Support groups help owners cope with loss of pet -


Support groups help owners cope with loss of pet

More than 165 million people across the country own pets according to the Humane Society of the United States. Many of us treat our pets like beloved members of our family.

So, when age or illness forces us to part with our pets, it can be overwhelming. 

There are some things you can do to cope with the loss of a pet as Karen Hoey discovered after her beloved pug died a few years ago.

Eventually, she adopted another puppy and she named him Bruno.

"Oh yeah, you happy? You gonna finally come alive?" Hoey said while nudging Bruno from his nap.

When Bruno is fully awake, Hoey stays busy house training him and making sure he's not getting into trouble.

Nevertheless, there's not a day that goes by she doesn't think about her 10-year-old English Bulldog, Bodhi, who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. 

"For every month, I had to take him in to have testing done to see if the cancer was coming back," she recalled. "There's markers they can see in his blood. So, I relived that emotion--pretty much--every month." 

With treatment, Bodhi's cancer went into remission and he lived two more years.

"We did all the things we could, but it came down to we had to make the decision, and you always think you are prepared for that, but you're really not," she said.

Bodhi's death left Karen feeling extremely empty and lonely.

"I still grieve at times thinking about what we went through and the loss," she said.

Veterinarian Tom Hemstreet says if your pet is chronically ill, knowing their time is limited can be a blessing in disguise. 

"That knowledge that there is a finite time left gives you the opportunity to allocate that time and spend that time with them," Hemstreet said.

Hoey started taking pictures of Bodhi which is something she rarely did before his diagnosis.

One of the things that has helped her most, is getting involved in a pet grief support group that meets at her veterinarian's office. 

"Sharing with others and with support mechanisms, support groups, that sort of thing can be very important way for them to heal and get closure," Hemstreet said.

A pet grief support group is a relatively new concept and while not all veterinary offices have them, ask to see if yours does.

If your pet's prognosis is bad, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you determine what to do with their remains early on so you don't have to worry about it later when the pet is euthanized or 'put to sleep.'

If you have children, allow them to participate in the decisions about your pet because failing to do so, could only prolong the grief process for youngsters.

A memorial service, releasing balloons or spreading cremated remains is a good way to celebrate the life of a cherished pet. 

Display reminders like your pet's favorite chew toy or paw print that will help you remember the time spent with your pet.

"I put together things that I could see in different rooms of my house where I would normally see Bodhi," Hoey said. "They helped me move on and still celebrate and rejoice in the fun and the companionship we had."

Before thinking about getting a new puppy, hold off until all family members agree the timing is right.

As for little Bruno, Hoey said he has helped her overcome her grief in a very big way.

"It's been really, really valuable to have a puppy again. It's helped lessen the pain," she said. 

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in extreme cases, some pet owners have contemplated taking their own life, especially if they are alone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a network of crisis centers across the country available 24 hours a day to assist people who are dealing with grief whether it involves the loss of pet or a person. Their number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Additional Information:

The following information is from Good Shepherd Pet Services (Source:

Grief is one of the most normal and natural emotions that we can feel; yet it is one of the most misunderstood. Grief is a normal and unavoidable reaction to the loss of treasured loved one. At Good Shepherd, we recognize that grief often involves very painful and difficult feelings. We offer you these numbers of supporting people who are trained in the areas of loss and grief, and can provide assistance through the grieving process.


There are a number of pet loss hotlines available across the country. Click here for a list of a few:

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