Grief is hard. When our fur babies cross the rainbow bridge, it is heartbreaking. During this episode, Blair and Alana talk about what it’s like to lose a beloved pet.

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Trigger Warning: The Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult. The listener’s discretion is advised.

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Transcript
Blair Kaplan Venables:

trigger warning, the Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult, the listeners discretion is advised.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Hello friends, welcome to radical resilience, a weekly show where I Blair Kaplan Venables have inspirational conversations with people who have survived life's most challenging times. We all have the ability to be resilient and bounce forward from a difficult experience. And these conversations prove just that, get ready to dive into these life changing moments while strengthening your resilience muscle and getting raw and real. Welcome back to another episode of radical resilience.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

It's me, Blair Kaplan Venables, and I'm here with the other half of the grief gals. Alana Kaplan, my sister. And today's topic, woof. It's a grief one and like extra greavy because my intuition was obviously on fire. But today we're going to talk about grief around losing a pet. Grief around losing a pet. And, you know, not all of us have ever had pets, but a lot of us I can confidently say a lot of people have had pets. And there's nothing more painful. Actually, there was more something more painful losing a parent. But there's that's one of the more painful feelings because our pets are our chosen family. There are Furbabies and Alanna and I have both gone through, like significant losses throughout our life with our pets. So you know, we're going to tell the story, we're going to tell the tale of Blackie we're going to tell the tale of Xena and we're going to tell the tale of ash. So I'm gonna pass it over to Alana and let's have a little chit chat about Blackie.

Alana Kaplan:

Okay, so just want to preface that. Blackie was the bunny I had in 1999 when I was 10, hence the name. And I was so excited. I went and got Blackie at Petland. And with a friend of mine at the time, they also got a bunny rabbit. And I could not have loved this little rabbit more. I would raise her down the hallways of our house. She would pee everywhere. She would poop everywhere. And I have like this recollection a couple months after I got her. This might be a bit TMI, but it shouldn't be because it's normal. I was in early. I was early to the party of getting my period and I have this memory of crying because I was so young and I thought Blair didn't have her period yet. And she was four years older than me. And so I remember sitting on my bed, kind of crampy with blacking on my stomach just crying. Um, she even though she was a bunny, she was like she was my world. I would take pictures of her at summer camp,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

you put her on a leash and took her for walks. I forgot about that. I thought it was I again me being four years older. I thought it was like the stupidest pet. I was like a rabbit in a cage. Like what? And I couldn't wrap my head around the like affection you had because it was yours. It wasn't ours. And I never had a pet.

Alana Kaplan:

No, like I loved her. In letters from camp, my mum would write on Blackie's behalf and we had there was a bit of an overlap with black maybe a year and a half overlap with Blackie and Xena who we'll talk about next. And one year we went to we went on a trip to Mexico and we had to put Xena in boarding and we put Blackie in boarding and at this point it was just too stressful for Blackie so she stopped eating when we came home she stopped drinking. We essentially like after many vet visits, we had to put her down. And it turns out she had cancer kind of like everyone else in our life. And we I was distraught. I was in grade 11 at this time so Blackie lived a long life like she lived seven ish years. But I was distraught. I was a distraught 16 year old I couldn't go to school. My mom was distraught I think it was, I think her seeing how upset I was made her sad and having her put down was sad and coming home and having Xena like be on top of her cage and not having her in it. I don't think I gave away her cage for years after. And I actually like this is how much I loved this rabbit. In our my grade 11 English class we had to make an ontology on poems. I mean it also speaks to where I am today. And my topic was on grief. It was called like someone said goodbye I think which was an any I think it's an Enya song, great song. And I was inspired from my dead rabbit to make this. So even this little furry thing that was probably like four pounds had so much power over me. And I my mom, this is just kind of a funny aside. So my mom loved calendars, and writing everything in her calendar. And up until she died on Blackie's birthday which we guessed which was made a it's a she would be happy 15th Birthday Blackie or happy 20th birthday, Blackie so on on May 8 Every year I think like oh Blackie would have been 24 this year, which is ridiculous but yeah the story of little little Blackie I just

Blair Kaplan Venables:

want to point out like so one Blackie passed away I don't remember the overlap with Xena. And but I do remember like I sort of remember this but you do. So when Blackie died you stayed home from school and mom stayed home from work and you guys have to understand my mom did not miss work for anything like she worked until three weeks before she died from cancer. Like she didn't miss anything. So Mom took a sick day to be fair for Atlanta when Blackie died. So that's how important Blackie was to two thirds of our family.

