Ontario Veterinary College Hotline Offers Support for grieving
Hotline is there to listen
pet owners looking for someone to talk to can now find support is
just a phone call away.
The Pet Loss Hotline is again taking calls after being closed for
several months. Dr. Michael Meehan, Population Medicine, is
providing training and support for the student volunteers.
The volunteers (who are all University of Guelph students) start
with a day of training with Dr. Meehan followed by monthly
debriefing sessions, says Denise Yates, a third year biosciences
The newer volunteers are called juniors, and they attend shifts and
listen in as the more experienced volunteers called seniors take
calls. They’ll do that for at least one semester before becoming
seniors themselves, says Yates. The volunteers fund the service
through bake sales and other fundraisers; space is donated by the
The training provided by Meehan is focused on helping the volunteers
improve their abilities to listen and respond to the people who
call, says hotline volunteer Anik Bay. His speciality is
communications for veterinarians, she explains. In a recent session,
for example, he had the students pair up and role-play, one as a
caller and one as a volunteer. The scenario: the caller’s
17-year-old cat hadn’t eaten for four days. The cat had been treated
for kidney failure for the past two years. Now the owner was
This would not be an usual call for the Hotline, Yates says. We
typically get calls about making end of life decisions, or after a
pet has passed on, from people who need support as they grieve.
A package on grief with poetry, literature and practical information
is available to be sent to people who call. They also include a
condolence card with a personal message from the volunteer. In
return, they’ve filled an entire binder with letters from people
thanking them for their support.
Bay says that one of the most common questions is Is it normal for
me to feel this bad for this long? She points out that often friends
and family will say it’s just a pet, why are you so upset? but
grieving for an animal companion is often intense and painful. Calls
come from across Canada and the United States.
We’re there to listen, says Yates, and to let people know that their
grief is normal.
The Hotline operates Tuesdays Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00
p.m. between September and April; outside those hours people can
leave a message to be called back. The number is 519-824-4120 ext.
New Professor Studies Our
Strengthening Bond with Animals
Veterinarian Michael Meehan says DVM students must consider how
their clients live with pets.
Professor Michael Meehan
companion animals enhance our lives in many ways: they can provide
security, encourage us to exercise, become playmates for our kids.
For some people, though, the bond between them and their animals is
something they value as much as a relationship with another human.
The strength and the meaning of the bond are almost comparable to
the connection with another family member, says Prof. Michael
Meehan, who joined the Department of Population Medicine this
You can see that in the way we live with companion animals, says
Meehan. While at one time, most dogs and cats were kept outdoors
most of the time, Meehan cites research from his native country,
Australia, that found 26 per cent of dog owners now allow their dogs
to share their beds. Another 28 per cent of the people surveyed
allowed the dogs to sleep in the bedroom but not on the bed, and 20
per cent more kept the dogs in their houses but not in the bedroom.
This left only 26 per cent of the dogs sleeping outdoors.
There are very few people in our lives we’d allow to share our bed,
points out Meehan. Our animals are living in very close proximity to
us, and the theory of attachment suggests that closeness means more
interaction, more communication and ultimately a deeper bond.
This human-animal bond and communication and what they mean to
veterinarians are the topics of Meehan’s research and the courses
he’ll be teaching at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).
Meehan did his veterinary training at the University of Queensland’s
School of Veterinary Science in Australia and then worked in a small
animal practice for several years. After that, he moved to the U.K.
and spent five years doing locum work in England and Wales before
returning to Brisbane in 2000 to continue practising in Australia.
I’d become interested in the human-animal bond, he explains. I did
an honours degree in psychology at the University of Queensland and
wrote a mini-thesis on that topic. After graduation, he was hired by
the School of Veterinary Science to lecture in professional skills.
During that time he also completed his PhD with a focus on
understanding the human-animal bond and improving communication
skills for veterinarians.
Veterinary students need to understand that not all people value
their pets in the same way, says Meehan. Studies have shown that
clients who are very attached to their animals expect the
veterinarians to ask them about their connection and to communicate
with them in a way that shows empathy and understanding of their
concerns for their pet. If that doesn’t happen, the client is less
likely to comply with treatment recommendations and, in some cases,
may choose to see a different veterinarian. Therefore, there are
clear implications for the health and well-being of pets.
