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.
Animal owners in the Dorchester Neighborhood notified to be cautious while walking their dogs
Today, the ARL will send 15 birds to Tufts Wildlife Center in Grafton, MA for additional treatment.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) responded to 33 Bakersfield Street in Dorchester, MA on September 8, 2016 in response to a resident who called regarding her sick cat and the observation of birds falling from trees.
The ARL immediately gave emergency treatment to one cat, but unfortunately the cat could not be saved.
Additionally, 47 Grackle-type birds were either falling to the ground, sick, thrashing and unable to fly, or were found unresponsive.
It was determined that the birds should be isolated and neighbors notified to keep dogs and other animals from the area.
Current update on the 47 Grackles:
- 12 birds found deceased on scene
- 8 birds passed away shortly after rescue on their way to the shelter
- 12 birds were humanely euthanized due to their poor condition
- 15 birds remain in good condition in the custody of the Animal Rescue League of Boston Veterinary Team. Today, these animals will be sent to Tufts Wildlife Center in Grafton, MA.
The ARL continues to work with the State Department of Agriculture, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, City of Boston Inspectional Services Department, and Boston Public Health Commission to determine the cause of this unusual incident.
DONATE NOW to ensure that animals in need, like the many Grackles involved in this case, receive the critical veterinary care that they need.
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.
Espresso, a 1-year-old rat, recovering from surgery to remove a large tumor
Everyone knows that the Animal Rescue League of Boston helps cats and dogs, but did you know that we help all other types of small animals, livestock, and wildlife too?
Espresso, a 1-year-old female rat, was picked up by ARL’s Rescue Services after being abandoned at a local veterinary clinic with her sister, Mocha. The adorable pair were brought to our Boston shelter where they received a veterinary exam, behavioral evaluation, and kind attention from staff and volunteers.
Unfortunately, during Espresso’s initial examination at the shelter, a large tumor was found over her left shoulder. Our Shelter Veterinary Services team immediately brought her to surgery, which cost approximately $250, to remove the tumor.
Espresso, a 1-year-old rat, is recovering comfortably from tumor-removal surgery at the ARL. She and her sister Mocha are available for adoption and looking for a loving family!
DONATE NOW to ensure that animals like Espresso receive the critical preventative or emergency veterinary care that they need.
Espresso was a trooper throughout her surgery and recovered very well. In fact, she was walking around her enclosure and eating within an hour after waking up.
Through all of this process, Espresso never lost her love of people and remained as sweet as ever!
After surgery, the removed mass was sent to a lab for analysis and was determined to be a benign mammary tumor.
Mammary tumors are very common in middle-aged to older rats. Because rats have mammary tissue that extends well beyond the area of their mammary glands, mammary tumors can occur in locations you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
Thankfully, the tumors are nearly always benign, as was the case for Espresso. This means it’s very unlikely that they will metastasize or recur in the same location.
It’s important to know, however, that rats who develop one mammary tumor will often go on to have additional mammary tumors develop at new locations in the future.
We recommend that Espresso’s adopters have a discussion with their family vet about whether to consider additional treatment, such as hormone injections, to help prevent future tumors from forming.
MEET ESPRESSO AT OUR BOSTON ADOPTION CENTER! Espresso and her sister Mocha are both available for adoption and would make lovely little additions to your home. Visit us at 10 Chandler Street in Boston, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (617) 226-5602 for more information about this pair.
UPDATE 9/5/16: Espresso and her sister Mocha have been adopted!
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
Combination of Animal Welfare Measures Triples Protection
At a ceremony at the State House earlier today, Wednesday, August 24, 2016, Governor Baker signed S.2369, An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death, into law. The law will take effect on November 17, 2016.
Watch a snippet from today’s ceremony at the State House
Did you know that S.2369 actually is 3 bills in one? The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is thrilled because the new law provides protection for pets in several ways! While there has been a great deal of attention –and rightly so– on the pets in vehicles portion of the bill, the ARL is pretty excited about the other provisions as well.
“With the signing of this bill, animals in Massachusetts will be safer. The need to enact S.2369 was met with widespread support throughout the House and Senate and now by the Governor’s office,” said Mary Nee, president of the ARL.
Having 3 separate animal welfare measures enacted helps keep Massachusetts at the forefront of animal protection…
1. Pets in vehicles, a new legal tool in place
The ARL’s “Too Hot for Spot” campaign is aimed at educating pet owners on the dangers of leaving a pet in a vehicle and it certainly underscored the need for this measure.
