TIME TO LET GO
A guide to euthanasia, the death of a cat and pet bereavement. This article evolved from Euthanasia - Gentle Death, Painful Decision which contains information edited out of Time To Let Go. A condensed version is used by Cats Protection
Ideally we would like our cats to die peacefully in their sleep, and indeed many do. We are also familiar with the idea that injured, sick or very old cats 'go off to die', but often they die from dehydration, starvation or self-neglect because they are unable or unwilling to drink, eat or even seek attention. Sadly some cats do go missing, never to return, and this makes it hard to let go because there is always hope, however faint, that he will one day return. Equally sadly, others die suddenly for no apparent reason or meet an untimely end in an accident such as a road traffic accident. The disappearance or sudden death of a well-loved pet causes much anguish because the owner has had no time to prepare for this and may be unable to say goodbye in the way that they would have wished.
With recent advancements in cat care and medical knowledge, most pet cats have long and healthy lives, but some will also reach a point when life is no longer enjoyable. When a cat reaches such a point in his life, the owner must decide whether it would be kinder for the cat to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering. Euthanasia is an act of love towards a cat which is no longer able to enjoy life.
WHAT IS EUTHANASIA?
Euthanasia literally means 'gentle death'. Other terms you may hear are 'put to sleep', 'put down', 'put out of its misery' or, less kindly, 'destroy'. Veterinary staff may use the term 'humane destruction' which is simply a technical term for putting an animal to sleep.
The decision to end a life is never easy. It is a personal, loving decision to euthanase a pet for which the quality of life has deteriorated. It takes courage to assume this last duty and it is our last responsibility to a pet which has given us love and companionship. There is also no easy human comparison. The bond between cat and owner is a very special one. It is easy to become emotionally caught up in keeping your cat alive when you know that there is no hope of him regaining his health.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
Your vet is an invaluable source of advice when you feel the time for euthanasia may be approaching. He or she cannot make the decision for you, but he can help you to decide when it is time to let go. You need to consider things from the cat's point of view.
MAKING THE DECISION
The decision almost always causes much soul-searching, especially if you and your cat have been companions for several years. What matters to the cat is quality of life not length of life since a cat has little concept of future time. An illness may be treatable for a period of time, but there eventually comes a point when the cat no longer enjoys life. He may be in visible distress or withdrawn.
Having seen your cat when he is happy and healthy, most owners recognise the signs given by a cat which is miserable. Your vet will be able to tell you whether the cat has a treatable ailment or is approaching the end of his life.
Warning signs are:
Since some of these can also be symptoms of treatable illness, you need to discuss your cat's welfare with your vet. He will be able to advise you and help you to make the right decision for your cat, but he cannot make the decision for you.
A LAST GOODBYE
Sometimes it is possible to delay euthanasia for a day without causing suffering for example where he has a terminal illness or is extremely old and the euthanasia is planned in advance. You may wish to give your cat a last night of pampering, his favourite foods or foods which were normally forbidden. This is a time in which to say goodbye and reassure him that he is very much loved. However, if he is suffering, or is already under anaesthetic, he will not enjoy having his misery prolonged.
Your vet will usually ask you to sign a consent form giving permission for your cat to be euthanased (put to sleep). This is often worded along the lines of:
I, ..[OWNER'S NAME].., give permission for the humane destruction of my cat ..[CAT'S NAME]..
Signature ...................... Date ..............................
I, ..[OWNER'S NAME].., give permission for the euthanasia of my cat ..[CAT'S NAME]..
Signature ...................... Date ..............................
Very occasionally your vet will ask permission by telephone. This may happen if your cat is having an operation and it becomes apparent that euthanasia would be kinder than allowing him to regain consciousness, for example the vet discovers advanced cancer.
Sometimes a vet must euthanase stray cats for which the owner cannot be found. If this happens to you, please bear in mind that he has acted to prevent an already sick, injured or dying cat from suffering.
HOW IS EUTHANASIA PERFORMED?
In pet cats, euthanasia is performed by an anaesthetic overdose injected into the vein of a foreleg. Some fur will be clipped from the foreleg first. In some cases, the vein can be difficult to locate and occasionally a couple of attempts may be needed to find it. In elderly or sick cats where the veins have collapsed, the injection may be made into a kidney or the heart. A veterinary assistant, or the owner, will gently restrain the cat while the injection is given. If the cat is held firmly, but gently, this will cause little or no distress. If the cat is extremely difficult to handle, he may have to be placed in a 'crush cage' with sliding sides and sedated first; this is less stressful than trying to corner and restrain an agitated cat.
