Why a Pet Loss & Memorial Centre?

Posted on September 21, 2014 by Lynn Henderson

So after much thinking and dreaming, it is time to begin to make real my hope of opening a Pet Loss and Memorial Centre alongside Henderson Mobile Veterinary Services. Since the beginning of my journey into house-call veterinary medicine, I have loved offering personalized end-of-life services to my patients and their human families. What has always been missing, or was at least out of my control, was the way in which the pets in my care were honoured after their passing. 

I have always tried to offer a quiet, dignified experience for clients when supporting their companion animal at the end-of-life. But to be honest, it always felt like half of the job was done, and another huge portion ignored. Up until now, I have had no real way of supporting my clients AFTER the loss of their pet. 

Anyone who has ever lost a pet knows the hole that suddenly opens up in your world. The space in which that animal existed is now vacant, their energy no longer greets you at the door, their snoring no longer wakes you up at night. It is natural to die and it is natural to feel sadness over death – what feels un-natural to me, is to ignore this sadness. Society expects us to push down our feelings of loneliness. “It was only a cat”, or “Just get another dog” are all too commonly offered as means of ‘support’ by well-wishing family and friends. 

I am not assuming all pet death feels the same to all people, and no one is ‘wrong’ in feeling the way they do about the loss of a pet. But for those individuals who are struck deeply by the loss of their companion animal, there ought to be a safe place for that grief, and for the healing and happiness that comes out of being able to talk about their pet openly. 

I wanted a home-base for pet loss, and a place where I could sit with clients and discuss their pets lives with them. A place where they could consider items or ceremonies that might be meaningful to their family. 

So often in standard veterinary practices, the rush and emergent nature of medical care often leaves grief support and respectful body-care on the back burner. It is easier to get on with a busy day if we can convince ourselves that once a pet has died, they are gone and we can move along with more pressing, living things. A sympathetic smile for the family, and we are on with the next case. This is not wrong, and it may even be self-preservation for many who deal with veterinary crises in busy practices. Emergent and attentive medical care is essential – I want it for my own pet when she is in need of it, and I am grateful to those veterinarians who specialize in this type of care. 

But where does that grieving family go now – what do they do? Who will support them in speaking to their young children about why their golden retriever didn’t come home with them from the veterinary clinic? Are there resources to help children heal? Are there creative and personal ways for families to say good-bye to a pet they loved? Certainly – And there ought to be a place for this healing to take place. 

My vision is to offer a quiet place to sit and a chance to talk about a pet you’ve lost. There will be a library of pet loss resources, and regular educational events open to the public. Our memorial boutique will feature countless ways to commemorate a special animal friend, including hand-made urns, memory boxes, jewelry, photography, oil painting, garden stones, and stained-glass works. We will offer cremation and burial support, as well as visitation and memorial services when requested. A monthly Pet Loss Support Group will be offered to local veterinary clinics and  the public. I hope to create a safe place to mourn, remember and heal from pet loss. 

When a human being passes away, we know automatically where to go – who will help us. I want this to be an expectation in animal care. I am hopeful that we can live up to this BIG dream. We welcome your ideas, your memories, your presence, and will keep you posted on our progress!

 

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