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Check out my new article in the Sept. 2011 edition of “Living with Loss” magazine:

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It was two years ago today I made my first public address to commemorate National Pet Memorial Day at the Honoring the Animals Candlelight Vigil hosted by Chance’s Spot Pet Loss Support and held in Louisville, Kentucky. Today, this event shares the spotlight with remembrances of 9/11. The two kinds of losses, though vastly different in scope and political repercussions nevertheless leave indelible marks in each of us affected by them.

As you meditate today about those lost in the Twin Towers or the other tragic plane crash, as I’m sure all Americans will, be sure to take a moment to remember our animal companions who have passed away and celebrate and express thanks for those who remain with us today. Give special thanks to those animals who serve in the Armed Forces, with the police, as service and therapy animals, etc. Vow to do some small thing today to show your thanks, such as visiting the Animal Rescue Site and clicking to help feed homeless animals. I do this daily, before I even check my emails. It’s a positive habit to develop.

If you know of someone who is facing pet loss or has recently lost an animal family member, please refer him or her to my site at <www.goodgriefpetloss.com>. I welcome everyone to send to me short tributes to their pets and a jpeg image for me to add to my blog’s Pet Passings section. Of course, everyone is free to contact me in my capacity as an animal chaplain if she or he feels the need to share thoughts or receive support as they process this loss. My book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” is always available for an ongoing source of that support, too. I will gladly inscribe books purchased through my site to personalize them for the person and pet; and $2 from each of those sales goes to support no-kill animal shelters. See my Affiliates link to read about those fine organizations.

There are some ideas for how to commemorate your pet’s passing  at <http://www.factmonster.com/petmemory.html>, but at barest minimum, take the time to give your pets an extra dose of love today and acknowledge their vital importance in your life.—Sid

Join me with Blog Talk Radio Show Host Jerry Hamza of the Cat Fanciers Association for a discussion on pet loss
Date: Thurs., Aug. 18
Time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central

Call-in Number: (917) 889-3011. Listen for the prompt and press 1 to talk to Jerry.

Listen in: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/catcalls

Loss of Family Dog and Passion for Creating Launches ‘Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns’

Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns was recently opened by artist Tony Korman. His past experiences with pet loss inspired him to use his talents to start sculpting one of a kind statues of pets past and present for others. They are available in various sizes an come mounted on wooden bases or urn boxes.

Quote startPets give us so much affection and joy that it supersedes the pain of their death.Quote end

Sauk Rapids, MN (PRWEB) August 15, 2011

Sometimes a new business is born by combining the use of a lifelong talent to help cope with a tragic personal loss and then sharing this to help others. This was certainly the case for Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns. “We lost our family dog when he ran away from relatives that were watching him for us when we took our kids on a weekend vacation,” says Tony Korman owner and artist of Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns where he creates unique hand sculpted and painted representations of pets based on photos. “After an exhausting search of the area over the course of several days we had to come to terms that we would never bring Buddy our dog home again.”

Buddy

buddy's urn

With the relatively short lifespan of pets as compared to their owners it is inevitable that if pets are wanted in our lives we are destined at some time or another to suffer losing them leaving an empty spot inside that they once filled. So why do people so willingly set themselves up for this unavoidable tragedy? “It’s easy, the positives outweigh the negatives,” Tony states. “Pets give us so much affection and joy that it supersedes the pain of their death. It is proven over and over by how we often deal with their loss…by getting another one. In some way we honor a pet after their loss by getting another showing how much their companionship and unconditional love is missed. Creating memories so strong and cherished that life is better with them in it than without,” says Tony.