HOW QUICKLY DOES IT HAPPEN AFTER THE NEEDLE HAS BEEN INSERTED?
The answer is very quickly. The cat loses consciousness within seconds of the injection starting and death follows a few seconds later. If you are holding the cat, you will feel him exhale, relax and become heavier in your arms. Urine may trickle from his bladder as the muscles relax. The vet will check for a pulse or eyelid-flick reflex and if there is any chance at all that the cat is deeply unconscious, he will give a second injection into a kidney or the heart. Your cat will not be aware of a second injection if it is needed.
Most vets will place the cat into a natural looking sleeping position (he will look as if he has fallen asleep) and close his eyes since animals do not always close their eyes when they die. Because all the muscles of the face have relaxed, his lips may pull back into what looks like a grimace. This is simply due to relaxation of the muscles and to gravity and is not a sign of pain, but it can cause concern if you did not expect it.
SHOULD I STAY TO THE END?
This is a personal decision. Some owners feel that it is their last duty to be there. Others prefer not to be present. Many take a friend or family member with them for emotional support.
Most vets will allow you to remain with your cat during euthanasia if you wish. If he does not want you present, ask why and ask if another vet at the practice can perform the euthanasia with you present. If you become distressed then this will upset your cat and make it harder to handle which is traumatic for all concerned. Your vet understands that this is a difficult time and he will only ask you to leave if you become so upset that it is impossible for him to perform the euthanasia. If you remain calm this will reassure your cat and make the end very peaceful.
Not all owners wish to be present and there is no shame in this. Some people simply cannot stand the sight of injections. Your vet will allow you to say goodbye to your cat and leave the consulting room. If you are taking your cat's body away with you, he will call you back in afterwards. Your cat will be treated with as much respect and dignity whether or not you are present.
If you have provided a towel or blanket, your vet will normally wrap or cover your cat's body. Otherwise, he may place him in a black bag. This is not a sign of disrespect, it is for hygiene and your own privacy. A few veterinary practices have a place where you can sit for a few minutes afterwards and regain your composure. If you do need a few moments before you are able to leave the surgery, tell the veterinary assistant. Alternatively they may be able to help you back to your car, but bear in mind that they are unlikely to have the time to sit with you.
CAN I HAVE MY CAT PUT TO SLEEP AT HOME?
If you are willing to pay a call out fee, your vet will euthanase your cat in your own home. Both you and your cat may find this less traumatic than waiting at the vets surgery. However, locating your cat when the vet arrives may be a problem as he knows the best hiding places. Many cats have been put to sleep enjoying a last meal of cream or salmon. In the case of a home visit where a veterinary nurse is not available, and the vet does not feel that you are able to restrain the cat, he may sedate the cat first and then inject into the kidney or heart. This is less distressing for all concerned than trying to restrain an agitated cat.
Do not be surprised if your vet makes a hasty exit afterwards, he does not want to intrude upon your grief and he will have other calls to make.
DO CATS KNOW WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN?
If you are agitated or upset, your cat will detect this and become upset himself. However, he does not know why you are upset and he does not know that this visit to the vet is any different from other visits e.g. for vaccinations.
HOW MUCH DOES EUTHANASIA COST?
The price will vary from area to area and vet to vet, but £15 to £25 is the normal price range for euthanasia. It will be more expensive if there are other fees involved e.g. for tests, operations or if the vet performs the euthanasia in your own home.
WHEN DO I PAY?
Vets understand that it is difficult to write cheques when you are in a state of shock or grief. If you are a regular customer he may send you an invoice after a couple of days. Alternatively, you may be able to prepay when you arrive at the surgery - ask about this when you make the appointment and arrive a few minutes early. If you pay in advance or by invoice, you may be able to leave the surgery by its back door rather than walk back through the waiting room.
WHEN A CAT DIES UNEXPECTEDLY
Many cats die peacefully of natural causes or by euthanasia. Although this is expected or even planned, it can still be a shock when it actually happens. When a cat dies suddenly or unexpectedly or in an accident this is more traumatic for the owner and feelings of grief are compounded by feelings of anger and often guilt.
