Pet Grief Counseling - Stories of Love and Recovery

Sweet Pea & Bull

The pet loss support group helped me SO much.  When my dog, Sweet Pea, died, I felt lost, confused, scared, sad…you name it, I felt it.  I was fortunate in my life to know many pet lovers...and a lot of people understood.  But there were also people that just didn't.  In my loss and confusion, I googled "support groups for pet loss" or something like that, just looking for something else to help me.  Well, I stumbled upon the page that talks about the groups at the SPCA.  I was thrilled! 

I was a little scared to go because I didn't know what to expect, and also the idea of being vulnerable in front of people scared me.  But...going to those groups was one of the BEST things I could have done.  I felt like I was in the company of "my people".  EVERYONE in there understood my pain, and understood WELL.  It was awesome.  To say going to a support group was "awesome" sounds kind of weird, considering everyone in there was sad.  But strangely, I walked out of that first meeting literally elated.  I called a friend of mine and she couldn't believe how elated I was.  It's not that my pain was gone...it wasn't; but just sitting with a group of people that completely "got me" gave me an amazing joy and release I can't describe.

So I continued to go several times after that.  I wasn't sure if I needed to go more times, as my pain was lessening as I went through the grieving process, and my need wasn't as "dire".   But I was glad I continued to go.  Those subsequent meetings proved to be great "refreshers"....I got more tools to help with grieving, tools I didn't really know I still needed until I went.  Not only that, but those meetings were truly inspirational.  As I said above, it may sound weird to say I was elated after leaving the meetings, or that the meetings were inspirational.  But they truly were.  It was so interesting to hear the varied stories of how people got their pets, how the pets helped them, etc.  But what was the most amazing "by-product", if you will, of these meetings was what I learned about love.  The love the people in the group had for their pets was truly profound and beautiful.

I went to those group meetings in 2015 and 2016.  And then my other dog, Bull, died in 2017.  I made sure I went back to the support group promptly, as I knew I needed the support and "kindred spirit" of those people.  And once again it was awesome!  I am SO incredibly thankful for these groups.  I mentioned above that a great "by-product" of these groups was learning so much about love.  But another great by-product is the wonderful friendships I have made.  Although our losses are terrible and painful, the joy I feel to know and connect with these people is truly amazing.

So in closing....going to these support group meetings has literally been one of the best things I have done in the last couple years....and to say I'm thankful for them is a major understatement.  I can't even begin to describe my gratitude.  I hope that anyone that loses a pet will consider coming to these meetings, as they are life-changing for me; and I would bet they would be for others also.

What One Dog Can Do: Caesar’s Legacy

Caesar was a beautiful Alaskan Malamute/Lab mix that I first encountered as a stray in a Los Angeles park. He was emaciated, covered with sores and very weak and fragile.  Yet, although he was hungry and weary, there was a cockiness and intelligence that he displayed – a sense of fun and humor. He was also a Houdini – anytime we came close to catching him he would somehow elude us. He was terrified, but seemed very gentle. There was an entourage of people of virtually every ethnicity that we asked to help us rescue him, and we finally managed to get a collar and leash on him. We took him to our veterinarian. We had two other dogs at the time, but we decided to adopt him anyway. Once the vet gave us the “okay”, we took Caesar home with us to meet our family. We asked one of his most dedicated rescuers, Marina from Iran to name our new dog.  She called him Caesar in honor of the childhood dog she’d had in Iran, although we very early on learned that he was nothing like his namesake and we ended up calling this cuddly, gentle, loveable boy, “Chmeeze” and this time he really did live up to his new name.

Through the years, Caesar blossomed and flourished. The dog that had regular intense seizures and who had been so very frightened of people, became sociable – and even – friendly to strangers.  He loved his “rides in the car” and our other dogs.  We all as a family moved to Dallas in 1995. In 1998, Caesar was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and given six months to live. I provided hospice care, but it was probably the most painful experience I’ve ever had, and I grieved his loss every day until he actually died on December 28. After his death, I could not contain my despair and sadness.  I was inconsolable.  Grief is cumulative, I had lost much and many, and Caesar’s death was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  There was no one to turn to in the Metroplex for help.  Out of my own profound grief, I became a grief counselor and , as a volunteer, created the SPCA of Texas' Pet Grief Counseling program so that others could be helped to cope with and recover from their own grief over the loss of a beloved pet.I also wrote my first book, “When Your Pet Dies” for children and created an accompanying CD. The book and CD are used in schools across the country.

Eight books later, I can only marvel over the many gifts and profound Life Lessons Caesar provided me – and so many others. The Pet Grief Counseling Program, now celebrating its 16th anniversary, offers help and hope not only locally but to people all over the country and the world. Caesar’s legacy is one of true, unconditional love and loyalty– and, most importantly, his legacy lives on…

Shasta

From the moment I first saw her, I knew Shasta and I were meant to be together. Her calm, steady nature, coupled with her gentleness, desire to please and sheer joy in living were just the qualities I needed to combat the almost daily panic attacks from which I suffered. She became my service dog, going everywhere with me for over 2 years. Daily I relied on her to alert me to an impending panic attack so that I could head it off. She was incredible, and gave me back my life.

I kept Shasta after I didn’t need her any more as a service dog, loving her every minute. Losing Shasta when she was 13 ½ was devastating. I was inconsolable and fell into a depression. I couldn’t even see dogs on pet store commercials without crying. I had to do something with my pain. But what?

My cousin told me about the Pet Grief Group at the SPCA of Texas, and I went, hoping to find solace in my loss. I did. I found others who had loved their furry family members like I loved Shasta. People knew exactly what I was going through, the heavy daily grief I was living in. They were all at different stages in their grief walks, but that didn’t matter. They listened, cried with me and gave me hope that someday I would feel better. I went for a few months and still visit occasionally so that I might give back to someone else the love and support I found in the group.

I still miss Shasta, and always will, but now I can smile when I remember our walks and the way she used to talk with me, rather than falling on the sofa in a heap of tears. She became part of my heart, but today I am thankful I was able to know her and love her. The Grief Group gave me a place to safely share and grow through the pain of losing her to the joy of having had her in my life.

What the Pet Grief Group Means

I was asked by Pet Grief Group facilitator Donna to please submit a paragraph or so about how this essential program helped me through a sad time in my life. I am sorry it has taken me so long to submit just these few words.

I would also like to put in a plug for Pet Grief program volunteers  Donna, Lou and of course program creator Diane Pomerance. These ladies are awesome and are exceptional goodwill ambassadors for the SPCA of Texas.

Okay here's what the Pet Grief Group means to me:

In a cruel twist of fate the one I was mourning was the only one who could truly understand the depth of my grief, or so I thought?

Through the SPCA of Texas Pet Grief Group and their wonderful volunteers, I have been able to connect with others who have loved and lost a furbaby. This group is caring, determined and united in their devotion to healing the broken hearts of grieving pet parents

Thank you SPCA of Texas, I am forever grateful to you for the gift of my beloved Luke and the coping skills I learned to deal with his passing.

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SPCA of Texas Voices

"I'm absolutely in LOVE with Kitty (formerly Kaleigh). I know her name isn't original at all but I just started calling her that until I could think of a name and it just stuck - it's so her! I've attached two photos - she's seriously the most beautiful kitty in the world! She loves to steal tennis balls and bones from her dog sister - she thinks she's a dog! She enjoys going for walks and car rides, snuggling with mom, bird watching, drinking from the sink, playing with her pipe cleaners and getting into mom's makeup in the mornings. I couldn't 'imagine life without her. She's the absolute best!"

Laureen Jankins

Pet Owner