usual and less willing to be touched.

As well as keeping on top of their good health, routine check-up appointments are a great way to familiarise your pet with seeing the vet in a pressure-free situation. A regular weigh-in and general health check doesn’t usually require jabs or any invasive treatments.

You could even talk to the receptionist at your veterinary practice and ask if you and your pet can just hang out in the waiting room to get them used to the sights, sounds and smells.

2. Use a carrier, whenever possible

For their own safety and to keep down their stress levels, smaller dogs, cats and small animals usually need to be securely fastened in a carrier when visiting the vet.

A carrier will also limit their view of the vet’s practice and other animals in the waiting room and give your pet a safe space. Ideally, you should keep your pet in the carrier off the floor and away from larger dogs.

3. Familiarise your pet with their carrier

All too often, we only bring the carrier out when it’s time to visit the vet. This can cause our pets to associate the carrier with stress, injections and/or being handled by a total stranger.

good way to overcome this is to leave your pet’s carrier out and about where they can interact with it on some days that won’t involve a vet visit. You could leave the door open and scatter some treats or toys in the carrier or even pop in your pet’s favourite blanket.

4. Get your pet used to the car

Many dogs are used to car trips to the park and further afield but for some dogs, cats and smaller animals the car is a terrifying place, somewhere they only visit when they’re on the way to see the vet.

Some people find it helpful to pop their pet in the carrier and take them out for a few short car journeys so that they don’t stress when it is time to go to the vet’s.

5. Resist the urge to keep reassuring your pet

Sometimes our good intentions can make a visit to the vet even worse for our pets. If you keep hugging your pet and telling them it’s OK, they may start to wonder what you’re so stressed about, which can send their own stress levels through the roof!

The best thing you can do is to be as matter-of-fact and unruffled about visiting the vet as possible.

6. Get your pet used to being handled

Your pet is probably used to being stroked and held by you, but how would they react to the vet looking at their teeth, feeling their tummy or clipping their nails?

It can make it easier for you, your vet and your pet if you can get them used to having more vulnerable areas such as their mouth, paws, ears and tummy touched and examined.

7. Go armed with treats

The aim is to make visiting the vet as pleasant an experience as possible. Unless your vet has asked you to not feed your pet before their appointment, it’s handy to go armed with a supply of their favourite treats or a special toy.

If you decide treats are the best option, offer one to your pet as they sit nicely in the waiting room or as they let the vet handle them. The key is to reward good behaviour throughout your visit.

This is especially important for dogs who can find the waiting room very stressful. Try to encourage your dog to face you and to focus on you while you wait. Give them treats for sitting nicely and focusing on you.

Also, your dog may be super friendly in a waiting room of other super-friendly dogs but you never know how nerves will affect a usually approachable animal. To be on the safe side, it’s not advisable to let your dog approach other dogs in the waiting room.

8. Feed and exercise your pet beforehand

Again, unless your vet has specifically asked you not to feed or exercise them before the appointment, it’s a good idea to make sure your pet has been fed, had a run and been to the toilet before leaving for your appointment.

Having met their basic needs should help them to feel more comfortable instead of being hungry and irritable.

9. Write down your questions in advance

Visiting the vet can be nerve-wracking for you and your pet, especially if they are very unwell. It can be hard to remember everything you need to ask when your pet seems stressed and eager to leave or you’re trying to take on board everything your vet is saying.

A top tip is to write down all of your questions, concerns or information you want to pass on to your vet in advance of your appointment.

Anything that brings down your stress levels will bring down your pet’s stress levels too.

10. Warn staff if your pet is extremely anxious

If your pet gets very anxious at the vet’s, phone up in advance and talk to someone from the practice about steps you can take to minimise their stress. You may be able to wait outside until your appointment and some practices have an entrance that by-passes the waiting room.

Most vets are experienced and aware enough to understand that animals need time to adjust to a new environment. Your vet may chat to you for several minutes before approaching your pet.

In cases of extreme anxiety, your vet might even recommend giving your pet a mild sedative to calm their nerves.

11. Trust your vet

Remember that, although it may be your pet’s first time at the vet or they’ve only been infrequently in the past, vets see all sorts of animals day-in and day-out. They understand different species, breeds and temperaments, and they will have a whole host of tricks up their sleeve to make handling your pet as easy and stress-free as possible.

If you have any concerns at all, talk to your vet and make a plan in advance of your appointment. Any vet worth their salt will be happy to make the experience as positive as possible for your pet.

Until next time, Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support