Dogs, dogs and more dogs! They're our friends, colleagues, sometimes even our "children." This week, the Sun takes a look at the life of the modern Rover, from becoming part of the family to the final goodbye.

And once she and her husband got the frightened animal into their car, it was obvious to her that the disheveled creature would soon be her friend.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship for the recent retiree and the big canine with the bad shave job - "He looked like a poodle in drag," Greene-Flindall says.

Because they knew nothing about the stray, the couple first housed the dog in their garage, where Greene-Flindall sat with the worried animal as a fruitless search for his owner ensued.

Not only did Fergie help her overcome a fear of dogs, but Greene-Flindall also felt confident walking the 90-lb. Australian shepherd mix, even at night.

Apart from a thyroid condition treatable with medication, Fergie was a healthy dog until the day he developed a nosebleed. Shortly after that, Greene-Flindall was awoken by the dog to discover blood all over the kitchen floor.

At first, the diagnosis was Cushing's disease, or the production of excess hormones from the adrenal glands, for which the diagnosis can be grim.

"It was the worst week of my life," Greene-Flindall admits. After spending thousands on vet bills, the couple decided they could not afford further treatment.

Fergie returned home, but suffered two mini-strokes. He couldn't get up and the couple could not lift him, so they found a vet to come to the house and euthanize their pet.

"We couldn't put him through anymore," says Greene-Flindall, adding the decision to euthanize was a "no-brainer intellectually, but a killer emotionally."

Visions of Fergie - who didn't much like the vet - muzzled, shaved for IVs and chained to a wall "like a Turkish prison" haunt her more than a year later.

"I will die with the guilt of what he went through that last week," she says. "He would look at me as if to say, 'Why are you doing this to me?' "

Feelings of remorse over how a pet was treated or the decision to euthanize are common, says Rev. Barbara Etcovitch, an interfaith minister who performs pet memorials and funeral services in Ottawa.

"Animals can be a substitute for love, so closure can be very difficult," she says, particularly for women who may feel pressured by a husband or boyfriend to dispatch with their pet.

A professional homeopath, Etcovitch says she saw a tremendous attachment between humans and animals, but a gap in the way pets were treated, especially when they died, resulting in a lack of closure for owners.

People are rarely ready for euthanasia of an animal, she adds, partly because they are not used to this sort of power. "It's a hard call, it's like having your mother on life support."

Because there is not a lot of information about pet loss, grieving owners often ignore their symptoms, and Etcovitch gets a lot of frantic calls from people needing someone to talk to.

For $150 to $200, she performs pet funerals at a gravesite or crematorium, or memorial services, where the pet owner and their friends and family gather around a picture of the animal and share remembrances.

Etcovitch deals with a wide variety of animals and advertises in the Yellow Pages and through her website, She says calls have doubled over last year.

But as vet care does more, it also costs more, says Dr. Bernhard Pukay, senior partner at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital, where a pet MRI can cost about $800 and surgery can range from $1,500 to $5,000.

"The level of veterinary care is the best it's ever been," says Pukay. At the same time, people are willing to pay more because of the strength of the human-animal bond, he adds.

Pet insurance providers offer many different levels of coverage that can help owners budget and pay for everything from annual vaccines to more expensive emergency treatments. But it's no different than other types of insurance.

"The level of sophistication means more options and owners face difficult decisions," says Pukay. "Do you go on, or do you say goodbye to your dear friend? We advise not to do what's easy for you, but what is best for your friend."

The billion-dollar North American pet industry also provides ways for owners to bury and remember their animals. Products range from caskets and urns - some in a biodegradable format - to necklaces and pendants containing "cremains," grave markers and keepsakes.

In Ottawa, a 23-year-old family business operates the area's only pet crematorium. Old Shep Pet Loss Centre in the city's east end also hopes to open a pet cemetery in the region, pending environmental approvals, says Stephanne Chretien, a volunteer at the centre.

The centre offers a variety of urns and three or four caskets, Chretien says. While most people wait for the ashes to be returned to them, some attend their pet's cremation.

Greene-Flindall says she can't bring herself to bury Fergie's ashes at the family cottage, even though other pets are already buried there, because it "would be like saying a final goodbye." Instead she keeps the small urn in a cupboard.

"About four months after we lost Fergie, I was on the verge of cracking up," she recalls. "I missed the rapport I had with the dog, and I said, 'I gotta get another dog.' "

ACUPUNCTURE -- Acupuncture has been used on animals in China for thousands of years. It has only been available in the West for a few decades and is still seen as "fringe" medicine.

CHIROPRACTIC -- Chiropractic is a gentle manipulative therapy excellent for any skeletal problems such as spinal vertebrae out of alignment, pelvis twisted or tilted, and joint problems, but also can help with digestive and behaviour problems.

OSTEOPATHY -- This technique uses stretching and pulling as well as manipulation. It can be particularly helpful for compression injuries, such as a dog running head-on into something, or for dogs that were born by Caesarian.

MASSAGE -- This is the technique of kneading, rubbing and stroking all over the body and limbs to relax the body, calm the mind, and increase the bond between animal and person.

TELLINGTON TOUCH -- A technique developed originally for horses by Linda Tellington-Jones. It is excellent for treating behavioural problems, nervousness and aggression and physical symptoms, including poor movement.

ACUPRESSURE -- This technique uses the same acupoints as acupuncture, but uses the fingers or thumbs instead of needles. It can easily be learned and is helpful for treating dogs at home.

PERELANDRA MBP -- Microbial balancing solutions are created from a combination of electrical infusions from different plants, minerals and natural gases found in sea and on land. The solutions release their original balancing properties to the body system and help bring the systems into proper function.

AROMATHERAPY -- Essential oils can be used to treat hot spots, itchy skin, ear infections, rashes, bites, cuts and scrapes, incisions from surgeries, stinky breath, flatulence and motion sickness.

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