Since a child, Tony had a great love and talent for creating art that represented the world around him. He began wondering how he could use that to honor the memory of Buddy. This was the genesis of “Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns.” He began to construct a small sculpture from the photos he had of him out of polymer clay. Making Buddy’s collar with the little tags and bell on it just right and making sure he painted the unique markings of his fur. “Throughout the project I felt a sense that this tribute to our lost dog brought a sense of closure to the emptiness that I had been experiencing. I was forever memorializing my dog through my art and when looked upon brings back memories of the good times that we shared and I could now move forward from this point.” Kormanstudio allows Tony to share this experience and talent with others every time he creates a custom sculpture for a client. He works closely with them sending images of the sculptures during different stages of the process. “I want my clients to feel that they have had an active role in the creation of the sculptures I create for them. That I can recreate that sense of closure for them that I did for myself when I lost my dog. I believe that everyone’s story of pain and loss is unique and I hope in someway I can model my experiences of healing to help them with theirs.”

About Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns.
Founded by Tony Korman, Kormanstudio has created dozens of sculptures for his clients of pets both living and that have passed away. A lifelong artist and pet owner he believes that good communication and working together on a project is the key to its success. Customer service and the uniqueness of his work are the hallmarks of his studio.

Tony Korman, Owner/Artist
Kormanstudio Custom Pet Sculptures and Urns
320-420-0584
http://www.kormanstudio.com

Dr.  Rebecca McComas of Minnesota Pets, who so compassionately aided our cat Giles in his passage to the Other Side a few days ago, sent me such a beautiful condolence card, I had to share her heartfelt message with you here.—Sid

Dear Sid and Anthony,

I just wanted you to know that you and Giles are in my thoughts and will be for some time. His was a beautiful, rich soul, and our world lost something wonderful yesterday. In my work, I am blessed to see pets in loving households, and in that way your situation is not different.  What was different was the way his story and his being touched me. Even though he was gravely ill, he was ever the gentleman—greeting a newcomer, helping me feel at home. I’m blessed to have met him. You were lucky to be with him for so long. Thank you for trusting me to help.

Rebecca

Dr. Rebecca McComas and friend

Luigi Francis “Shorty” Rossi (born February 10, 1969) is the star of Pit Boss, a reality series on Animal Planet. He is also the owner and talent manager of Shortywood Productions, a company that works with little people in the entertainment industry and Shorty’s Rescue, an organization set up for Pit Bull rescue. Shown here with Gail Heller, founder of Chance’s Spot pet loss support site, at a fund-raiser for his rescue organization. Yep, that’s my book “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss” they’re holding! Many thanks to Gail for sharing this with him.

 

Shorty Rossi and Gail Heller

I  think most of us know how deeply and emotionally linked certain songs can be for us, whether because the lyrics are particularly descriptive of what we were feeling at a certain time or because the song was simply playing at a profound moment in our lives. Last night, my husband and I went dancing to our favorite band, the Rockin’ Hollywoods, as a distraction from an otherwise emotionally heavy day (the first full day without our beloved Giles with us—see previous post).

For me, dancing provides both a physical and emotional release, so it seemed a healthy diversion for a few hours. However, midway through the band’s first set, I found myself choking back sobs right there on the dance floor, so hard was I hit by the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing Giles’ handsome, lion-esque profile, so regal until his end. His having just been “put to sleep” gave a whole new meaning to that song for me. I doubt I’ll ever be able to hear it again without thinking of my darling, departed cat.

Giles

Giles would have been happy to have a famous song associated with him, I’m sure—he was not without a healthy ego, gorgeous boy that he was—but I can expect my future rumbas done to that song to be emotionally challenging for some time to come. (I squelched the flood during the show, luckily, and saved my breakdown for the car ride home.)

My lion sleeps forevermore.

I remember the lyrics to a song played in the movie “Valley of the Dolls” that went “Gotta get off, gonna get / Have to get off from this ride…” That was certainly an apt sentiment for all of us regarding my dear cat, Giles’, final weeks on this Earth. If you’ve followed this blog recently, you may have read of my preparation for his passing and the subsequent stalls due to his surprising, repeated rallying. (See my book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” for the story “Tuppence and the Arby’s Effect” for a description of this phenomenon.)