Following an accident of any kind it is all too easy to say 'if only I had done this instead of that', but you had no way of knowing that your cat would meet with misfortune. Try to think of the good times you enjoyed together and, although it is hard, try not to feel guilty about an event you could not have foreseen. Owners are not expected to be psychic and however hard you try to ensure your cat is safe, accidents do indeed happen. Cats are true free spirits, are notoriously curious and do not take kindly to being 'wrapped in cotton wool'.
Equally shocking to the owner is the sudden death of a cat. Most often this is due to a sudden stroke or heart failure or to an illness or condition where there were no symptoms for you or your vet to detect. Sometimes, unknown to the owner, a cat has been in an accident which left no outward marks, but which caused internal damage. A post mortem, should you request it, may identify the cause of death, but cats very occasionally die for no known reason (in humans this is called Sudden Death Syndrome). It is more upsetting if he was young and apparently healthy, but it is very possible that he had a birth defect, such as an abnormal heart, which led to his sudden and unexpected death. It is unfair to yourself to feel guilty at not noticing signs of illness if there were no signs to for you to detect, but you may wish to discuss the death with veterinary staff. They may not be able to tell you the cause of death, but they can often reassure you that you could not have anticipated or prevented such a sudden death.
Just as with euthanasia, you need to decide how to deal with his body if he has died in a road traffic accident. If the body of a cat is not collected from a roadside after several hours, the local Council's Cleansing Department usually collect it for incineration. If you find the sight of a body too distressing, a friend or neighbour may be able to help you or you could place a towel over it before moving it. If you cannot bury your cat, many vets will allow you to leave his body at the vet surgery where the body can be dealt with by the vet or be collected by a pet cemetery or pet crematorium if you make appropriate arrangements. The following will help you decide on a suitable course of action.
HOW DO I DISPOSE OF THE BODY?
There are several options for disposal of your cat's mortal remains following death. In the case of a terminal illness or old age when euthanasia is not sudden or where death is expected, owners are encouraged to think about the disposal of the body in advance. These depend on where you live and on how much you wish to spend. Only in cases where the body poses a serious risk to human health (e.g. rabies, should it ever enter UK) will you be denied permission to deal with his remains as you wish.
Your vet can dispose of the body for you. The body will be stored in a veterinary deep freeze (for hygiene purposes) and collected for incineration by a firm licenced to incinerate animal remains or 'medical waste'. Some vets can provide individual cremation; it is best to ask about this in advance if possible so that you know what options are available to you.
You can arrange for a pet cemetery or pet crematorium to collect the body from your vet. The body will be labelled with your name and the cat's name, and stored in the veterinary deep freeze until collected. If the euthanasia was expected, you may be able to take the body to the pet cemetery or crematorium yourself.
Pet cemeteries and crematoria offer several services: individual cremation where the ashes are either returned to you or buried at the crematorium; cremation with other animals with the ashes scattered in the garden of rest or individual burial in a cemetery plot. Pet cemeteries have no legal protection so check that it is not likely to be bought up for redevelopment. If it is your wish, cremation or burial may often be accompanied by a short memorial service. Look in the Yellow Pages or for leaflets at the vet surgery for details of pet cemeteries and pet crematoria and their prices.
You can bury the cat in your own garden (or friend's garden) unless local bylaws forbid this. The grave must be at least 3 feet deep to deter scavengers. It is a sensible precaution to place a paving slab or heavy object on top of the grave until the ground settles as added protection from scavengers. Later on you may wish to plant a rosebush or place a memorial on the grave. Once a cat has been buried, you are not permitted to exhume an animal's body.
If you take your cat home for burial, he must be buried as soon as possible (within hours) otherwise putrefaction (decay) will set in. If you cannot take your cat's body home immediately, your vet may be able to store it in the veterinary deep freeze for a day or two. It is not advisable to store the body in your domestic deep freeze. If you do not collect the body on the arranged day, it will be collected for incineration.
Burial, cremation or incineration are the normal means of disposing of your cat's mortal remains. Some owners arrange to donate their cat's remains to a nearby veterinary school in the same way that people donate their bodies to medical science. A few arrange for taxidermy although the results are often disappointing.
WILL MY OTHER CATS MOURN?
It is impossible to say exactly what emotions cats feel, but if you have any other cats they will certainly be aware that someone is missing from their lives. It is unlikely that they mourn in the human sense of the word, but there will be some behavioural changes as they adjust to the gap in their lives.