He adds that these strong attachments mean that if a pet is ill or
dies, their owners suffer from real grief. Every time we tell a
client that their animal has developed kidney failure or cancer, the
client knows that this might mean the end of the animal’s life. This
needs to be handled with sensitivity and understanding,
Meehan studied with a grief specialist in Australia who taught him a
powerful lesson: A person will inevitably grieve at the loss of an
animal he or she cares about. But veterinarians have the ability to
either alleviate or aggravate the grief process by how we
communicate with that person.
He says he’s excited about working with colleagues and veterinary
students at Guelph. Some of Meehan’s time will also be spent at the
new OVC Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre, where
student-client interactions can be videotaped for later discussion.
We need to keep students to a gold-standard level of communications,
says Meehan. The primary health care centre is ‘gold standard’ in my
mind and a wonderful opportunity for me to work with like-minded
Meehan says his research interests are broad. Most of his previous
work has been with companion animals, but he hopes to do more
research about the connections people have with large animals. He’d
also like to bring his psychology background to bear on the stresses
many veterinarians experience. Even being a veterinary student can
be very stressful, so self-care and stress management strategies are
key to getting through tough times, he says.
One way Meehan deals with stress in his life is by spending time
outdoors. I enjoy what we call in Australia ‘bushwalking,’ he says.
I think Canadians would say hiking or backpacking? His partner, who
is finishing a degree in Australia, will join him in Guelph at the
end of the year. She also enjoys the outdoors, and Meehan says they
plan to take up cross-country skiing and canoeing.
~ Written by Teresa Pitman ~
LISTENING IS THE BEST MEDICINE
- Hotline Offers Support for Grieving Owners
Pet Owners grieving the loss of their companion animals, can now turn to
the OVC (Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph) Pet Loss
Support Hotline for help. The hotline began taking calls on
September 18, 2001. It provides a service for pet owners grieving
the death of a pet, support for veterinarians, and an educational
opportunity for veterinary students. Trained student volunteers
run the hotline, which operates on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays,
from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Calls are picked up daily and those of
an urgent nature are returned on the same day. The students are
guided by an advisory board made up of Ontario Veterinary College
faculty, staff, and graduate students, including Dr. Cindy Adams, from
the Department of Population Medicine, who specializes in issues related
to pet loss, and has a graduate degree in social work.
The OVC Pet Loss Support Hotline Phone Number is 519-824-4120;
The Ontario Veterinary College's Pet Loss Support Hotline offers pet owners and veterinarians a valuable resource in times of
Veterinarians face the death of their patients on a daily basis. During
the course of a normal morning, veterinarians and their staff, can go
from a heart-breaking euthanasia appointment, to an excitement filled
new puppy visit, and have to leave their feelings behind, to deal with
During euthanasia and the death of a pet, special consideration needs to
be given to the emotional well-being of the client. There are
some situations when a client may require on-going support and guidance,
to aid them through their grief. The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC)
Pet Loss Support Hotline, is a resource the veterinarians can use to
help provide the best care possible.
The motto of the OVC Pet Loss Support Hotline is, "Listening is the
Best Medicine," I truly believe in this statement. I
have listened to tragic stories from people who have recently lost a
pet. I have heard the pain in their voices, and the confusion that
comes from losing a pet too suddenly. I have heard the guilt that
people feel when they choose to euthanize their pet, even though it may
be the kindest thing they could have done. I have heard the
muffled sounds of someone crying on the other end of the line. And
although it is hard to not say something, in an attempt to
"fix" things, I am silent, because I know that just listening
to their story, is the best comfort I can offer.
Far too often, society does not take the time to listen to someone who
is grieving the death of a pet. Popular clichés such as "it
was only a dog", or "don't worry, you can get another",
don't help. That dog may have been the only link between an
elderly woman and her deceased husband, or the only friend of an awkward
child. Even if wonderful family and friends surround a person, it
is absolutely normal to feel sad when a pet dies. It is common
today, to buy our pet a present on their birthday or to sign our pet's
name, along with our own, on a greeting card. Many people describe
their pets as an extension of themselves. It is only natural to
feel a great deal of pain when this pet leaves us. An anonymous
author once wrote, "Our animals shepherd us through certain eras of
our lives. When we are ready to turn the corner and make it on our
own . . . they let us go." As a volunteer for the OVC Pet
Loss Support Hotline, my responsibility is to be there for people who
may not be ready to go forth without the companionship of their pet.
