As someone who works at a wildlife rescue and has many pets, it’s inevitable that I would be faced with the hard truth of what happens at the end of their lives, and being on the spectrum is also something that has made me wonder about how these situations make me feel.
As most of us know, lack of empathy is something that people put into the category of aspergers and autism, but some people will also agree with me when I say that, not all Aspies are as like this. And I am one of them.
The reason I know this is because, as I have gotten older, I have been able to understand more of my emotions. Admittedly, when I was younger, I was unaware of what feeling, meant what. I usually resulted to lashing out because of my confusion. I most likely felt something, but didn’t like how it made me feel or I was unsure of how to express, so lashing out was my only way of dealing with it. Especially when it came to feelings of unhappiness or the feeling of missing someone. These are feelings I still struggle with.
So when it comes to the death of animals, how do I feel?
Without sounding like I don’t own a heart, I am very respectful of an animal’s choice to die. At the rescue, we deal with some awful cases where animals die on their own, or they have to be put to sleep, and in either situation, I feel, both, gutted and relieved. The reason behind my feelings in these circumstances are sort of logical. I feel gutted because its sad that the animal had encountered an unfortunate event and such things happened, but I feel relieved that the animal is no longer suffering. And even though with my pets, I do cry at their loss, I also feel the same way, that I am glad they are no longer suffering.
In the past, I have had to deal with shock deaths with some of my budgies. Meaning, I’ve just randomly stumbled upon their dead body. These are the kinds of death encounters that I always fear the most. Particularly because I blame myself for not knowing that they were ill. Whether I can say its fortunate or not, but this has only happened 3 times. Its not great that it’s happened, but I’m glad it hasn’t happened a lot.
Having to go through the death of my dog and best friend, Bazil, was definitely one of the hardest things. My family got him shortly before I was born so he and I grew up together. Probably like those cliche videos you see of babies and puppies. He and I were inseparable, and he was amazing whenever I got angry or frustrated. He would just come up to me and nuzzle my hand or put his head on my lap. I would instantly feel safe. So dealing with his loss, was like having everything ripped away from me. I’d lost my security blanket and my best friend.
However, a few years before he died, my family decided to get me a dog of my own to help me get out of the house, as Baz was too old. It worked to a certain extent, and definitely helped me deal with Bazil’s death. I knew I had to carry on for her sake and I continued to remind myself that Baz would want me to be happy. It was tough, but I managed it, and still treasure his memory to this day, with many pictures of him, in my bedroom.
My own little pooch (Skye) died at the age of 4, so I had to deal with another loss of a best friend. She, unfortunately had some form of legg perthes, which resulted in both her hip joints disintegrating. I was given an option to give her a number of operations, but as she was far too lively to spend the next several months, cage-bound, I’d rather she die happy, than suffer in a cage which we couldn’t guarantee would even help her heal properly. This was a huge decision for me to make. I had to take into account, the price it would come to and the stress it would put her under. I had to think about how she would deal with having to be still, baring in mind, every time the hoover or hairdryer went off, she would go mental, wanting to jump around with the noise. This would have been agony for her and I just couldn’t bare to watch her go through it. I was 17 at the time and hadn’t yet started the rescue so I was still sheltered from responsibility, but I still tried to make the right decision. Luckily I had my family who helped me, and they guided me to right decision. For several months before Skye died, I was receiving lots of help with dealing with my anxiety and shortly after Skye died, I joined the rescue. It was a hard time but I like to think that Skye helped me with the challenges I faced before the rescue, and I was ready to grow my wings and fly, and in a way, its like she came into my life to help me do that, and when she did, she knew it was okay to go.
Facing these heart-wrenching situations, has shaped me as a person. I have grown to love animals more, respecting their way of life and even becoming fascinated with the simplest of creatures. Dealing with the deaths of animals is always going to be hard, but truthfully, I believe that everything happens for a reason.