Jackie Buckle holding photo of cat Max

'Goodbye my friend': A story of pet loss

Since the Blue Cross launched its Pet Bereavement Support Service in 1994, we have helped thousands of grieving pet owners of all ages, from all walks in life. One of them is Jackie Buckle, who used the service when she lost her beloved cat, Max. She is now a volunteer for PBSS, after the experience inspired her to help others struggling to cope with the loss of a pet. Here’s her story…

OK, I know I’m biased but Max was a really handsome cat. A typical tuxedo with the softest green eyes and whiskers like piano wires.

Jackie Buckle taking a call from the PBSS helpline
Jackie now helps others through pet loss

He was very huggable (although he would only tolerate being held for about eight seconds) and loved to follow me around the house, purring and occasionally coming out with that loud, chirrupy miaow of his.

One day Max looked different. He was quiet and sleepy, not his usual self at all. I was a little worried but didn’t think too much of it.

Later that day, though, he started panting heavily. We took him to the vet.

I remember my tears falling onto the black consulting table as I was told the bad news: Max had congestive heart failure.

There followed a whole raft of veterinary visits and medical procedures to help save our boy. Max hated the vets and fought hard whenever he had to go into his carry case – despite his condition he could still be quite feisty!

After many weeks of these trips, of hoping against hope, crossing everything, and praying for him to get better, it was clear he wasn’t going to. We decided it was time to say goodbye.

The house without Max was not a good place. I suddenly realised what a hole he had left. A big physical, emotional hole. All the little routines we had shared; the uncomplicated affection; that constant, comforting everyday togetherness.

My daughters helped a lot, taking me out for coffees and letting me go on and on about how much I missed him. They loved and missed Max too but were busy studying and enjoying hectic social lives, whereas because I worked from home, it had just been me and Max together. I guess he’d become a bit of a mummy’s boy – or at least I liked to think so. 

I looked online for things to help – perhaps hearing about other people’s experiences would make me feel less alone. This is where I came across the Blue Cross pet memorial wall. With tears streaming down my face (again), I read the many touching tributes. It actually helped considerably, and I decided I would like to write my own memorial to Max.

I wanted to tell people how special he was, what a great little character. I wanted to honour him and, on a more practical level, to have something tangible to do. The world keeps turning of course and new challenges, problems and opportunities demand our attention.
 

Jackie Buckle with her dog sitting on the sofa

As the months wore on, I began to accept the loss of Max and slowly build my life around it. I had made a little montage of some of his pictures and I still touched it every day.

Whereas in the first weeks the pictures had filled me with regret, I now felt happy looking at them. What a great cat he was! Feisty, friendly, funny and beautiful. How lucky we were to have had him.

I felt like I had waded through what felt like a swamp of grief and finally reached dry land. It had been hard, but I realised that the main thing that had helped was the ability to tell people how I was feeling and how special our bond had been.

I felt ready now to offer support to others going through the loss of a pet and so I signed up for the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service.

I have now been a volunteer for three years and spoken to hundreds of people. The calls are all totally unique, but some things unite them, such as the tremendous social and emotional support pets give us and the purpose and laughter they bring to our lives.

I have felt privileged to listen to people’s stories, which are often incredibly moving and heartfelt, and to offer whatever I can in terms of hope and support. I believe that pets are a huge force for good in the world and that despite the dreadful pain we feel on their passing, it is a price worth paying for their unconditional love and the wonderful memories they leave us with.

— Page last updated 05/03/2021