Russell Friedman shares advice for grieving pet owners and their loved ones
The relationship between an owner and their pet is a special one… and the loss of a pet can be a heartbreaking one. National Pet Memorial Day, the second Sunday in September, is a day designated to commemorate the power of the human-animal bond. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that over 63 million people annually are grieving the loss of a pet, whether it be a dog, cat, bird, horse, rabbit, or other animal.
In a time when pets are considered by many to be an equal member of the family, why is it that we don’t always quite know what to say when a family, friend, or acquaintance’s pet passes away? In fact, research shows that over 85% of the comments that a grieving pet owner hears within the first few days of their pet’s death is not helpful for them, no matter how well-intentioned they are.
ARL blog sat down with Russell Friedman, director of the Grief Recovery Institute and co-author of the Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss, to find out how to cope with the loss of your pet, and what you should and should not say to a grieving pet owner:
ARL Blog: Many people experience a very emotional or difficult time when their pet passes away. Some even report that they cry harder and longer over a pet’s death than a family member’s. Is that normal?
Russell Friedman: Just as we never forget the people who we love and who were important to us, the same goes for our pets. Grieving for animal in the same way that you would grieve a human being is completely normal, natural, and healthy.
Everyone has their own unique relationship with their pet. Even members within the same household grieving the loss of the same pet will react differently. Don’t forget that animals have very tangible emotions, so your other pets may grieve the loss of their companion too!
Unlike children who grow into adults, become more independent, and move out of the home, our pets do not. Although pets do age, they remain in our home and will always depend on us for food, shelter, and protection. The “parental” aspect to being a pet owner can make the emotional bond so powerful. For some couples who can’t have children, their pet is their “child” and they view them in that same way.
Our pets also give us a safe space to be ourselves and express our emotions without judgement. They are our loyal confidants. More often than not, what the person is feeling is a loss of the entity that used to always be there for them.
ARL Blog: Can you share some advice for people who are dealing with the loss of a pet?
RF: During a pet’s final care, we imagine unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations for the future. There are always things that we wish would have happened differently. Allow yourself as much time as you need to grieve and surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Think of fond memories you had with your pet, and visit the gravesite or plant a memorial.
One of the biggest myths is the concept of replacing the loss. You need to allow yourself to grieve your old pet before you get a new one. This is only fair to the new pet, so that they have their own persona. As far as the timeframe between the death of your new pet and brining home a new one, there is no right or wrong answer; it’s whenever you feel ready.
If you are a friend or family member of a grieving pet owner, remember to never buy someone a new pet without their permission. Although your intention of helping that person to “move on” is well-meaning, the griever may simply not be ready to attach themselves to a new pet.
ARL Blog: In the Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss you discuss some phrases NOT to say to a grieving pet owner. Can you explain what a few of them are?
Russell Friedman, co-author of The Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss, shares important advice for grieving pet owners and their loved ones!
RF: A few phrases that will actually have the opposite effect of what you intended are:
“I know how you feel.” This statement is always made in an attempt to commiserate, sympathize, or empathize with the person who is grieving. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for you to know exactly how the person feels, even if you have had a related experience. Every relationship is unique and everyone reacts to the loss of a pet, family member, or friend differently.
“They’re in a better place.” and/or “They’re not in pain anymore.” Perhaps their pet is in a better place and not in pain anymore, however the person who is grieving is not in a good place and feeling a painful loss.
“Don’t feel bad…” The person who just lost their pet does feel bad and is upset, even if their pet wasn’t suffering or lived its full life expectancy.
ARL Blog: Do you have any advice for what you SHOULD say to someone who has a lost a pet?
RF: Yes! First and foremost, make sure to acknowledge that you hear the person and the words that they are saying. Listen with your heart, not your head, and don’t give advice unless asked.
One of the best things you can possibly say is, “I can’t imagine what this has been like for you.” If you say it in the tone of question, it gives the grieving person permission to elaborate and express their feelings, should they want to. It shows the griever that you’re non-judgmental and that they’re in a safe space.
Alternatively, the truest and most failsafe statement when you encounter a grieving pet owner is probably, “Gosh, I heard what happened. I don’t know what to say.”
ARL Blog: Many parents are nervous to tell their children that their family pet is sick or has passed away in an effort to shield them from grief and sadness. Any suggestions of what you SHOULD say to children?