If the cats were sociable, the surviving cats may search, cry out or even pine. They will need individual attention and reassurance. If they were unsociable or indifferent to each other, the survivors might simply rearrange themselves into a new hierarchy, dividing up their former companion's territory between them. Sometimes the surviving cat(s) blossom if they were previously bottom of the pecking order.
When I buried Kizzy I wondered how the others would react. Her closest companion cat sat briefly by the open grave then ran indoors. She returned with Kizzy's favourite toy mouse and dropped it into the grave with the body.
S Louise Smith
SHOULD I SHOW MY OTHER CATS THE BODY?
If there is no danger of infection then this is a personal choice. Some owners say that the surviving cats do not search for a companion, having seen the body. Others say that any veterinary smells on the body disturbed their other cats. They may sniff around the body, lick him and maybe try to wake him up before concluding that their friend has gone. We cannot know what cats understand by death, but they probably have some awareness that a dead animal does not return to life. If there is no danger of infection and you believe that it will help your other cats come to terms with the loss of a companion, then by all means allow them to see and smell the body.
When Tinker died I buried him in the garden under a lilac tree. As I dug the grave, the two surviving cats sat close by watching me. They inspected the grave before I lowered his body into it and when I had replaced the dug earth they walked on it as if to make sure I had done it properly. Even though they did not seem to miss him, now and again, one or other of them could be found sitting on top of Tinker's grave, even long afterwards when the grass had grown back. Perhaps in their own way they were remembering an old friend or saying goodbye. It would be nice to think so.
WHEN A CAT GOES MISSING
Sadly, a number of cats go missing never to return. This is very upsetting, not least because you do not know exactly what has happened to him and also because there is no body to serve as a focal point for grief and other emotions. There is always that faint hope that he will turn up safe and well one day. As time goes on and it becomes sadly apparent that this will not happen, you will need some way to 'let go'. Many owners find it helpful to hold some form of memorial service or wake to commemorate a missing cat. Without a body to bury or cremate, some find it helpful to bury their cat's favourite toys or blanket to serve in place of a grave, or to have a small memorial plaque made either for his 'grave' or for indoors next to a photograph.
Because there is no sense of resolution, the natural grieving process is delayed. It is hard to use common sense to decide how much time passes before a missing cat is 'presumed dead'. Having a memorial service or burying his 'personal effects' may allow you to let go and to feel all the emotions associated with pet death. It is unfair to yourself to hold out hope indefinitely. When a cat goes missing and there is no way of being absolutely certain what has happened, it is natural to grieve for longer and harder to come to terms with the fact that you may never see him again. This is why it is helpful to have something, such as a memorial service, symbolic grave, plaque or photograph, to serve as a focus for your feelings.
HOW SOON SHOULD I GET ANOTHER CAT?
If your cat was put to sleep as the result of an infectious illness, then your vet may advise you to let a period of time elapse before getting another cat. This is to reduce the risk of infection remaining in your home.
Apart from this, it is a personal decision. Some people cannot live without feline companionship and get another cat almost immediately, sometimes within hours. Others would consider this to be indecent haste. Many owners need a period of time to come to terms with the loss of a pet; how long this takes varies from person to person. Some feel that getting another cat too quickly would be disrespectful to their former companion. A few owners take on another cat before their pet goes into terminal decline; this is only possible if the cat is sociable and there is no risk of infection.
Remember that the new cat will not replace the one you have lost. He will commemorate your previous cat, but will have a personality all his own. If you try to replace your cat with an exact duplicate, you are likely to be disappointed as all cats are individuals.
COPING WITH PET BEREAVEMENT
All cats die, whether from old age, accident, illness or euthanasia. Cats have a shorter lifespan than humans (the record age for a cat is 36 years) although most owners would like to think their cat is immortal, especially if he is hale and hearty in his late teens or beyond.
The death of a well-loved pet is on a par with the death of a human family member, despite what thoughtless people may say. Grief or anger are natural reactions to the death of an animal companion. Most people need time to come to terms with the loss of a close animal friend. Many seek consolation in remembering the joy that their cat brought them. Others find it harder to come to terms with pet bereavement especially if the cat had been rescued, nursed through illness or was their main companion.