The OVC Pet Loss Support Hotline was developed by veterinary students
from the OVC, in conjunction with Dr. Cindy Adams who had graduate
degrees in social epidemiology in Social Work and specializes in matters
of pet loss. Each volunteer has their own personal reasons for
joining the Hotline, but we all share one thing in common: a love
of animals and a compassion for the people who were privileged to share
their lives with these animals. As Donna Eino, a fellow Hotline
volunteer relates, "being part of the Hotline give me the special
opportunity to share in the incredible relationships people have with
their pets. It reminds me of why I was drawn to veterinary
medicine in the first place."
The first Hotline of its kind in Canada, the OVC Pet Loss Support
Hotline, commenced operation in September 2001 and is open to any caller
who is having difficulty dealing with the death or disappearance of an
animal. We are also available as a resource to veterinarians for
information on pet loss and grief management. Pet owners who wish
to use the Hotline, can reach a trained student volunteer directly on
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, between the hours of 6:00
p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Outside of these hours, they may leave a
message on our voice mail, which is checked by a volunteer, every 24
hours. Urgent calls will be returned immediately and all calls are
handled in a confidential manner.
Thanks to Alison Long,
BSc., who is the Senior Student Coordinator for the OVC Pet Loss Support
The Canadian Centre for Pet Loss
Honouring the kinship between pets and their humans . . .
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains
unawakened." (Anatole France)
Phone Support for bereaved pet owners:
TOLL FREE to Angie Rupra, R.S.W, through our Referral Partners:
Pet Vet Hospitals: 1-866-226-8079 Ext. 55
Training Programs for animal lovers and veterinary clinics in
British Columbia: Tel. 1-778-319-7387
General inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Angie Rupra: email@example.com
1054 Centre Streetont
long time pet owner herself, and after experiencing the loss of
one of her rabbits, Zoe, Shiri R. Joshua, M.A. (Couns. Psych),
OACCPP resolved to combine her clinical training in Counselling
Psychology to enhance her expertise in Animal Assisted Therapy,
and Pet Loss Bereavement Counselling.
is a current member of the Association for Pet Loss and
Bereavement. Shiri's training and professional background, as the director
and founder of Mental Health Resources Canada (MHRC), allowed
her to offer her services to the community of?Canadian pet
work has been featured n a variety of media, including, the "All
About Pets Show",
"Dogs, Dogs, Dogs!", "The Toronto Sun", and "The National
Post."??Shiri's work includes facilitation of Pet Loss
Bereavement?groups, leading professional seminars across Canada,
individual counselling, and house calls as needed.
Founded in May 1999
Our mission is to provide support to people who are struggling with
the death of a beloved companion animal; to educate the general
public about the depth and importance of the human/companion-animal
bond, the grief process and to help establish other similar support
How we provide support...
The Halton/Peel Pet Loss
Support Group has three telephone lines which people
can call when seeking pet loss support: Burlington:
(905) 637-5233; Oakville: (905) 842-2252;
Mississauga: (905) 272-4040.
Leave a message stating you would like to speak to
someone in PET LOSS.
Monthly support meetings (the
4th Saturday of each month) which are held at the
Scotts funeral Home, 420 Dundas St E,
Meeting Dates: please contact us
E-mail where individuals
and/or members may write with questions, or just to
talk to someone for pet loss support:
Message Board: individuals are
invited to post messages and where we will post
various items relating to pet loss:
Includes: General Health Resources, Just for Dogs Section, Finding the
Right Vet, Advocating for Your Pet, Holistic Health Care, Nutrition,
Flower Essences, Just for Caregivers, Euthanasia, Related Links.
The Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets
Its purpose is to encourage the provision of hospice care for dying
pets, so that pet owners who do not wish to choose euthanasia when their
animals are about to depart this life, or who wish to postpone it, can
care for them in the home environment, under veterinary supervision and
with adequate pain management and/or symptom control. Ultimately, for
those who see a natural death as the best and most acceptable end for
their pets, and who wish to strengthen the human-companion animal bond
in their pet's hour of greatest need, hospice care is the answer.
Human/Animal Bond: Hospice Care -- Ending Life with Compassion
Pet Loss Grief Support Web Site
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
Pat's Pet Loss Support Line
Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery
R.R. #1, 11210 Ridge Line
Eden ON N0J 1H0
Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery is a legally zoned and restricted cemetery, with an endowment trust fund, to provide for its maintenance and preservation.
After working in the Dolphin and Whale Conservation field and motivated by her experiences with dolphins as well as her own animal companions, Beata followed her heart and love of animals & began communicating professionally. She has since built a strong reputation and client base from all over Canada, the United States, & Europe. Approximately 70-80% of Beata’s consultations are long distance telephone communications and clients include people and their animal companions from all walks of life (& also include some celebrity clients). Beata works closely with a number of veterinarians and trainers; as well as several animal welfare organizations including Pet Patrol and Rottweiller Rescue. Her insights have benefited people and their animals with behavioral challenges, health concerns, lost and found, performance & training issues and reestablishing harmony - to name a few. She has also been called upon to work with many exotic animals such as those at zoo’s. Beata is also a certified Regressional Therapy facilitator although the animal communication work has taken the majority of her time.
Beata has been featured in The National Post, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Wholelife Magazine and The Globe and Mail. She has also been interviewed on Radio 640’s “The Amazing Pet Program”, KOOL FM, the CBC Ontario Morning Show, “The Motts” on CFRB Talk Radio, CKCO Television and Rogers Cable Television. Beata has also lectured and taught at the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians Conference as well as speaking engagements with many different organizations. She teaches workshops on basic Animal Communication throughout the year.
Beata presently resides in Waterloo,Ontario and shares her home with three dogs and two cats. She is working on her first book and strongly believes that everyone has the ability to communicate with animals. As she says “It’s just a matter of opening your heart and remembering how to listen. Making Animal Communication once again our ‘Second Nature.’”
Dr. Horace Dobbs - IDW
Lynn McKenzie is an internationally known Animal Intuitive offering
phone consultations, workshops and teleclasses in Animal
Communication and Energy Healing. Her work is co-creative and very
enlightening. Her passion lies in helping others to attune and
awaken to the teachings and wonder that all sentient beings wish to
share. It is effective in dealing with animal/person relationship
issues, physical, emotional and behavioral concerns as well as
connecting with the spirits of animals who have crossed over. Lynn
is also a flower essence practitioner with her own line of essences
developed specifically for animals and aspiring students.
Written and ©
copyrighted by Terri Onorato.
I know what you're
thinking. You think I'm dead. Because you cannot see me with your
human eyes, cannot feel me with your hands or hold me in your arms,
you think I am gone forever. You recall how I looked when I left
this earth and you cannot remotely imagine that I am alive in
another place. You are racked and torn by the pain of our separation
and it blinds you to that which is right in front of you...me.
How many times since
I left your immediate sight have you been told that I'm dead and you
should "get over it"? How many times have you cried yourself to
sleep because you feel like an outcast, believing you're supposed to
get over me because that's what people say is normal but somehow you
can't and no one seems to understand? How many times have you put
yourself through such excruciating pain because you aren't willing
to consider that I am not, by any means, dead?
I want you to do me a
favor and go back in time with me. Remember the glorious day you
brought me home - was I not the most intriguing creature you'd ever
met? Did I not make you laugh and giggle? Did I not look at you with
such adoration that you wanted nothing more than to spend the rest
of your life with me? I wanted this too.
Remember the days
when I was in my prime and we did many things together. You were so
proud of me! I was a good friend and I took care of you when you
cried, were angry or felt down and unhappy. When you didn't have a
lot of time for me because of your obligations, I waited patiently
for you. I was always there when you needed me. Did I not
look at you with such acceptance and patience that perhaps at times
you felt a bit unworthy? You were never unworthy in my eyes.