Alana Kaplan:

Blair did you ever hold Blackie?

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I don't know. I just remember like, maybe. I don't remember like having much of a relationship with Blackie Bidzina Hmm. So we got Xena when I was 19 and she was a barn cat and I have a friend from Florida prairie and she told me about a litter of kittens. And so she took one kitten an orange cat and I took one cat a calico cat and I named her Xena the warrior pussy because she looked like like you know she had all these like fun stripes on her lips look like a warrior. Actually my friend Rhonda was the other was the other cats mom and one of my best friends and I named actually Xena Xena Rhonda Kaplan Xena the warrior pussy, Xena Rhonda Kaplan and she named her cat Tigger Blair ver away so and but Xena, you know, we had a bit of a most there's mice in the house and I don't know I can't remember I remember wanting a pat and mum allowing it and it just kind of happened.

Alana Kaplan:

Actually, it was because you were you had your first heartbreak.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

But also mum had we had a most problem because that is accurate. Yes. It was like all sorts of things. Anyways, you know, my life then like I was 19 I left Winnipeg when I was 21 Maybe 22. Like, you know, my life then was like school and working a full time job and working in the bars and partying and hanging out with friends. I wasn't home much so like, yeah, it was our cat my cat but it became a Lana and my mother's cat. And she was a feisty little Sasquatch. In fact, okay. She She ate, she loved her food. And at one point, she got really obese and then went on a diet. And I remember I can't remember where it was, I might have been living in Edmonton at the time and mom sent me a message saying that Xena was the poster cat for cat weight loss because they put her on weight loss food and lost a whole bunch of weight and they like promoted her on social media and stuff. And you know, in true Kaplan fashion, made a name for herself. But you know, I left Winnipeg and mum said to me, you're not taking Xena and so I said fine. Yeah, I mean, every time I came home, we played these games of her pretending she didn't know me and then she'd always ended up cuddling with me and remembering me and she you know, she was a little sassy. Cat. Yes, Lin.

Alana Kaplan:

I love Xena so much. She like was probably the most aggressive smuggler I've ever encountered. Like she nudged you so hard when she snuggled and I was I had my hand up because what I originally was going to say is I still have access to that. That post of her being the poster child. So I feel like we should potentially share it in the in the show notes. I don't know what you think.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, we can definitely share the link to that in the show notes. But yeah, so Zenas journey like, it's good because during the pandemic, Alanna and I both didn't live at home in Winnipeg, and my mum was at home. My mum was at home alone because she was in the she works as a dental hygienist and the dental community was the first that were told to stay home. And so she was at home with Xena like her and Xena spent a lot of time together. And you know, when mum got sick, she went into the hospital and we learned that she had two weeks left to live I was you know, with her on day one, my one of three that she had left of her life and she looked at me and she said, Blair, you have to take Xena and I was like, but mom like I have two other cats and she's like you have to take her. Alanna can have her she lives in an apartment. So in my head I'm like, oh my god, what am I going to do? I have to bring this like sassy old cat from Winnipeg to Pemberton and we were like across the country. So flying, taking this cat from Winnipeg to Vancouver and then driving three hours into the mountains and then moving three and a half hours into my mother in law's house and then to my house and cat lips like that was the journey that Zeno went on. And it's really interesting because at the start of her life, I was with her and it just so happened to be like, she stayed with me like she she made me made sure I got all the way to the house where I was to get settled in my new life in Kamloops. And within a month of being here, you know, it was her time to cross that rainbow bridge and it was really sad and heartbreaking. In fact, being with her felt like I had a piece of mom, like had a piece of of mum with us. And when she died it was kind of like a reopen those grief wounds of mum again. And also really sad because like 19, right? She was was it? 19?