Giles would go from lying inert for days and staring through us as though we were no longer seen by him to being completely present, talking incessantly to us, and even playing with the string of a light fixture. He’d also go from not eating or drinking for days on end to climbing, despite his obvious frailty, 13 basement steps to yowl at me to feed him—up to three times a day! The obvious joy he experienced in devouring his “junk” cat food told me I was right to honor his wishes to remain with us just a while longer. Believe me, it would have been easier on me to help him cross at the first sign that he could not get well, and I would have if he appeared to be hurting. I kept a very close eye on him for signs of pain or distress and never saw any, just a rapid winding down.

Despite all these rallying attempts of his, I never kidded myself that he was actually recovering from whatever ailed him (and it was truly moot for us to put him through umpteen tests just to try to find out whether that was cancer, kidney failure, etc.). In a month’s time, he’d lost about one-third of his body weight and no amount of eating put it back on. His body was definitely finished with him before his spirit was finished with this physical world.

Finally, on July 28, he stopped eating again, though he was walking around and sassing. After having tentatively scheduled and then canceled two previous appointments with Dr. Rebecca McComas of Minnesota Pets—Gentle in-home euthanasia, we finally agreed she would come at 2 p.m. that day to help Giles with his final passage.

Dr. McComas is a phenomenal human being—all kindness, compassion, patience, and love for the animals and humans she is helping at the hardest time of their lives. I wish with my whole heart I’d known her when all my past pets were ready to die, but Giles was the first to get to be freed from his used-up body in the comfort of his home. Far from being stuffed into his carrier and driven to the vet’s office (oh, Lord, did he hate to ride in the car!), he didn’t even have to get stressed out from having to be brought upstairs (where he was naturally afraid his nemesis, our newest Westie, Oliver, might be lurking to attack him). We all went to his basement “apartment.” I’d dimmed the harsh overhead lights and set up a candle that heated some lavender essential oil and scented the air with that relaxing, calming aroma.

When the good doctor arrived, and shortly thereafter, my husband Anthony came home from work (bless his heart!) we chatted about our goofy Westies’ antics while upstairs and they got in lots of petting, then we went downstairs to be with Giles again. Though very tippy from weakness, his spirits were high and he walked over to greet and nuzzle Dr. McComas and gave me a series of kitty kisses (gentle bites on my hand) as he purred loudly.

Dr. M told us Giles, being so emaciated, looked more like he was 19 than just about 15 years old, confirming that he was through with this physical body. She then explained that the sedative/painkiller shot she was about to give him would sting for a short while as it went in and that we could expect resistance or crying out from Giles. She delivered the shot and not a peep was uttered besides a tiny meow when she removed the needle. He was truly ready. We all complimented him repeatedly on his bravery and handsomeness. He deserved the praise and ate it up.

Within moments, he fell into a very, very relaxed state in my lap. He was so out of it, when Dr. M had to shave a tiny bit of his fur off his front leg so she could administer the euthanasia drug into a vein, he didn’t stir in the slightest. Giles simply drifted to sleep…and never woke again. (I know I’m a broken record, but every time I witness this, I beg the Universe to let me go that peacefully when it’s my time!) Dr. M kindly saved me his bits of shaved fur and pressed both of his front paws into some clay so I’d have a permanent paw print to remember him by. (This now joins Ludwig’s and Mortimer’s clay paw prints in my office.)

We noted that after his death the inside of Giles’ ears had turned a pronounced yellow, effectively performing a postmortem that confirmed his liver was no longer functioning and most likely was his cause of death.

We then brought down each of the dogs (except Oliver) and my other cat, Xander, to say goodbye to Giles and be sure they understood what had happened. That’s when my heart truly broke into splinters.

Our little Blanche, age 6 and second oldest among our four Westies, had always LOVED Giles. She would frantically kiss-kiss-kiss him to pieces, and he allowed it until it got so obnoxious that he had to place his paws on her shoulders, push her down and merely set his teeth on her as if to say, “Enough already!” Well, for all the months during which we’d had to keep Giles separate from the dogs for his safety, she’d been unable to kiss her friend.

