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This wonderful 69-page ebook by author Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen features 75 helpful tips to help you cope with pet loss. I among many other experts and laypersons offered our insights, which are included. Please give it a look!

Letting Go of an Animal You Love

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The following is an article written about a remarkable woman, Micky Golden Moore, founder of Beyond the Paw Print, whose story is a prime example of how facing one’s grief can prove not only healing for one’s self, but also can lead to major positive life changes. Her efforts bring comfort to those who struggle with “disenfranchised grief.”—Sid

May 14 • 2009 A25

It’s Not Therapy

Aspiring grief counselor helps people come together to also grieve for pets.

BUSINESS & PROFESSIONAL—entrepreneur
| by Judith Doner Berner
| Special to the Jewish News

detroitjewishnews

Micky Golden Moore: “Pet loss grief is not intended to be compared to the loss of a person. Many times, even close friends and family can be dismissive. Sometimes, the purest love is from an animal. Human relationships are fraught with complications.” Staff photo by Angie Baan

Everyone loses a loved one at some time in their lives. But few take the steps that Micky Golden Moore has to understand their grief.

After the death of her parents, the Metro Detroiter, who graduated from West Bloomfield High School and holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from Wayne State University in Detroit, entered a master’s program in hospice and palliative studies at Madonna University in Livonia. The switch from a career of communications consulting and teaching was
partly a result of the care and comfort she saw her dad, steel executive and Jewish philanthropist Louis H. Golden, receive from West Bloomfield-based Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network (JHCN) when he died in 2003 from a recurrence of cancer.

It was further driven by the depression that Moore suffered when her mom, Sylvia Golden, a lifelong Hadassah member, died three years later. “She was my best friend. I knew that I had to understand what this was,” Moore says. “I’ve always turned to academia to find my answers.”

Moore, a Farmington Hills resident, graduated May 3 from what Madonna heralds as “the only university-based hospice program of its kind in the nation.” She plans a career in grief counseling.

“This program has changed my life,” she says. “I feel very passionate about the opportunity to help others journey through their grief, loss and reconciliation. “Everyone’s grief experience is unique and depends on who died, the nature of the relationship with the deceased and how the individual died. I don’t want anyone that I help to feel isolation. You walk alongside them. You bear witness as they work through the grieving process. There is no magic dust.”

Shifting Sands
Part way through her studies, Moore was prompted by the death of her two cats to begin a support group for others who had lost pets.  “Pet loss grief is not intended to be compared to the loss of a person,” she says. But when she wrote a research paper, her findings showed that pet loss is one of the forms of “disenfranchised grief.” Many times, even close friends and family can be dismissive.

“Sometimes, the purest love is from an animal,” Moore says. “Human relationships are fraught with complications.” She formed Beyond the Paw Print LLC and put together a website: www.beyondthepawprint.com. The name is based on the clay paw print that many veterinarians give clients as a remembrance of their pet.

Her bereavement group meets 7-9 p.m. the second Monday of each month at Orchard United Methodist Church, 30450 Farmington Road in Farmington Hills.

“This is not a therapy group,” Moore says. “The goal is to acknowledge and validate the unique nature of each loss.” The page-long Code of Conduct includes asking participants to avoid giving advice or comparing their loss to that of another participant. No pets are allowed. The first meeting in March drew a dozen participants. Ten people came to the second meeting, she says.

Positive Response
Kiirsti Sharp, practice manager of the Hilldale Veterinary Hospital in Southfield, attended as an observer. She saw that those who came “needed Micky’s support and the support of each other. People were hugging each other. They felt understood.”

That was true for Mikki Stein of Farmington Hills who says the sessions have helped her come to terms with the
death of a dog “whose time was not up.”

“People who aren’t animal lovers just don’t want to listen,” Stein says. So when she saw a piece about the support group in a local newspaper, “I felt it was bashert [fate, destiny].”

As Stein shared her story with those who attended, “It was the first time that I felt anybody heard me. It was so uplifting. I felt such a sense of relief.” She’ll continue to attend whenever she can, Stein says. “It’s important to listen to other people the way they listened to you.”

“It was very helpful,” seconds Joely Moss, a Farmington Hills mother of two young children. She went online to find Moore’s support group at the death of the dog that she and her husband had owned since before they had children. “It really feels good to be around people who totally get it,” she says.

The support group is free. Moore’s website also promotes two related businesses — a video pet tribute service and a training program on pet loss for veterinary clinicians.