No-one who has had to make the decision to euthanase a pet will deny that there are feelings of loss and perhaps guilt. However owners must take some comfort in having been able to be merciful to their loved pets. In a sense the owner has taken on the pain of a loving act of mercy in exchange for the suffering their cat has been spared from.
It sometimes helps to share your feelings, but people who have never lost a pet themselves may seem unsympathetic. Many GPs and religious ministers are now sympathetic to those who have lost an animal family member and can offer bereavement counselling. Suppressing feelings of grief is unhealthy and the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) runs a Pet Befriender Referral Helpline which can put you in touch with a Pet Befriender in your own area. Pet Befrienders understand just what you are going through, having experienced it themselves, and know that it helps to talk about your feelings after the death of a pet.
People with access to the Internet will be able to find Internet newsgroups where you can share your feelings with other bereaved pet owners e.g. rec.pets.cats, alt.animals.felines or one of the many bulletin boards or on-line forums which will be found using a search engine. There are also 'virtual cemeteries' where you can post up a message of remembrance for your pet. You may wish to place an obituary in a cat or pet magazine or even in a newspaper.
WHAT DO I TELL THE CHILDREN?
Children and cats often have very special bonds. The cat is a playmate, companion and will never, ever pass on any secrets told to it. Cats give unconditional, non-judgmental love. So, when the cat dies, the child often takes it very hard. Don't tell a white lie in the hope of making things easier. One of my friends was told that her adored cat had been sent to a farm to live happily with other cats. Later the parents changed this to "he ran away". She waited at the garden gate every evening for over a year until her parents told her the truth. All that she gained from the experience was a feeling that parents were not to be trusted.
Death is hard for a child to understand, so help him to understand that death is natural and happens to very old and very sick animals and people. The death of a pet is a learning experience which will help him to cope later on when elderly family members die. If your child is young, don't use the euphemism "put to sleep" as the child may expect the animal to wake up and return or try to exhume the body; some children develop a fear of going to sleep in case you bury them. Explain that the cat was very old or very sick and that the vet couldn't mend it (children think in terms of mending things). Explain that vets do make sick cats better but that sometimes cats are just too sick and that the vet helped it to die without being in pain; otherwise the child may think that vets kill animals and may become distressed when another animal goes to the vet for routine treatment.
Ask your child to help with any funeral or burial service; for example choosing a blanket or a teeshirt (may be an old one belonging to the child) to wrap the cat in or a cat toy to be buried or cremated with it. If your child is involved, it may help in their understanding that death is natural and permanent. If you are religious you may say that God cares for animals too and that your child will meet his pet in heaven one day (this can neither be proved no disproved and is therefore, not technically a lie). Many religions believe in reincarnation or that animals have souls, albeit simpler ones than humans and since animals cannot commit sins, they are assured of a heavenly place. Some spiritualists consider that animals have a species communal soul and that pets develop individual souls because they come to understand that they are distinct individuals.
If you are not religious you may say that older animals die to make room for baby animals and so that everything can grow and renew itself. As a young child, all my goldfish were buried beneath certain trees because they helped the tree to grow strong and tall. I came to feel that my pets lived on as part of the trees. As an adult, I can look out on an especially vivid patch of my lawn which is exactly the same size and shape (a sort of comma shape) as the elderly cat I buried last year. For one year at least I have a visible living memorial of my cat and its contribution to the continuity of life.
SCAS produces two useful books for those who have lost a pet. "Death of An Animal Friend" is available from SCAS, 10B Leny Road, Callender, FK17 8BA (Tel/Fax 01877 330996) price £2.50. "Bye Bye, Belle" is an illustrated story book to explain pet loss to children and is available from the same address, price £4.95.
Other helpful books are "Absent Friend" by Laura & Martyn Lee (Henston) which also provides practical advice on cremations/burials and "Goodbye Dear Friend" by Virgina Ironside (Robson Books).
"Surviving the Heartbreak of Choosing Death for Your Pet" by Linda M Peterson (Greentree Publishing), "Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children" by Herbert A Nieburg and Arlene Fischer ( (Harper-Perennial), "Coping With Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet" by Moira K Anderson and "The Loss of A Pet" by Wallace Sife (Howell Book House) are all American books which may be available in some larger bookshops.
For those with children, "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney" by Judith Viorst, (Anthaneum) is another book which helps to explain the death of a cat.
