Illumination celebration: Lighting the way to the Rainbow Bridge
Published 2:09 pm Thursday, November 12, 2015
Just this side of heaven is the Rainbow Bridge. Here animals are happy except for someone left behind. The day comes when one looks into the distance. He begins to run, flying over green grass — you have been spotted. In joyous reunion you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet. Then together you cross the Rainbow Bridge. (Author unknown)
The staff of Ridge Animal Hospital in Farmville knows that the death of a pet is a time of grief and sorrow. To help clients and members of the community experiencing such a loss, the local animal hospital has planned a Pet Luminary Service for Dec. 5 “to offer the light of celebration for all our pets who have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.”
The event will also memorialize a human loss — the death of Ridge Animal veterinarian Dr. Erica Geary, who died in April from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
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“We wanted to do something to keep Dr. Geary’s memory and name alive,” Dr. Mark French said.
The dog park currently under construction in Farmville has also been named in Dr. Geary’s honor.
“I’ve seen so many people in the last couple of years lose their animals,” Hospital Manager Kelly Brooks said. “When their animals die, we mourn with them.”
For a number of years the local animal hospital has sent sympathy cards to clients following the loss of a pet.
“The idea of sending sympathy cards came from the staff,” French said. “Certainly when the end of life happens here at the hospital we see the grief. It’s a very sad thing, and we wanted to respond to that.”
French noted that when he graduated from veterinary school in 1985 not much emphasis was placed on the subject of grief.
“I can’t speak for today’s graduates, but my guess is more time is spent on that now,” he said. “Most veterinarians have a very caring heart in dealing with their clients and their pets.”
The main focus of any veterinary practice, French noted, it to offer comprehensive care that will extend the life of the animals that mean so much to its clients.
“You can compare an animal’s life to a human’s life,” French said. “I think we know that if we take care of ourselves along all of life’s stages, we’re going to have a better chance for a long life. It’s not so different with pets.”
Many advances have been made, the local veterinarian noted, during the 30 years he has been in practice.
“As they age, animals have the same issues as people do — things like cardiac problems, organ problems and lumps and tumors,” he said. “When we address these problems early we have a better chance of extending quality of life.”
French cited advances in medications, diagnostics and nutrition.
“Many of the medicines we use now are human generics, so the affordability is better,” he said. “We have some wonderful cardiac drugs for animals. We also use human chemotherapeutic agents, and many of them are affordable.”
Diagnostics, such as ultrasounds, are also now available for pets.
“Pets are members of the family,” French said. “Most people desire to spend money on their pets, whether it’s good food or toys — or a nice orthopedic bed.”
Nutrition, he added, is also an important factor in a pet’s longevity.
“Pet food manufacturers are doing a much better job of nutrition now,” he said. “They have different foods for each life stage, from puppies and kittens to older pets.”
Choosing a better brand of food, he added, is a good investment.
“Dog food is a lot cheaper than medical care,” he said.
Unfortunately there is little that can be done about the fact that animals age faster than their human friends.
“One year of a pet’s life is akin to seven in a human’s life,” French said. “Generally a smaller pet will live longer.”
Early intervention when illness threatens a pet’s life is also a key factor in ensuring longevity.
“Many of the things that happen in a pet’s body we can help in some way,” he said. “We may not be able to fix or cure every problem, but there are things we can do to make the problem better or help pets cope with the illness they have.”
Helping pet owners cope is the aim of the upcoming Pet Luminary Service.
“Our animals are like our family,” Brooks, who initiated the event, said. “When older animals come in, they’re like our friends.
With the December 5 event, the staff of Ridge Animal Hospital hopes to bring a ray of light to all who are experiencing the darkness of grief.
“I thought this would be something our clients could do in memory of their animals,” Brooks said. “We’ve come to love them, too.”
The December 5 Pet Luminary Service at the Ridge Animal Hospital will begin at 6 p.m. Luminaries with a pet’s name will be $5; all proceeds will be donated to Southside SPCA. The community is invited to attend.