PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pets become your best friend and a part of your family. If you’ve ever owned one, you know how hard it can be when it has to end. Now there are places where you can share with people who understand.
Kathy Veazie had just lost her dog, a mastiff named Bear, when we met her at a pet loss support group: “Even though it was comforting to be with him, it was haunting. It still haunts me.”
A week after she put Bear to sleep, Kathy came here to a grief support group that meets once a month specifically for pet owners.
This is a grief not everyone understands, but it’s very real.
One man wiped his eyes describing the family cat, who had died three weeks before: “He had a habit of going up our stairs onto the bed.”
One man described “just this relentless guilt” over the death of his beloved pet cat.
Another woman said, “She was just the most friendly dog in the world, and I miss her.”
Dr. Cari Thomson, a Phoenixville veterinarian, was inspired to start this group at Metropolitan Veterinary Associates in Valley Forge after losing her dog Zoe to cancer about three years ago.
“There are people out there who don’t have anybody to support them,” Dr. Thomson said. “They don’t have anybody out there who understands what is it to lose a pet.”
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Dr. Carol Tavani, an animal lover and psychiatrist, is the group’s co-leader.
“It has taken off in a really gratifying way,” Dr. Tavani said.
There’s also a canine counselor, Phoebe, who goes from lap to lap offering comfort.
Some bring their pet’s ashes or mementos. People pass around pictures or post them on the remembrance wall.
Michele Pich is a psychologist and animal lover who counsels grieving pet owners at the University of Pennsylvania vet hospital. She says this grief is as real as losing a member of the family.
“Pet owners go through a kind of disenfranchised grief,” Pich said, “in that society expects them to get over it sooner, but long beyond when people are willing to listen.”
But here, people do listen. Linda Brenner still remembers putting her dog to sleep two years ago.
“I remember my insides just screaming, ‘What am I doing? What am I doing? I have to stop him before the next injection,'” she said.
For Kathy, her dog Bear had serious joint problems and lost the ability to walk.
“We knew what we had to do for him,” she said.
A few months later, Kathy is doing better. She says the group helped.
“It’s different when you can talk to people that have had animals and have dealt with that loss in the past,” she said.
A group that is healing broken hearts a day at a time.
These are some pet support groups that meet in our area:
Metropolitan Veterinary Associates & Emergency Services
2626 Van Buren Avenue, Valley Forge, PA 19482
Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. If you choose to attend a meeting, please RSVP in advance to 610-666-1050 extension 235. Out of respect for other attendees, be on time and plan to stay the duration of the meeting.
For more: http://metro-vet.com
Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania
3900 Delancey Street (near 39th and Spruce), Philadelphia, PA 19104
Pet Loss Support Groups: First Thursday of every month from 7:00 until 8:00 p.m.
Pet Cancer and Chemotherapy Support Group: Third Thursday of every month from noon-1:00 p.m.
For more: www.pennvet.org
Berks County Pet Loss Support Group
Wyomissing Public Library, 9 Reading Boulevard, Wyomissing, PA 19610
Meets the first and second Mondays of each month (except July 4 and September 5, 2011) from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M.
Donations will benefit the Humane Society of Berks and Wyomissing Public Library
For more, contact Marianne Sharon, B.A. at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reported by Susan Barnett, CBS 3