Modern drugs are extremely fast-acting and the end is very peaceful compared to the latter stages of a terminal illness or age-related illness. Your vet will administer an overdose of anaesthetic by injection and the cat will simply fall into a painless and final sleep. If, during his life, your cat has been a cherished member of your family, this is the last, and often most compassionate, duty you can perform for him.
BEAMED FROM THE BRIGHT CATTERY IN THE SKY
(Michael Hatwell, The Cat Magazine)
"praedilecta Sappho ibi nuper ascensa sic loquitu"
I think of you sometimes
RAINBOW BRIDGE (Anon)
"Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hill for all our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill or old are restored to health and vigour; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when your and your special friend finally meet, you cling to each other in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together........"
Just the other side of death's curtain are the Summerlands. All the pets who have died go through this curtain and though they can still watch us, we can't see them. Sometimes the curtain is thin in places and we catch a glimpse of our lost companion waiting on the other side. Sometimes the curtain twitches as they look through at us and we can feel them or feel a sudden draft as the curtain falls back into place.
The Summerlands exist in the long, lazy late afternoons of an eternal golden summer of remembered childhood; the time when everything seems most alive and sweetest smelling. Our animals are young again and turned to perfect health. There is always space and time to play and love, places to be with others and places to be alone together.
When our time comes, the curtain is lifted from our eyes and we can see the Summerlands ourselves. Waiting there for us are the animals and people we loved in life and we can see them clearly at last. The has come for us to move away from the curtain and renew these interrupted friendships. Sometimes we can't help but take a peek through the curtain just to see how our own loved ones are doing before they come to join us.
The Animals' Eden (Anon)
The Animal's Eden is a huge, beautiful walled garden where all pets go until such time as their human companions can join them. Only pet animals go to this walled garden and there are other special places for all the other animals, and especially beautiful places for animals who have suffered while on Earth and whose souls need peace and healing before they can move on. The garden is full of lawns and hedges, flower borders and shrubberies, wildflower meadows and patios of red brick. All of this is surrounded by a wall, just like a Middle Ages English garden, but much, much larger. The wall is not to keep the animals in and the garden is so huge that none of them feel as though they are in any way enclosed. And in any case there is a special gate, but I will come to that later.
In the Animal's Eden all the pets that have passed over and are waiting for their special human are free to do what they want, and because it is a heavenly place, none of them want to do anything that harms their animal friends. The horses and ponies graze and gallop in the meadows. The dogs romp on the lawns and sniff in the shrubberies. The cats lounge on the patios, basking in the sunshine, or take their ease in the dappled shade of trees. Birds are no longer caged, but fly free in the trees, eating the plentiful fruit and seeds. None of them actually feel hungry, but are provided with heavenly food if they wish so that they can eat without harming the others waiting alongside them. The garden is full of every kind of animal that has ever been a pet and which has someone special it wishes to wait for.
There is a special arch in the garden wall, the sort of brick arch which might have held a wrought iron gate in earthly gardens. Sometimes one or more of the animals gets a funny feeling, a bit like butterflies in the tummy. Those animals stop their playing or basking and make their way to the arched gate. Something special is about to happen. When they reach the gate they can see that their special human is walking towards the gate. Then, because the Animals' Eden is a place for animals only, those animals can walk through the arch to join their human friend(s) and walk together in the sunshine on the next stage of their souls' journey. For although the garden is a beautiful and happy place, there is nothing more joyful than a reunion between dear friends who have been apart too long.
THERE IS A NEW STAR SHINING IN THE SKY TONIGHT ...
There is an old belief that the stars shining in the night sky are the spirits of those who have died. They have shed their earthly bodies and exchanged them for bodies made of light; thousands upon thousands of our dear departed friends all promoted to glory in the night sky. There is another saying that the brightest flame burns the shortest.
My friend, you were the brightest star in my own universe. While I burn on, my flame dimmed by grief and despair at your passing, the stars are watching me. They are too far away for me to touch, just as you have gone somewhere I cannot follow until my own star-time comes. They cannot be held close for comfort, just as I can no longer hold you close, though I held you close to comfort you in your final hours. We were together for such a short time, but the stars will burn forever.
One day I will grow tired of this earthbound body, my own star-time will come and my spirit will soar into the sky to burn with all those friends who have gone before me. On the inky cloth of space we will be reunited in constellations of joy. Until then, my flame burns low and dim and cold without you. Through my tears I look upwards to see if you are watching me and what do I see?
There is a new star shining in the sky tonight.