RF: Yes, be honest with them. When speaking to children about the loss of a pet, you can modify your language in terms that they can understand depending on their age; however the thoughts and ideas should remain the same. If you make the decision to put your pet to sleep, explain to your children gently what’s about to happen and give them the choice of whether or not they want to be there.
Encourage your children to show their emotions and teach them that grief is a normal natural reaction to loss. Have them tell you stories about their pet and how much they love them. Ask them to apologize to their pet and/or forgive their pet for any “wrongdoings”, such as chewing on their favorite doll. Remind them that although their pet won’t be there physically, that they will always have a place in their hearts and memories.
It’s no surprise that American families love their cats- and their cats love them back! According to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, there were over 85 million owned cats in the United States making them the new “man’s best friend”. MEOW!
September is Happy Healthy Cat Month at Boston Veterinary Care (BVC), so what better time to bring in your kitty companion for their annual wellness exam! Your feline friend will love you even more for keeping them in tip-top shape, since, well, you know how meticulous they are!
Schedule an appointment with Dr.Breda, BVC’s Lead Veterinarian, at (617) 226-5605 or meet the rest of our team at www.arlboston.org/bvc/meet-our-staff.
Yearly check-ups are essential for cats of every age so that their veterinarian can carefully monitor their overall health and nutrition, while also making sure that they are up-to-date on all vaccinations and internal and external parasite preventatives.
Click here to download our promotional flyer – be sure to share this flyer with your friends and family!
Take advantage of BVC’s Happy Healthy Cat Month offer this September and receive:
- 25% OFF a cat wellness exam*, even for seniors!
- FREE goody bag filled with pawsome items for your feline friend, while supplies last.
To make an appointment, call (617) 226-5605 or visit arlboston.org/bvc.
All profits from Boston Veterinary Care support the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Boston Veterinary Care is located at 10 Chandler St, Boston, MA 02116 in the South End with easy access via I-90 and I-93. FREE on-site parking is available for your convenience.
*Not to be combined with any other offer. Offer ends 9/30/16.
Some holiday weekend activities may be TOO HOT FOR SPOT!
Although Labor Day signifies the end of summer for many New Englanders, the warmer weather and outdoor activities are sure to continue well into fall. Whether it be a family get-together, BBQ, or beach day, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) and Boston Veterinary Care (BVC) remind you that the heat and stimulation of the holiday weekend festivities may be overwhelming to your pup.
Follow these 5 pet safety tips to ensure a fun holiday weekend for you and your canine companion:
Keep these 5 pet safety tips in mind to ensure a fun Labor Day Weekend for the entire family!
Leave your pup indoors in a small quiet cool room. Turning on a TV or radio at a low volume can help detract from outside noises. Leave them free to roam around so that they don’t feel too confined.
- Always keep your canine on a leash or in a carrier if they must be outside. Set them up in a cool shady spot with ample air flow and plenty of fresh water.
- Keep your pooch away from potentially hazardous objects. Secure your pet a good distance from BBQs and pools. Remember that some pets can become “fearfully aggressive” due to loud noises, so monitor them closely.
- Never leave your pup alone in a parked car if they must travel with you. On a hot day, the temperature inside a parked car can cause deadly heatstroke- even with the windows cracked. S.2369, An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death, will take effect on November 17, 2016.
- Make sure your dog’s microchip and ID tag information is current. Many animal shelters report increases of “stray” animals during the summer when pets are more likely to slip out into the sunshine. Be sure your contact information is current and always on your pup’s collar to ensure an easy reunion should they be separated from you.
For more summer pet safety tips, visit arlboston.org/summersafety
Over 1,400 animals found on 70-acre property
From July 19 through August 6, 2016, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) worked around-the-clock to assist in the rescue, removal, and specialized emergency veterinary treatment, of over 1,400 animals from the Westport, MA farm.
Over 1,400 animals were found on 70-acre Westport, MA farm since the ARL Boston first arrived on the scene on July 19.
Many species of animals were in dire need of assistance, including goats, pigs, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, cattle, and birds.
While on scene, Lt. Alan Borgal, ARL’s Director of Law Enforcement, and Dr. Kyle Quigley, ARL’s Lead Community Veterinarian, led the efforts to address and provide for the well-being and care of many of the animals.
All because of the generous help of many individuals and organizations, the ARL was able to bring the animals to safety by relocating them to farms, sanctuaries, shelters, and foster homes. And, as the many animals in the ARL’s care heal, they are being connected with loving families.
THANK YOU to everyone who supported the ARL during this critical time to make our important work possible!
