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April showers

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

April was a sad month for us at home as we lost our beloved Tillie cat. It’s been an odd time as we feel very guilt free about putting her to sleep. It feels like we had good communication between both myself and my husband and the vet team caring for her. She was determined to ignore her non-working kidneys and keep on living but we knew it was the end and as she always liked a Bank Holiday trip to the vets we gave her one last trip on Good Friday.

This meant we had the long weekend to come to terms with her not being there and be ready for work after a few days off. I also felt fortunate that I wasn’t going back to a vet practice on my first day back after the Easter weekend – sometimes it’s the best place to be after you lose your own pet but sometimes it’s the worst.

This also gave me time to re-adjust to caring for just one relatively healthy pet. Tillie has needed daily treatments and medication for a good while and weekly trips to the vet so my time has been very focused on her welfare. Luckily I can work flexible hours for some days each week, as caring for your sick pet is time consuming – worth every second, but time consuming.

The time that it takes to care for a pet properly is being acknowledged more and more and there has been a spate of stories about various companies offering dog friendly workplaces, or pupternity leave when you get a new dog.

I can see that for a new puppy, extended leave or flexible working for the toilet training part of their upbringing is really helpful, but it’s also helpful for providing care for chronic conditions. Hollie is getting physio and acupuncture for her joint pain and this type of care is often only available at the time you’d normally be at work. Working flexible hours has allowed me to access this care – but not everyone can achieve that and while access to holistic care is getting better there are still limitations.

Flexible working can really help with pet care and I recall our first cat dying suddenly at home and the shock I was in. I went to work the next day on auto-pilot, mainly to take her in and organise her cremation. I realised the day after that I wasn’t in a fit state to be able to help clients with their pet needs and, as this was the main part of my job, I took the day off. I thought I was being sensible as the last thing a client needs is a tearful and upset vet nurse trying to care for them and their pet. I made what I thought was a good decision, but this wasn’t accepted at work as a genuine reason to be off work!

As an adult and registered professional I felt capable of deciding when I am fit to work and, after the sudden death of our first ever cat and a creature so close to me it was like having a piece of my soul crushed, I knew I wasn’t the rational vet nurse I needed to be to do the best for the patients on that given day.

Time to grieve for our pets is very important and there a number of dedicated charities to help you work through your feelings. The Blue Cross have a dedicated helpline for grieving pet owners since 1994 and its well worth a call if losing your pet is affecting you.

It does seem that employers are realising that the time taken to care for pets is important, but I would suggest it needs to be applied across all life stages. To be able to grieve for pets is an important part of our life and there are times where we need a little flexibility and compassion.

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