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Helping grieving pet owners handle loss

For more than 10 years, Linda Taylor could always count on her bloodhound, Daisy.

"People get so close to their pets," she said. "Sometimes there can be so much on overload, but here are these companions who don't talk, but listen."

If she was reading or watching television, the Waxhaw, N.C., resident could look down at her foot and see Daisy resting on it.

If she had a bad day, she could tell Daisy all about it, and eventually Taylor would realize that maybe it just didn't matter.

"She was there, as a companion and confidant and comic," Taylor said.

"She had a huge heart. I learned lessons from her, like to not give up. That's why I have a hard time dealing sometimes. ... I don't want her to think I gave up on her."

In September, Taylor made the decision to put Daisy to sleep after the bloodhound's health began declining.

She also began the journey of learning how to deal with the loss of a pet that was more like a family member.

'People need a place to grieve'

Pets are becoming a more integral part of families, said Roger Troutman, because they give "unconditional love."

"They're there," he said. "They don't care whether you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It doesn't matter to them."

Daisy had been a patient of his for years.

Troutman owns the Catawba Animal Clinic on India Hook Road, A veterinarian for more than 30 years, he watched Taylor struggle with the decision to euthanasia Daisy.

"It brought home to me the hurt, the anxiety," he said.

Troutman heard of a Charlotte group for those grieving the loss of a pet. He called Hospice and Community Care executive director Jane Armstrong about starting one locally. They held their first session in February.

"With pets being more like family members now, people need a place to grieve," said Barbara Crawley, with Hospice and Community Care.

The sessions act as a "source of exploration," with the hope the participants will understand their loss and feel good again.

"Part of the problem with loss is you feel numb," said Frank Grobusky, grief counselor at Hospice and Community Care. "You don't know what you've just experienced."

"Voicing their pain is the primary task," he said. "It's a safe place to talk about a powerful event in their lives."

'You feel like your pet is worth that'

Taylor and others who have attended sessions say some people don't understand their grief over a pet, telling them "Why don't you just get another dog," or "It was just a pet."

"Grief is grief," Crawley said. "Loss is loss, no matter where it comes from. The feelings are there, the pain is there."

At the pet grief counseling sessions participants talk about how much they miss their pet without judgment. The sessions are guided by the participants. Often the talk is sharing stories about their pet.

"Everyone is very accepting," Taylor said. "You can talk about anything with people who understand. Just seeing someone shaking their head, whether it's with a tear in their eye, you feel like your pet was worth that."

Taylor said the sessions have helped her begin to deal with her grief and move on.

"I've learned more about myself," she said. "The more we know about ourselves, the better people we will be."

Want to know more ?

For information on Hospice and Community Care's pet grief sessions, visit www.huskyinc.us/petgrief or call 803-329-1500.

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