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Elton John and Marilyn

Elton John and John Furnish's Dog Marilyn

Elton John and Marilyn

The impact of dog loss on the whole family. After hearing the sad news that Elton John and John Furnish’s Dog Marilyn had died I want to look at the impact of pet loss on the family. The news was announced on David Furnish’s Instagram account along with a beautiful photo of Marilyn – an American Cocker Spaniel – and a moving tribute (you can find the full post at the end of the article). The post talks about her age, she was nearly 16, the joy that she brought to the family, how she looked after their children when they first came home from hospital, and the way that she was always with them.

If you remove the name of the breed and the tail wagging the post could be about any family member. Because that is what a pet is, a member of your family. They are with you daily and take part in almost all aspects of family life. They are family. And when a member of your family dies, it hurts.

When a family pet dies

What I really love about John Furnish’s post is how he talks about Marilyn’s unique personality. Each pet, just like the rest of our family, comes with all the positive and sometimes negative traits. He talks about her charging around, which can’t have been easy if you’re having to be quiet backstage! And counteracts this with the fierce protectiveness of their young sons, guarding them loyally.

And so each time we lose a member of our family our experience will be unique. We will miss all the small things that made them different, that made them…well, them. And this can be a bit of a shock. We may have experienced pet loss before but feel knocked sideways because the impact of this particular loss is very different.

And whilst we are trying to process this complicated feeling we still have to help other family members including children and other pets deal with their feelings.

When we lost our family cat April

I help people on a daily basis with loss and have done professionally since 2012. Yet, when we discovered April’s body I could not bring myself to tell my children straight away. Why? You can read the full story here but basically I couldn’t trust myself to say the right thing until I had processed my own grief.

Telling the rest of the family

I’m not proud of my reaction, in fact I still sometimes feel guilty about it, but that is what happened. And that is why I set up My Pet’s Ashes so that we could talk more openly about the real impact of pet grief. I found that writing down what happened and how I felt helped me to get to a place where I could sit down and talk to my children in a way that made sense for us as a family. To use the words that made sense for them and to answer all their questions honestly.

The impact on other pets

When we lost April she was our only pet, the immediate impact was that our house didn’t feel as much as a home, it felt instantly emptier. But I talk to people daily about other pets not eating when another pet dies, or they keep looking for them or sleeping in their beds. I spoke to an End of Life vet and asked her how could we help our pets to cope with the loss. She said that if we could it is much better for any euthanasia to take place in the home so that everyone can be involved in saying goodbye. It is then really important to allow the other pets to be near the body so that they understand that it has happened.

Pet Bereavement Advice

I write regularly about pet loss and you can find lots of practical and manageable advice on our advice pages, on my blog and in my guide section.

You can also sign up to my free 12 Step Pet Bereavement Guide that breaks down the death of a pet into 12 stages with helpful tips and information including questions to ask your vet and choosing the right type of pet cremation.

12 Step Pet Bereavement Guide

Practical advice and tips for coping with the loss of your pet

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I’ll leave you will the lovely tribute to Marilyn from Elton’s husband David:

David Furnish’s Instagram Post:

A heartbreakingly sad farewell to our beautiful and gorgeous Marilyn, just shy of her 18th birthday 🙏🏻❤️

She gave our family an abundance of joy and love. Marilyn joined the Furnish-Johns as companion to Elton’s beloved cocker spaniel Arthur. Together they travelled the world with us – from backstage at Caesar’s Palace to the gondolas of Venice. Life was never, ever dull with them charging around.

Marilyn was like a sentry posted at the door when both Zachary and Elijah first came home from the hospital. Instinctively she knew about the importance of their arrival, and lay directly under their prams keeping vigil. Occasionally, she’d pop her head up over the edge to check on their well-being, with her tail wagging away madly. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY who wasn’t a part of the family got near those boys. She was a fiercely loyal and protective mother.

She’s back together with Arthur now, charging around in doggie heaven and chasing rabbits. A dear friend once remarked “A dog is the only love you can buy” and the love we got back from Marilyn was bountiful and immeasurable.

Take care

Karen xx

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