Remember when age
crept up on me, my bones became stiff and my movements slower. Still
I met you when you came home and followed you around. We'd been
together for so long, I was your very best friend regardless
of what you were doing, saying and thinking. Did I not look at you
with such kindness and understanding that you felt overwhelmed? I
couldn't get enough of you.
Remember the last
time we saw each other with earthly eyes. You tried to be brave but
I knew you were crying...I know you so well, better than anyone else
in the world. Did I not look at you with such pure trust and love
that you yearned only to hold me close and keep me with you always?
Did you not promise that you would love me forever? I believed you.
If this is so then
why have you let me go by thinking I no longer exist?
Remember the depth of
love in my eyes when I looked at you. Who created this love? Would
the Creator diminish the song of our laughter that grew and
flourished in this love? I am no longer an earthly figure, this is
true. My body was only part of who I really am and it would have
been but a mere shell on earth if it were not filled to overflowing
with my soul, my spirit and my loving light. When we met you thought
I was cute, pretty and adorable. What kind of relationship would we
have had if this were all that I'd been? How could you have loved me
if I'd had no spiritual substance?
We are all made up of
energy that resides far deep down inside of us, it is our core and
our soul, spirit and loving light. It is the energy that is all of
life...it has no beginning, it has no end. It simply is and
always will be and without it there is no life. You can't see
it with the naked eye nor can you hold it in your hand, it is simply
a certain knowing that this energy does exist. It's a knowing just
as you know that our love existed on earth - you couldn't see our
love in a solid sense, you couldn't gather it all up and confine it
to one place. But you *knew* it existed. There was no doubt in your
There are those who
demand you get over me, insisting that I'm dead and you'll never see
me again because animals don't go to Heaven. Oh really? I'm here to
tell you different. You were as worthy of my love and undying
devotion on earth as I was of yours. Do you really believe this love
would be snatched from us *forever* by a loving Creator simply
because I wasn't human? Was I not a living, breathing creation with
personality? How could I have been so if I didn't possess the energy
of soul, spirit and loving light? And if this energy is and
always will be, then how can it be that I am dead? If my core
is not the energy that is all of life then I was never alive to
begin with. But you know better.
You cry because you
miss me, this I understand. I miss you too - I miss the belly rubs,
hugs and kisses that we shared. But life does go on beyond these
wonderful, fulfilling physical connections. I came to this place to
continue on in a new life, not because I didn't love you anymore or
because I wanted something better. I came here because it was time
for me to go to the next phase of my existence, something all living
creatures must do eventually. It is the normal progression of life.
I was not taken away from you because you cannot take away that
which was never owned. My presence in your life was and is a gift to
be cherished and honored just as I cherish and honor you.
Life is not simply
about being born into a body, living a certain number of years and
then dying. Energy cannot die. We are blessed with time in a
body so that we can learn, share and grow. It prepares us for the
next phase of our eternal life. The body holds within it the true
life force of our existence...our soul, spirit and loving light.
Without these our bodies would be empty, blank, void of feeling and
expression. Without our energy we would indeed be dead and could
never have experienced our love for each other.
You say that all you
have left are memories but this is not so. You see, when I took
leave of my earthly body I left a little something behind for you.
You can't touch it, hold it or examine it, for what I left behind is
far too uninhibited for confinement. I left in your tender care a
piece of my soul. I placed it right next to your own which is quite
fitting as we were always side by side in our earthly life together.
I love you too much to have left you with nothing but memories that
tend to fade and grow cloudy as the years go by. I love you too much
to have vanished without a trace. How selfish it would be of me to
remove love and light from your life.
I understand your
tears, each one you shed is testament to your love for me and I am
honored and humbled. But don't forget the good things we shared -
remember and smile. This is an honor for me as well. When you need
me I will be here. Close your eyes, relax, take slow, deep breaths
and picture me in your mind. Shut off the world and your notions of
what you think death is and give me a chance. Look for the subtle
signs I send you. Don't stop being proud of me, I am a friend to be
proud of, I am still your friend and soul mate. Don't
memorialize the death of my body but instead honor and celebrate my
never-ending life for it is eternal and forever as is my love for
Until we meet