(Quick backstory recap: After we’d had him a month and everyone was getting along splendidly, our newest adopted Westie, Oliver, age 7, suddenly decided to attack Giles after the cat hissed at him. That triggered the pack mentality among the other three dogs and they ALL—Blanche included—attacked Giles, numerous times, and often with me in the middle of the dangerous milieu. I’ve had seven Westies now, and this is the first time one has been mean to one of my cats. What’s strange is that Oliver is generally accepting of my other 15-year-old cat, Xander. We suspect the newcomer, Oliver, was the first to smell or sense the fatal illness that had taken hold of Giles and was responding as he would in the wild—getting rid of the weakest member of his “pack.”)

Anyway, back to Blanche in the basement. She became instantly frantic again, trying to kiss Giles’ dead body. She scratched at the pee pad on which he laid, tearing a hole in it in seconds. You could see her frustration mount as she couldn’t waken her kitty friend. She whined in a voice we’d never heard her use before then barked more shrilly than she ever had, too. I just sobbed for her loss and confusion. All of the other animals (except Oliver) came, sniffed for a second and walked away with no upset, which is what I’d expected would happen with them all.

Later, when I was holding Giles wrapped in a blanket, readying him to leave with Dr. M for his cremation, Anthony was holding Blanche and we put them near each other again to say a last goodbye. She again so urgently wanted to rouse him she actually nipped his ear! We had to give Blanche Rescue Remedy (a homeopathic Bach Flowers mixture to help her calm down) after Giles was taken out. I felt just horrible for her. (She’s better today, thank goodness.)

I will forever miss Giles’ obnoxious, insistent demands for attention and treats; the way he let Anthony rest his soda can on his kitty head and kept it balanced there; his neurotic tugging out of his fur whenever things weren’t absolutely to his liking (such as if his food dish were set down somewhere he didn’t deem proper); and his unbelievably handsome, regal bearing. He was a gorgeous boy, and quite self-assured of that fact, right up until the sweet (not bitter) end. He’s forever in my heart…and in my book. I’ve excerpted his story from “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss” below. Rest in peace, my dear, darling cat.—Sid

Giles taking a cat nap

 

Giles’ Story: A Supernormal Experience from a Still-Living Cat
More than a decade ago, months after I had lost my two beloved Siamese cats, Dudley and Genevieve, I knew my home was in dire need of more kitty energy to complement the doggy energy provided by my two Westies, Tuppence and Ludwig. As is so often the case with me, I knew what my upcoming pet’s name would be before I
met the actual animal in the flesh. I knew I was on the lookout for two cats named Giles and Xander (after characters on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” one of my all-time favorite TV series).

I’d been casually visiting places like Petco during their adoption days and seeing many beautiful, sweet cats, but I sensed that none of them was to be mine. I went home empty-handed time and again. And this is unusual for me, being someone who’d like to adopt every needy animal on the planet. Finally, my husband at that time and I had gone to a Holiday Boutique sale at the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society and decided to stroll through the cat section just to say hello. Again, I petted darling kitties through their cages, visited several that were
free to roam in a special interaction room, and still, my heart told me to wait, these weren’t meant for me.

Just before we were about to leave, however, my husband pointed to a charcoal-and-gray-striped tabby in the last cage in a long row. He said, “What about this one?”

My eyes met luminous green ones, my heart skipped a beat, and I exclaimed embarrassingly loudly. “Oh my God, it’s Giles!” No deliberation was necessary. I literally “recognized” him. I knew as certainly as I knew my own name this was Giles, not Xander. We took him from his cage and he climbed into my arms, stretching his front legs
around my neck like a desperate hug. Several people came by as I held him and noted his incredible handsomeness, expressing interest in adopting him. I flatly pronounced to them and my husband, “We’re getting this cat.”