Help stop cruelty and neglect at its root cause…
Every animal deserves a safe and healthy home, which is why we must continue our important work to ensure that extreme cases of animal cruelty and neglect never happen.
It is only with YOUR SUPPORT that we can eliminate the conditions that lead to animal abuse – this is your opportunity to help animals in need.
Please make a gift today to stop animal cruelty at its root cause. Click here or on the green button below to donate now!
Bill 2369 has passed the House & Senate – now it just needs Governor Baker’s signature
Great news! Senate Bill 2369 — An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death — has passed the House and Senate. The bill is now on Governor Baker’s desk and we’re hoping he signs this into law soon.
Many of you are familiar with our “Too Hot for Spot” educational campaign. For several years now, ARL has been reminding pet owners that when the temperature heats up, it’s best to leave your pet at home. Sadly, pets still are left in vehicles and we’ve still seeing deaths that could have been avoided.
Thanks to S. 2369, animals have a greater chance of surviving this sad fate. Law enforcement and other first responders are allowed to intervene early to rescue and prevent animals from suffering and dying from extreme heat. Under certain circumstances, other individuals will also be able to enter vehicles to save an animal from death.
S. 2369 also will prohibit dogs from being tied up to fixed structures for long periods of time, overnight, and in bad weather. The change in the law goes a long to ensure that dogs do not end up living on chains and left outside for long periods of time, especially in extreme weather conditions.
Take Action: Please make a quick call to Governor Charlie Baker’s office at (617) 725-4005 and urge him to sign S. 2369 into law today!
Expected high heat and humidity are a dangerous combination for pets
This weekend will be Too Hot (and Too Humid) for Spot!
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) advises that hot and very humid weather is expected through Saturday. Rounds of showers and thunderstorms are expected with heavy rainfall in the Greater Boston Area at times until Monday. The combination of high heat and humidity will make it feel like it is 100 and 105 degrees during the afternoons.
Follow these 4 tips to ensure your pet stays safe and cool this weekend:
- Leave your pet at home. We all like to spend time with our pets, but in weather like this, traveling with your pet can put them at risk. If you are heading out and know that you cannot take your pet into the store, the post office, the dry cleaner, or other destination, then please leave your pet at home.
- Don’t leave your pet in any vehicle – even with the windows cracked. Even a few minutes in a vehicle can result in dangerous and deadly conditions for your pet. Leaving the windows open does not help! Dogs and cats cannot sweat. Vehicle temperatures can quickly rise to over 145 degrees in less than 20 minutes. Heat stroke and death for your pet can quickly follow, especially if your pet is older, overweight, or has a physical ailment.
- Avoid mid-day outdoor activities. When walking or playing with your pet outside, try to do so early in the morning or after the sun has set. Always make sure that fresh cool water is available for your pet.
- Prepare your pet for thunderstorms. Hot and humid days often bring booming thunderstorms with flashing lightning. If your pet shows signs of anxiety during a storm, consider putting them in an enclosed room (with no windows) and create a comfortable and safe environment. Turning on music or “white noise” machine can help muffles other noises. If these techniques don’t work, you might consider speaking with your vet.
Learn more about hot weather pet prepardeness at arlboston.org/summersafety
Your support is URGENTLY needed to help the many animals in this case
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) has been working around-the-clock alongside the Westport Police Department and other local and state officials in and on-going effort at 465 American Legion Highway in Westport, Massachusetts.
Since early Tuesday morning, the ARL has been assisting in the rescue, removal, and emergency veterinary treatment of hundreds of animals on the 70-acre property.
Today, we were back on-site to help the many more animals still living in these cruel and unsanitary conditions.
Thus far, the ARL has taken care and custody of 57 animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, goats and other animals; removing them from a dangerous environment where they suffered without adequate shelter, food, or care.
Once they are healed, the animals in our care and will be connected with the caring families that they deserve.
Lt. Alan Borgal, ARL’s Director of Law Enforcement, and Dr. Kyle Quigley, ARL’s Lead Community Veterinarian continue to lead the efforts in Westport to provide for the well-being and care of all the animals in this case.
“This is the worst [case] I’ve ever seen, as far as scale and conditions,” says Dr. Kyle Quigley. “Animals here had been living in deplorable conditions for months, probably years”.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is on the ground in Westport, MA and we need your help to provide the animals suffering in these deplorable conditions with the emergency assistance they so desperately require.