Dr. David Whitten, DVM, who heads the Hilldale clinic, says Moore conducted a workshop for his staff and developed a grief packet, which they hand out. “We thought we already were doing a good job. She made us even a little smarter.”

On-Task Learning
Moore has earned the confidence of two who are her teachers and mentors.Paul Nguyen, Ph.D., of Karmanos Cancer Institute Hospice in Southfield guides the internship required for her degree and was at her side at the initial pet support group meetings.

“As a facilitator, Micky is very helpful,” Nguyen says. “People enjoy being there because it’s a safe place to deal
with their grief when their family members don’t understand.”

“I’m an advocate for pet loss support,” says Kelly Rhoades, Ph.D., professor and chair of Madonna’s Hospice, Palliative Care and Bereavement Studies program. “It’s relevant to end-of-life care.

“It’s not a loss that’s always validated. To some people, pets are their children. We have to meet people where they are. Micky has taken this to the program level.”

When Moore began her degree, Rhoades says, “She wanted to give back to the hospice program. One of the things I most admire about her is that when she commits to something, she goes far beyond. She wants to learn everything.

“She has a lot of compassion and understanding — and now she has the skills.”

Moore won the Karmanos Cancer Institute Crystal Award as Volunteer of the Year in April 2006 for developing a required workshop for volunteers in the institute’s speakers’ bureau. Her volunteer efforts, she says, “acknowledge and honor my parents’ memory” and “their legacy of giving.”

She credits husband Bud Moore, a financial executive at Ford Motor Company, for “supporting me through each and every single endeavor. Without him, none of this would be possible.” ■

Below is the blog entry I wrote for the grief support site LegacyConnect, which contained the following categories and members: Loss of a parent (313 members); Bereaved spouses (277 members); Loss of a child (271 members); Loss of a sibling (144 members); and Suicide’s survivors (112 members). While I in no way wish to diminish the importance and value of this site, I am led to wonder “Why is pet loss missing from this grief support site?”

Each time I come across a website designated to offering support and comfort to those who grieve the loss of a loved one, I am most pleased because human beings are at their best when both reaching out to others for help and reaching out to others to offer help. However, I more seldom find grief sites that offer that compassion to those of us who have lost a beloved companion animal. Check your own prejudices here. Did your mind instantly go to the too-typical response, “What’s the big deal? It was only a dog/cat/hamster, etc. You can just go get another one at the pound. It’s nothing compared to losing a human being!” This phenomenon is one I, in my work as an animal chaplain and author of “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” have termed “Loss Snobbery.” It’s almost as if people set up a pain scale and ascribe more “pain points” to their own loss —whatever it may be—than to someone else’s. I lost my mother, stepdad, uncle, dog, two cats, cockatiel and 15-year marriage over a few years’ time. Do I “win” by sheer number of losses? Ridiculous. Grief is grief; it’s not a competition. What’s more, consider those of us who are profoundly bonded to our companion animals. Take, for instance, the senior citizen who is isolated, having no family to visit and watching his or her human friends pass away one by one. Can anyone honestly say that, if a scruffy little dog is the senior’s one and only faithful friend and constant companion, that person will not deeply and intensely mourn that pooch’s death? For that senior, the loss of a pet is likely to be emotionally devastating. One doesn’t have to be socially and/or physically isolated from humans, however, to cherish the unconditional love and affection he or she receives from a pet. No one has the right to imply the grief we feel over the loss of a furry, feathered or even finned family member is inconsequential to us. You don’t have to share the same emotion or circumstance to acknowledge another person’s right to feel whatever it is he or she feels. I don’t have children, for instance, and can therefore never feel the acute loss a parent must feel when a child dies, yet I would never for a second consider telling that parent to “just go adopt a new one.” And for those of us who are animal lovers, it only stands to reason that the death of a companion animal with whom we may spend 24/7 will leave a bigger hole in our life than when a distant relative we haven’t seen in years passes on. Everywhere we look in our homes is another place our heart tells us that pet should still be. And consider how much harder it is to heal that pain when so much of society withholds permission from us to grieve. I urge you to open up your site to include a section for pet loss and consider me its first member. Sincerely, Sid Korpi http://www.goodgriefpetloss.com

From a forwarded email message about how meaningful a random act of kindness can be—this one from some kind soul at the dead letter office.

-1

Meredith and her dog Abbey

Our 14-year-old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had..

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies..’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey &Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,
Abbey arrived safely in heaven.
Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.
Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by..
Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.
I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.
By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love.

Love,
God

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