While he went along with the purchase at first, quite to my surprise, once we’d gotten home, my then-husband got angrier with me than I’d ever seen him in our (at that point) ten years of marriage. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the cat; he pointed him out to me in the first place. It was just that, to him, I was apparently making a unilateral
choice and somehow disrespecting him by doing so; I can understand his perceiving it that way because, outwardly, I’m sure it seemed I was a little nutty. But I couldn’t walk away from what I knew was the Universe’s gift to us, our Giles, just to say I’d taken time to properly deliberate. When I know something is right to do, I do it. Simple as that. Consequences be damned.

I think, too, my soon-to-become ex was correctly noting that my love more readily flowed toward our pets than toward him (and the same likely was true for him). I won’t say we divorced years later because of Giles, per se, but my desire to expand my furry critter family, and my obvious adoration of them all, and my husband’s subsequent
resentment of all that surely exacerbated our growing distance and difficulties. I believe part of the reason Giles was brought into our lives was to help bring to light what was seething beneath the surface of our relationship. Sometimes what we need to see isn’t always pleasant.

This is not to say my first husband didn’t come to love Giles; he most certainly did, and he never mistreated him. It was just me he came to love less and less — a sad fact that had to happen to move us both along our respective, separate paths to where we were supposed to be years later. Though not something we would consciously wish, it is understandable that we might transfer our affection to our unconditionally loving companion animals when we feel the people to whom we were closest are withdrawing from us.

But not all times with this newly expanded family unit were unhappy or strained, of course, and one in particular
was downright phenomenal.

It was early December 1997, and I had drawn up some Santa-themed flyers for my husband, who was a reflexologist
(therapeutic foot massage therapist and teacher of same), to send to his clients to color in and enter into a
drawing for prizes. We’d received dozens of entries and wanted to be truly random in choosing the winners. Folks had been told it wasn’t important that they colored well, just that they made some small attempt and at least mailed in their entries on time.
I got the goofy idea to have Giles choose this year’s winners. So, I made a large circle (about seven feet in diameter) on the living room floor, evenly spacing the 8.5×11-inch papers along the edge. I then placed Giles in the center of the circle and said, “Giles, would you please help us choose the winners for this year’s contest? Show us who
should win third prize, the foot-care basket.”

Giles looked at me for a moment, then walked very deliberately to a colorful entry at the 7:00 spot on the circle. He placed a paw on it, looked at me again, then returned to the center of the circle and sat down! My husband and
I gaped at each other. I noticed my hands had begun shaking a little, and I forced myself not to jump up and down screaming, not wanting to spook Giles.

I thanked our cat profusely and took away that entry. I then repeated, “Giles, would you please choose who wins second prize? Who wins a copy of our book, kitty?” (That was Reflexology: Therapeutic Foot Massage… and other matters concerning the soles, ©1996, which we’d co-written and I’d edited and designed for him to use in his classes.)

Again, that handsome cat looked knowingly at me, then went to a colored entry sheet at the 1:00 spot, put his paw on it, and returned to the center of the circle and sat down!! “Fluke” was no longer a term we could apply to what was happening. My voice cracked a bit as I thanked Giles and retrieved the second-prize winner’s sheet. I silently whispered to my husband, “Did you see that?” He nodded, stunned, from his post on the sofa nearby.

One last time, I asked Giles if he would kindly choose the first prize winner, the one that would receive a free reflexology session. The third time was still charmed, for he went to the 5:00 spot, placed his paw on it, and returned once more to the center of the circle!! I finally couldn’t stand it, and I scooped him up and gushed praise on this remarkable creature. I kept saying to my husband, “Oh my God, you saw that, right? I didn’t just dream this, did I? Giles actually understood and chose those winners, right?” He just kept nodding
his head, eyebrows raised impossibly high.
I pointed out to my husband that not only had Giles chosen entries when we asked him to, but he’d also chosen the three that had been colored in the most artfully! I immediately got on the phone to my brother Dave in San
Diego, practically screaming into the phone, “You are never going to believe what our cat Giles just did!!!”

I spent another hour on the phone, calling everyone in our phone book and telling him or her what happened.

