Ontario Veterinary College Hotline Offers Support for grieving owners

Pet Loss Hotline is there to listen

Grieving 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 student.

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 University.

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 considering euthanasia.

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. 53694.

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

Our 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 summer.

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 colleagues.

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;  Ext 3694.
The Ontario Veterinary College's Pet Loss Support Hotline offers pet owners and veterinarians a valuable resource in times of need.

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 later.

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 Hotline.




Canadian Centre For Pet Loss Bereavement


The Canadian Centre for Pet Loss Bereavement (CCPLB)
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

By Email:
General inquiries: info@petlosssupport.ca
Angie Rupra: angie.rupra@petvethospitals.ca

1054 Centre Streetont
Suite 377
Thornhill, Ontario
As a 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. 
She 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 owners.??Her 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 groups.

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, Mississauga,ON.
    Time: 2:30-4pm
    Meeting Dates: please contact us ontariopetloss@gmail.com

  • E-mail where individuals and/or members may write with questions, or just to talk to someone for pet loss support: ontariopetloss@gmail.com

  • Message Board: individuals are invited to post messages and where we will post various items relating to pet loss: http://www.members4.boardhost.com/PETLOSS/


Hospice Care
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
Victoria BC



Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery

R.R. #1, 11210 Ridge Line
Eden ON N0J 1H0
(519) 866-3243

Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery is a legally zoned and restricted cemetery, with an endowment trust fund, to provide for its maintenance and preservation.

BEATA PILLACH & Leaping Wolf Productions BEATA PILLACH & Leaping Wolf Productions
Telephone - 519-885-6105 Fax- 519-885-7664

Freddie and Beata - 1990After 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

Animal Intuitive

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 mind.

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 you.

Until we meet again...


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