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Serving Animals Through the Dying Process

By Stuart Camps, Director of Fear-No-More Zoo

Avatar Adi Da Samraj acknowledges the multitude of "non-human" beings to be conscious and contemplative creatures worthy of the same love and care as any human being. Adi Da calls everyone to the fundamental understanding that all beings and things inhere in Divine Reality. To serve this understanding Avatar Adi Da has established Fear-No-More Zoo as a further means of extending His Teachings of respect for all living beings.

Adi Da Samraj: If you are going to bring animals into your sphere and take them out of theirs, you have to make some sort of arrangement with them in which they have the potential, through their contemplative life, to be just as happy as you want them to be. But in that process of sensitizing yourself to non-humans and placing no barriers between yourself and them, you have to go beyond your previous mind about non-humans as sort of "non-beings". -January 1996

People often wonder what to do when their pet, or another animal, is dead or dying. How can we best serve an animal through this part of its life-process? Adi Da Samraj has given instruction on the death process for humans in His book Easy Death. The process is essentially the same for non-humans yet there are unique points to consider in serving the death of animals, including whether euthanasia is appropriate.

Serving the death and dying process in animals

When an animal begins to enter the death process, there are simple things we can do to assist and support the animal. Because of their already deep level of contemplation most non-humans have much less difficulty than humans with releasing themselves into and through the death process. Sometimes the best help we can give them is to simply leave them alone... Set them up in a comfortable, safe, quiet place and allow them their space.

Once the death process is under-way and soon after the death has occurred, minimize physical contact with the animal. At this point, physical contact—though perhaps reassuring to the grieving person—can be disturbing and distracting for the one who is involved in the actual process of letting the body go.

If it is a natural death, whether through old age or a long illness, you will hopefully have had time to express your love and gratitude to your animal friend well before the actual death process is fully underway. Both leading up to and at the time of death, it is most helpful to the animal if you, yourself, have come to the point of acceptance and release.

Allow and encourage the animal to relax its attachment to the body. Because many animals form strong loyalties toward their humans, if they feel you are not ready for them to die they may resist letting go. They may also “linger” after death, which compromises their ability to transition smoothly.

One of the main difficulties they might experience in the death process is the attachment of humans who have not yet learned to release their animal friend to move on. This is an important point. As the animal is dying, talk with your human friends to gain the emotional support you may need.

Pain medication, antibiotics, and other veterinary care might serve the dying animal's comfort and relaxation. Consult your veterinarian.

For devotees of Avatar Adi Da, anointing the animal with holy water and sacred ash from one of the Sanctuaries of Adidam is recommended. You might also bring fresh flowers to the dying animal, as flowers exemplify the positive cycle of living and dying. When in the dying animal's company, Invoke Adi Da Samraj and direct your attention to the Divine, rather than upon the transitioning individual in front of you, or upon yourself. Turn your feeling to Adi Da Samraj and release any negative emotion. The death of another is a profound lesson for each of us.

After death, let the body rest in place for 12 to 24 hours, then bury or cremate. It also serves to do a simple burial ceremony on the body or the ashes. Take up all the animal's "belongings"—bedding, bowls, leashes, toys, and so forth. Clean them and put them away. This helps make conscious and tangible the process of release. Meditate more. Go on retreat. Use the event to become a more serious and happy human being.

Serving wild animals

If you come across a wild animal who has been mortally injured or killed it is fine to offer help, but be very careful not to get hurt.

Help given to a dying wild animal should usually be simple and brief. Wild animals are not used to human contact. If they are hurt or recently killed, they are already dealing with a lot. An unfamiliar human presence can be disturbing. Remain calm. There they are, in pain and shock, faced with the death process coming over them, and suddenly they have to deal with their inbuilt fear response toward humans.

If one is not sensitive to this, even well intentioned help might be more disturbing than helpful. If the animal is injured on a roadway you can calmly, and as gently as possible, move the animal off the road and into the bushes nearby. Then leave it alone to die quietly and undisturbed. (You might also consider calling a trained professional about euthanasia—see discussion below.)

Wild animals do not need human help through the death process. Their inherent Spiritual sensitivity has already prepared them well for it. Simply let them be. Later, go back and deal with the body in an appropriate way, or notify relevant authorities about the carcass.

The Question of Euthanasia

When we employ euthanasia with animals we interrupt the natural course of their karmic purification. If possible, allow your animal friend to live as long as it is humane to do so—preferably until a natural death has occurred. Weigh the virtues of this against the animal's state of pain and disturbance, and be sensitive to what the animal wants.

Sometimes it's clear that it wants your help; other times it may wish to go through the process without intervention. It is important for both you and the animal to feel what is happening and freely release the event without clinging. They will always sense your communication and supportive intention, and this will help to guide and relax them.

Being natural contemplatives, non-humans readily accept the process of death once it becomes unavoidable. Avatar Adi Da's Instruction is that as long as the being maintains the impulse to life, we should fully serve and support that impulse.

Only when the individual turns its energies toward the actual death process should we turn our supportive energies in that direction. Adi Da Samraj recommends great restraint in resorting to euthanasia. Use it only where absolutely necessary, and when an animal is in a dire circumstance of pain, bewilderment and suffering and with no hope for recovery.

Adi Da Samraj (in response to a question about right use of euthanasia): Is the animal suffering pain, fear, or debilitation? What is the individual's state? Should the animal be permitted to live longer? Are there any procedures that might prolong the life, and should they be implemented or not? Should the animal continue to live and should medical things be done to help it live or not? Is the animal able to function? Will it be able to feel or not? Or is it just suffering? How does the animal communicate its state? Is it disturbed, in great pain, or is it comfortable? If it is not functioning, can it be healed to be able to function well enough again? Consider whether the animal should be allowed to die naturally or whether it should be put to sleep through medical means. And if it is to be put to sleep, this should be done in a non-disturbing way. What would occur over time if the process were one of allowing it to go through the death naturally, keeping in mind that it might need to be terminated at some point along the process? --October 25, 1991

Use the above questions to guide your care of the animal, always staying sensitive to the life-process of the animal, honoring the life at every step, and not moving to euthanasia prematurely just to avoid the difficult confrontation death can present us with. Death is one of life's great lessons.

(With kind permission the above material is excerpted from Easy Death, by Avatar Adi Da Samraj, appendix C)

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as trustee for The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam. All rights reserved. Perpetual copyright claimed.