The new bill now allows first responders, such as animal control officers, law enforcement officers, and police officials, and firefighters, to intervene early and rescue a pet from a hot car –or from a car in extreme cold weather– before the pet is suffering.
Additionally, there’s a new consequence for people who put their pets in harm’s way by leaving them in cars, separate and apart from animal cruelty. People who violate the law will be given tickets, and the fines increase if they are repeat offenders.
Citizens may also help rescue pets left in vehicles, but only under limited conditions that require them to first call 911 and make reasonable efforts to find the owner. If the pet is taken from the vehicle, the rescuer must stay with the pet at the scene until law enforcement personnel arrive at the scene.
2. Tethering of dogs, now reduced to 5 hour time limit
The new bill updates a law already in place, which didn’t seem to be working as well as it should have been. Under the old law, a dog could be tethered (tied or chained up) for up to 24 hours. The law did not prohibit tethering outside in terrible weather.
The new law now limits the time of tethering outside to up to 5 hours. Additionally, a dog cannot be tethered between the hours of 10PM and 6AM, or outdoors when a weather advisory, warning, or watch has been issued.
3. The ARL and MSPCA can further help enforce the law
The new bill gives the ARL’s and MSPCA’s law enforcement officers the ability to rescue animals that are confined under “cruel conditions”, which includes exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, dirty water, noxious odors, and other potentially dangerous circumstances.
Under the new law, the ARL and MSPCA will now be able to enforce the prohibitions under this section. They are also permitted to write citations to violators if an animal control officer is unavailable or is unable to respond to the scene.
“We are grateful that first responders and citizens can protect the well-being of animals,” says Mary Nee. “We are also excited that our law enforcement officers now have the ability to enforce the law and stop animals from living in, and being exposed to, cruel and inhumane conditions.”
KNOW THE LAW… Click here to read the details of S.2369, An Act to Prevent Animal Cruelty and Death.
THANK YOU to Governor Charlie Baker, Senator Mark Montigny, Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Rep. Angelo Puppolo, Rep. David Rogers, Rep. Louis Kafka, Senator Pat Jehlen, Senator Barbara L’Italien, Rep. Speliotis, and the many other legislators for their commitment to helping animals across the Commonwealth and for taking action to prevent animal suffering and death!
SPECIAL THANKS to the MSPCA and HSUS for their partnership on getting this important piece of legislation passed for animals in Massachusetts!
Rep. Lori Ehrlich takes the podium.
This adorable pup couldn’t help posing for the camera!
Left to Right: Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Senator Mark Montigny, and Senator Tarr.
Umbrella Cockatoo Recovering Well After Being Severely Neglected
DO YOU RECOGNIZE THIS BIRD? Contact ARL’s Law Enforcement, (617) 226-5610
On July 25th, 2016, a concerned citizen noticed something odd with the trash put out around Norfolk Street in Dorchester, Massachusetts; in the middle of the garbage to be collected was a birdcage filled with maggots and cockroaches– and an Umbrella Cockatoo.
Mayfield, the Umbrella Cockatoo found in the trash, is recovering well at the ARL after emergency surgery.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) Rescue services quickly responded to the call to help the discarded bird.
When found, the Cockatoo, now named “Mayfield”, was emaciated and had a serious medical condition that required emergency surgery. Luckily, she is now recovering at the ARL and doing well enough to soon be able to find a loving home!
Sadly, Mayfield is not the first animal we’ve seen who was abandoned and left to die in the trash or on the streets. We understand that tough economic conditions also affect pets, but let’s get the word out that the last resort is not throwing your pet away.
Learn the 7 warning signs of animal cruelty
There are many organizations like the ARL, agencies, and individuals, who can be a dependable resource for families who need help caring for their pet. There are always options, but throwing an animal away is not one of them.
The ARL needs your help in identifying Mayfield’s owners…
The person(s) responsible for neglecting and cruelly abandoning this lovely bird needs to be held accountable for their actions. Failure to provide proper food, drink, shelter, and a sanitary environment and willful abandonment of an animal are felony violations of Massachusetts’s anti-cruelty laws. A person convicted of these crimes could receive a prison sentence of up to 7 years.
If you recognize Mayfield or have any information regarding her case, please contact the ARL’s Law Enforcement Department at (617) 226-5610.
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