Alana Kaplan:

No, she was 17

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Okay, she was 17.

Alana Kaplan:

But still, like it's a long, it's a long time to like Xena. I mean, at the time that she died, she was alive for more of my years, then she wasn't. And my friends just knew how important Xena was to me. And they got this like curated Photo Print made for me and framed it and it was just the sweetest thing because they they recognize and I mean, I think a lot of people listening can probably recognize the importance and the value of having a pet and how they are very important family members.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, and so like when we knew she was gonna go, we put her down. And you know, that process was very like that was my first time experiencing the loss of a pet and like holding her in my arms and a towel and like having them give her the needle and her falling asleep forever. It was just so sad and heartbreaking. But then they took her and they cremated her and I got little little pictures of her little paw prints and I have her ashes hanging in my closet that one day is gonna get sprinkled all over Winnipeg, because that's what's gonna happen with Xena. We're gonna go visit mom

Alana Kaplan:

all over all over Sharon Stone tell

Blair Kaplan Venables:

the synagogue. There might be a drive by our childhood home sprinkling as well. Maybe this summer, maybe this fall. But yeah, and I'm not going to talk too much about it because it's super fresh. But this past weekend, we lost me and Shane lost ash. And she was our senior cat. She was 18 and Shane's best friend, and she, she says she was my longest girlfriend. And it was just very heartbreaking. Shane did not like cats and his ex girlfriend brought home a cat from the shelter. And he fell in love. And she has been in my life for 12 years. And she was just very special and cuddly and fluffy and soft and smart. And beautiful. And unfortunately we were camping this weekend and we got a call from our neighbor who was watching us to let us know that she passed away in her sleep. So that's a fresh one. And so having a cat passed away in our house and then burying her in our yard was that experience. It was very sad but also very special to have like, you know, been able to be with her that long and you know she's no longer suffering because she was really old and sick. But you know, I think like pets are family.

Alana Kaplan:

I would say like lots of places of employment have bereavement leave and they have it for family members, like parents, siblings, kids, nephews, etc, etc, etc. But there's nowhere there for pets and I've been I've told my manager straight up I'm like FYI, like when the time comes For for Miss Molly which hopefully won't be for years. Like they can't expect me to come to work the next day or even the day after. Like there's a difference I think with grief with animals because the communication is different and the like, relationship is different and you don't know how to always help them respond to them. They don't speak they don't share how they're feeling with you. And so you just do the best you can with what you know and it just makes it really sad.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Yeah, and especially because pets generally like you know, they're not like humans where like you argue with them like yeah, they might like rip apart your furniture or like shitting your shoe or you know,

Alana Kaplan:

like your shot to juice actually does

Blair Kaplan Venables:

barf to my dog's shit and shoes, Duffy wins or maybe it was at one of them barked into my boot ones. But anyways, cats cats, dogs animals, you know there's the good and the bad but it's interesting because then there's people who like have these really profound deep relationships with their pets and then they like after lose they lose it then they decide never have a pedagang scent want to go through that but what's so interesting is because I feel like I've been through the loss of Xena and also the loss of such profound people in my life like it was really sad and it still is really sad but like I know I'm going to be okay and you know the I'm think the the love for a pet outweighs the sadness that's going to be there and I know this because like my my second time ever having a kitten was one we got Frey in September like it's been like almost like 10 months or whatever. And like the the love that I have for him is so big that it fills the void of it fills that void like that pain that I have from losing Xena i don't know i mean pets right pet grief, grief bereavement.

