Over the last 20 years, the role of pets in our lives has changed dramatically. They are no longer “just pets,” they are considered family members and coping with the loss of a pet can be heart wrenching. Science has proven animals have thoughts and emotions and feel pain similar to the way we do. Our pets come in all shapes, sizes and species. Miley Cyrus recently wrote a ballad that went viral for her late blowfish Pablow. The loss of Pablow was so devastating to her that it convinced her to go vegan.
Even with advancing vet care, our pet’s lives are still so short. Most of us will have to grieve over multiple pets in our lifetime.
When I started my pet care company, I thought about all the fun I would have hanging out with animals all day. I never stopped to consider the fact that I would get attached to so many animals along the way.
As my business continues to grow, so does the number of animals that pass away each year. It’s a sad fact, but something all animal lovers will have to face at some point. We watch them grow old and frail and are faced with making some tough decisions.
The reason I chose this topic is because it’s something that my clients ask me about all the time. Most pet owners are confused when it comes to making end of life decisions for their pets.
When it comes to the “When is the right time?” question I always tell people to discuss this with their vet. A vet is qualified to tell you if your pet is in pain or has a poor quality of life, but ultimately you have to do what you think is best for your pet and your family.
Lap of Love is a mobile vet service I like to share with people. Dr. Goldman offers in home hospice care as well as in home euthanasia and other end of life services.
If you are looking for cremation or burial services Craig Road Pet Cemetery has a number of services including burial and cremation, as well as an on site chapel.
The feelings of grief after losing your loved one, for some people, can become overwhelming. That is where Brandy Wade comes in. She owns Animal Love and Logic, a company specializing in pet loss grief counseling. Before I met Brandy I didn’t know there were pet loss grief counselors, and I suspect people are missing out on her services.
I took the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her a few questions.
Q: What made you want to become a pet grief counselor?
A: “There are several reasons for my decision to specialize in Pet Loss Grief Counseling. Most importantly, due to my own inability to cope with the traumatic death of my beloved little Chihuahua, Timmy. Even with the love and support of my husband, family and friends, I just couldn’t shake the guilt. So I sought help that went beyond the empathetic listener. It was then that I realized how difficult it was to find professional help that truly focused on pet loss.”
Q: Do you find that people mourn the loss of pets similar to the loss of a person?
A: “Yes. Absolutely. Society tends to use the term “loved one” when referring only to a human, but when you’ve loved an animal companion, you know that it has a much broader meaning. Love and grief do not have set boundaries for different species. The deeper the loving bond, the deeper the pain and the entire grieving process, regardless of whether it’s an animal or human.”
Q: What kinds of things do you talk about in a session?
A: “Oh my gosh, so many things … Most people think of a session as being simple: ‘l’m going to go in, talk about my pet and then the Counselor will give me exercises and advice to help cure my pain.’ I wish it was that easy. I first start off with the obvious; getting to know the person and the love story they shared with their pet. But in order to really help, I need to get the entire picture. The when, why, how, family dynamics and more. All of these factors have an impact on the grief process. Once I have a better understanding, I can help move them beyond the swamp of grief so that they can begin to heal.”
Q: Who should seek the help of a pet grief counselor?
A: “Anyone who has loved and lost their pet. You should seek help especially if you feel alone in your grief. It’s normal to feel extremely sad, angry or even numb, after losing your pet … but when these emotions linger after a considerable amount of time has passed, it’s time to reach out for professional help. If your grief seems to be getting worse with time, there’s a good chance that it could transform into chronic depression or have other negative impacts on your life.”
Kristen is owner of Little White Dog Co., a pet services company specializing in pet sitting, animal massage and dog yoga. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.