The rest of the evening, as we drove around town delivering the prizes and Christmas cookies I’d baked for friends and family, I periodically checked in with my husband, “You saw it, too, right? It really happened?” He reaffirmed my perceptions about twenty times before I finally shut up and accepted that either our cat is a genius or someone
from the Other Side was working with him to blow our minds.

Giles is still a wonderful cat, but he’s never re-enacted such a supernaturally miraculous feat since then. He actually appeared chagrined from all my gushing. I posited the theory that he wasn’t supposed to actually reveal his full animal brilliance to us because pretending to be “dumb animals” is the natural kingdom’s greatest defense against humans discovering these creatures’ inherent superiority. I’m sure he felt he’d shown us too much and now might have to kill us to keep the secret safe. Tee hee.

(Excerpted from “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss” by Sid Korpi)

 

Check out this new publication by my colleague in the pet loss world, Coleen Ellis.—Sid

Coleen Ellis, who opened the first standalone pet funeral home in the United States, helps pet parents, veterinarians, and others honor the lives of pets. She owns Two Hearts Pet Loss Center and is the co-chair of the Pet loss Professionals Alliance. She lives in Chicago, Ill., and Greenwood, Ind., with her husband and their furry children. To learn more about her, visit www.twoheartspetlosscenter.com.

Book Cover

Pet Parents

A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief

By Coleen Ellis

  • Also available as:
  • Published: July, 2011
  • Format: Perfect Bound Softcover(B/W)
  • Pages: 148
  • Size: 7.5×9.25
  • ISBN: 9781462035489
  • Imprint Logo

Coleen Ellis lost her “baby girl” in 2003, and she was devastated. No one understood how she could be so upset over losing “just a dog,” and she could never really say goodbye to her terrier-schnauzer mix, Mico. To help pet parents everywhere, she opened the first standalone pet funeral home in the United States in Indianapolis. In this guidebook, she helps pet parents, veterinarians, death-care professionals and others celebrate the special bonds we share with our animal companions. Drawing upon her experiences directing hundreds of pet funerals, Ellis provides: • ideas to help celebrate the special bonds people share with their pets; • checklists to choose the right cremation provider or funeral home; • heartwarming stories that show how pets can be honored in life and in death; • information on how death-care professionals, veterinarians and others are taking steps to serve pet parents; • additional resources to help people remember their pets the way they want. People everywhere want to honor the lives of their pets, and even if you aren’t a pet owner, you need to understand why this is important. Help yourself and those you care about with Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief.

Order at <http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000476586>

I’ll be a vendor at this event’s opening reception on Aug. 19 and will donate double my usual amount per book sale ($4 instead of $2) to the Pet Project. So, if you’ve a need for a copy of my book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,”  for yourself or a friend, please swing by and get a personally inscribed copy and do some extra good with your purchase.—Sid

“BARK at ART”

Gallery 122 at Hang It

August 19- September 10, 2011

Pet Friendly Opening Reception –Friday August 19, 7-10 pm

 Gallery 122 and The Barkery are teaming up to host a benefit for The Pet Project. “Bark at Art” will feature limited edition, signed and numbered prints by local and national artists that are inspired by our furry, four-legged companions. “BARK at ART” will run from August 19 through September 10, 2011, with a pet friendly** opening reception held on August 19, from 7-10 PM. (**Owners are responsible for pets. All pets must be on a leash and current on all vaccinations). The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public. Guests are asked to help The Pet Project by bringing unopened bags of pet food, new/gently used supplies, or a suggested donation of $5.

100% of door donations, and 80% of poster sales will benefit the Pet Project.

The Pet Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to provide pet food and basic supplies to pets whose owners are struggling financially. The Pet Project also provides connections to basic veterinary care and provides information on finding pet-friendly housing. For more information on The Pet Project please visit www.thepetprojectmn.org.

Gallery 122 is an art gallery that features different local artists throughout the year. Gallery 122 is located in NE Minneapolis in between Central and E. Hennepin at 122 8th St SE. The gallery hours are Monday and Friday 9-5, Tuesday through Thursday 9-7, Saturday 10-4, and closed on Sundays.

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