If you knew roughly how much longer your beloved pet had to live, what would you do with that remaining time? Would you give them more forbidden treats such as ice cream or let them sleep on your bed with you – things that otherwise they may not be allowed?
Some pet parents are taking this concept further, with the idea of "bucket lists" for their pet. This is a list of special outings and activities they'd like to complete with their pet before they pass. While the pet doesn't understand anything about a bucket list, they'd no doubt enjoy the fun outings and tasty treats that fill their last weeks or months.
One doggie bucket list that was featured in the news worldwide was one that was created for Buddy, an Australian Cattle Dog that had been diagnosed with lymphoma and given just a few weeks to live. Instead of feeling miserable and dwelling on the inevitable loss of their much-loved dog, Buddy's pet parents made a list of 27 things that he should try before he passed away. These things encouraged his human companion to spend quality time with him, and create memories that would make her smile long after he was gone. The list included riding in a police car, being on the local news broadcast, and visiting a dog spa. Buddy passed away after nine weeks, but his Facebook page and the publicity around his bucket list raised much-needed funds for local animal rescue.
Pet parents honor their four-legged companions towards the end of their lives in other ways. One trend is to hire a photographer to capture images of the pet and their family celebrating their last day together. This trend was started by the pet parents of Dukey, whose photo journal of his final hours was shared worldwide and brought many to tears. Dukey enjoyed a hamburger picnic, visits from friends and family, and a trip to a nearby water park before he was laid to rest.
Other pet parents plan one last "perfect day" as described by author John Katz in his book "Going Home – Finding Peace when Pets Die". This is similar to a bucket list except it avoids the risk of the pet passing before completing all the things on the list. The perfect day can occur days or even weeks before the pet's passing and can include favorite meals, day trips, and even small parties with doggie friends and their pet parents.
One of the most painful parts of being a pet parent is losing your four-legged companion. Dogs and cats have no awareness of their own mortality and the idea of a bucket list isn't something they think of as important; they just love the things they get to eat and do. Bucket lists and perfect days are for the pet parent, to give them a sense of closure. It allows them to spend quality time with their pet doing what they love, and they can then let them go with the awareness that their last days were filled with joy.