Thousands of dollars are needed to provide URGENT care to these animals who have suffered from abuse and neglect. Your gift today makes this important work possible!
Click here or on the red button below to donate now
We’re in need of livestock foster families! If interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number, type of livestock you’d like to foster, and how many animals you can accommodate. Please note that all of our slots for fostering dogs, cats, and other small animals are filled at this time. Thank you!
ARL assists Westport Police with removal of hundreds of animals
DONATE NOW to help the many animals involved in this case receive the emergency medical attention they need.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) has been working alongside the Westport Police Department and other local and state officials in an ongoing effort at 465 American Legion Highway in Westport, Massachusetts.
This 70 acre property has over 20 tenant farms that are in various degrees of condition.
ARL Boston’s Director of Law Enforcement, Lt. Alan Borgal, along with Lead Veterinarian, Dr. Kyle Quigley, will continue to lead our investigation and the efforts to provide for the well being and care of all animals in this case.
As of this morning, the ARL took care and custody of the following animals:
- 7 dogs surrendered by their owners to the ARL and Westport Animal Control
- 2 adult cats, 2 kittens, 1 pigeon, and 1 Canadian Goose were taken into custody at ARL’s Boston shelter
These animals are now in our care and will receive the specialized veterinary care they desperately need. We will connect them with caring families once they are healed.
Due to their dire physical condition and suffering, 3 goats had to be euthanized on site.
The ARL is back on site today for the inspection of several more of the tenant farms. It is expected there will be many more animals found today.
The ARL team is on the ground in Westport, MA assisting in the rescue, removal, and emergency veterinary treatment of hundreds of animals from the deplorable conditions on the 70 acre farmland.
Thousands of dollars are needed to provide these animals in Westport who have suffered from abuse and neglect with the immediate assistance and care they so desperately need.
This is an URGENT situation and it is YOUR HELP that makes all of ARL’s important work possible!
Click here or on the green button below to DONATE NOW
Take action to help pass S. 2369 An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death
With summer temperatures on the rise it is imperative that Massachusetts State pass S. 2369 An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death.
While it is crucial to educate pet owners about the real dangers of leaving their animals in vehicles, it is also important to have common sense laws on the books to help prevent the suffering of animals.
This bill would be the first law in Massachusetts that addresses the real dangers of leaving animals in vulnerable situations, and especially during extreme weather conditions.
ARL’s “Too Hot for Spot” educational campaign clearly shows the extremely short period of time it takes for a vehicle to heat up even with windows slightly open. Unfortunately, some pet owners still leave their animals in their vehicles.
S. 2369 An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death will allow for earlier intervention by law enforcement and other governmental agencies as well as by individuals in extreme cases.
This law will not only prevent the death of animals but also protect owners from potential animal cruelty charges. It will also be a reminder to all that extreme temperatures are dangerous for animals.
S. 2369 empowers those that see dangerous situations for animals to intervene earlier to prevent suffering and even death.
In addition to removing animals from vehicles this bill also provides much needed clarity with respect to tethering of dogs. These amendments will ensure that dogs do not end up living on chains and left outside for long periods of time, especially in extreme weather conditions.
The ARL urges swift passage of S. 2369 An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death… and YOU can help!
Please contact your Massachusetts State Representative and ask them to pass S. 2369 AN ACT TO PREVENT ANIMAL SUFFERING AND DEATH. To find your representative, visit https://malegislature.gov/People/Search
For more information on summer pet safety visit: www.arlboston.org/summersafety
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) hosts rally to celebrate successful signature campaign
We’re thrilled to be a part of the Citizens for Farm Animal Protection campaign, where over 170,000 signatures have been collected to phase out the extreme confinement of animals at industrial-style factory farms, as well as the sale of products produced under those conditions. Last week, fifteen boxes containing the #StopCrueltyMA signatures made their way to the Secretary of the Commonwealth for certification and to secure a spot on the November ballot.
Interested in lending a hand? Learn how you can help at Citizensforfarmanimals.com/help
SPECIAL THANKS…to all of the wonderful organizations involved including the HSUS, ASPCA, MSPCA Animal Action Team, Franklin Park Zoo, The Humane League – Boston, Mercy For Animals, Farm Forward, Compassion in World Farming (USA), Animal Equality, Farm Sanctuary, the Mass Sierra Club and all of the dedicated volunteers who collected signatures and to all those who supported this momentous effort to end the extreme confinement of farm animals!