If you are a pet owner, then you already know how intertwined our pets can be in our daily lives. It’s often not until they are gone do we truly realize how much of our daily lives they were a part of. This can be particularly true if in our pet’s final days, they were very sick and required extensive care from us. Pet owners may feel their pet’s loss most acutely when it was time to be fed and their pets performed special rituals that we adored in order to be fed, on their terms and on their schedule. Another time that their loss can be acutely felt is when we arrived home from a long day at work and our pets had a special way of greeting us at the door, and seemed to wipe out the stress of our busy day. Then again, as we relaxed during the evening and our pets came for the daily snuggle or cuddle. Or finally, when it was bed time and we couldn’t get to sleep without feeling the warmth and heaviness of their bodies lying across our legs, or on our bladders. Most of us not daring to disturb our pets, or their comfort, in spite of our discomfort. It is this kind of care and devotion to our special pets that we miss when they are gone.
You need support for this loss, just as in any other type of loss. You need to talk about your pet, share your memories and your pictures, with anyone who will listen and appreciate how special your pet was. Pet loss support groups are ideal for this kind of support. I have personally experienced a unique difference in people who have experienced a pet loss versus a human loss. Pet owners almost always bring pictures of their pets to the first visit of a counseling session, or on the first day of group, to share with others and to tell the story of their beloved pet. As pet owners we want everyone to know why this pet was so special.
As an animal lover, I say that all pets are special. In support of my opinion, current marketing statistics reveal that more people are treating their pets like family members, in particular, like their own children. As such, more veterinarians, and their staff, are becoming trained in anticipatory grief and bereavement support for their clients.
If the veterinary facilities are lacking this type of support, a pet owner who has suffered a loss, has the option of calling a variety of pet loss hotlines. To list a few: Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline, Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 508-839-7966, or www.tufts.edu/vet/petloss; CONTACT of Burlington County, New Jersey, 24 hour access, 800-404-7387 for NJ residents and 800-234-4688 for all others; Iams Pet Loss Support Center and Hotline, weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 888-332-7738; Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Pet Loss Support Hotline, 630-325-1600, all long distance phone calls will be returned collect.
In addition, many companies are offering different products to address the varying needs of the grieving pet owner community. There are many options to choose from such as a memorial quilt made with pictures of their pet, scrapbooking, journaling, memory boxes, plantings, memorial service or a burial with a special statue or stone. Memorial Markers can be found at www.amazon.com and memorial candles can be found at www.furryangel.com. If your pet was cremated, another popular trend is wearing jewelry that contains a portion of the pet’s cremains or having a stone made with the cremains. One site that offers this service is www.whisperintheheart.com. A pet owner may even want to make a donation to an animal shelter, university, or an organization that is conducting research on a specific disease or disorder, in the pet’s memory.
At this time, I would like to invite anyone who is in the area to participate in our next scheduled Pet Loss Support Group. It will be held Monday, June 18, 2007 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice building at 99 Sparta Avenue, Newton, NJ 07860. There is a $5.00 registration fee, and pre-registration is required. This will be a time of sharing and support and one of the topics for discussion will be the use of journaling as a way to help with the grief, and as a way to honor and remember your pet.
Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.
P.S. If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center. We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and the community. As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.