Alana Kaplan:

Pet grief, does that qualify as grief does it qualifies as a franchise grief shouldn't really matter. It's it's grief. It's grief. And and again, I've I've known people who've lost pets that feels a loss months later. And of course, like, these are animals who for the most part will unconditionally love you. Like Blair said, You're not arguing necessarily with pets. Like when you're having a bad day. They're probably not coming to snuggle you they know. Yeah,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

they know and like they know when like you're not feeling good. And they know when stuffs going on. Like they just they're very intuitive. And they're very special. And, like some of them are very smart. Some are very beautiful and dumb. Like Frey is beautiful. And he's not dumb, but he's not very smart. But he's also a kitten. But I think, you know, I think our hearts are meant to love. And there's lots of room for love and grief happens because we love so hard and so big. And and I don't know, I mean, I I can't believe that I didn't have a pet in my life for 19 years. And I can't imagine not having at least one cat by my side. It's just something very special about that bond. But I think as we wrap up Atlanta, what type of advice do you have for someone who has just lost their pet

Alana Kaplan:

take all the time you need. And again, like I always say like allow yourself to feel what you need to feel the loss of a pet just because they're little and furry and don't necessarily talk to you doesn't make it any less of a loss.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

In fact, like I think that's really beautiful to play on that like also something that really helped with Xena and that helps Vash is that Shane and I we spend a lot of time looking at pictures of ash and sharing pictures and letting our friends know and we made it I made a social media posts like you know it's okay it's honor them and whatever we want. And maybe it's posting photos or just looking at your photos and creating an album with Xena Alanna and I have a shared album on our phones and every time a Xena picture pops up on my phone because I've 1000s like 10s of 1000s of photos. We add it to the album and it's something really nice and beautiful to look at.

Alana Kaplan:

And if it's your thing, it don't think it's mine. Some people have like looked into like stepping pills. Really? Yeah, I don't know if I was not quite taxidermy, but like maybe I mean if that's your thing, sure. So like, you know, like people when they cremate loved ones, they might spread ashes. But you can also get like bracelets or like necklaces with like a little pocket of, of the ash in that so like you can memorialize it that way or yeah, she says

Blair Kaplan Venables:

She doesn't mean my cat ash

Alana Kaplan:

No, because ashes in her backyard.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I can tell you, I definitely prefer cremating.

Alana Kaplan:

Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I prefer no death. But that's not reality. So, and I apologize to everyone that I brought up the stuffed animal thing.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Remember that, but you know, I, I really liked the paw print thing, like if you know, your pet is about to go, if your vet doesn't offer those services, it's really cool to have a paw print, you can put that on jewelry, you can frame it, Alanna, and I each have one,

Alana Kaplan:

get a tattoo,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

you can get a tattoo, there's so much you can do. But, you know, we just thought about what we could talk about today. And because of I guess, my intuition, and you know what just happened? I thought this is a good one to talk about. So if you're going through, you know, a chaotic time with your pet and their health and you're feeling really sad and you know, it's coming to the end like I am so sorry, like it, it's terrible, and it sucks. And then you know, it's sad. And, you know, no, you're not alone, that you have people around you who's gone, they're gone through it with you. And there's no right or wrong way to grieve a pet. Do what you need to do to take care of your mental health. You know, if you have a story you want to share, maybe you lost a pet and you want to share how you overcame that grief or you have a story of overcoming any life challenge. I want to invite you to share your story with the global Resilience Project right now we are sharing. We have our submissions open for the second global Resilience Project book. We are looking to have it come out or later this year. You know we believe every story deserves get told and we are a safe space for you and your stories of resilience. We are a container for big feelings. sharing your story helps you heal hearing other people's stories while going through something hard helps you heal. So we are here to strengthen our resilience muscle together. We're here to heal together. Alana any final words.

Alana Kaplan:

Not today. Okay,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

you could have just shook your head. Nope, sorry. On that note, remember, you're not alone. Let us be that lighthouse in the storm that light at the end of the tunnel. You don't have to go through grieving a pet alone or any of your hard stuff. And just remember, you are resilient.

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