COPING WITH SORROW
ON THE LOSS OF YOUR PET
by Moira Anderson. 190 pages, paperback.*
The author of this book comes with impressive credentials: a great capacity for love of animals; a Master of Education (M.Ed) and writing experience that includes being editor of Dog Fancy magazine.
Moira Anderson wrote "Coping" after she experienced the loss of Sebell, a companion cat who died as the result of an accident. At the time of his death, Moira was in the process of compiling the results of a survey on pet loss that Dog Fancy had commissioned months before.
This survey drew the largest response of any that had ever been sponsored by the magazine. And there was a recurring theme. Almost all respondents felt that the level of pain they experienced was so great that it was abnormal. And they felt alone in their grief. Family and friends had been of little or no comfort and treated
* This book is available from Alpine Publications for $ 10.95 and can be ordered by calling 1-800-777-7257 the death as if it were a minor incident that was being taken too seriously: "After all, it's only an animal."
In the introduction to her book, the author writes "Somebody needed to tell these people—and all the people like them who wouldn't have a chance to read the survey and its responses—that they are NOT alone! Somebody had to tell them that their grief is normal, that it is shared by thousands of pet owners just like them...that they are not crazy."
At some point, Moira realized she might be the "somebody" who had to tell them.
The book she wrote is not just one woman's viewpoint. The author spoke with dozens of people, from all over the country, who shared their experiences and feelings as they discussed the things that seemed to work in the best interests of both the the human and the animal companion, before and after death.
There are chapters that deal with the question of when—and if—to euthanize your companion, and the many emotions and decisions this entails. The book also discusses the question of when, or if, a new pet should become part of the family, and tells what you can do if a pet is lost. Another section deals with the effect that the loss of a companion animal has on other, surviving pets. And advice on choosing a final resting place is also included.
"Coping" does not offer a sanitized, clinical review of the subjects it discusses. In her introduction, the author de-scribes the kind of approach she took in compiling the book.
"[The contributors] speak to you as the friend you may have wished you had when your pet died, a friend who could speak to you with sympathy and understanding, and help guide you through the stages of grief...[they] know that not everyone understands what it means to lose a pet, and how lonely you can feel in this time of loss. This is their way of ‘being there’ for you.”
However, there is one area in which readers of Humane Religion would probably have more information than "Coping" was able to provide. When respondents answered the question of life-after-death for animals in the affirmative, the implication was that they believed this in spite of biblical teachings.
This is hardly surprising. Traditional religious groups have claimed an afterlife only for humans, although the Bible provides just as much of a basis for the claim of an animal afterlife. So although we highly recommend this book, we suggest that if it is given as a gift, the pamphlet Animal and Human Companions, which presents the biblical picture of animals in heavenly places, be included.*
There is an extensive resource section at the end of "Coping." It includes more than a dozen internet groups that offer online counseling and support, and a dozen pet loss bereavement phone numbers. Those lists are too extensive to include here, but the following Directories are listed for your information.
DIRECTORY OF PET LOSS RESOURCES.
Lists 70 counselors nationwide.
Available for $3.00 from:
The Delta Society
289 Perimeter Rd.
East Renton, WA 98055-1329
PET LOSS FOUNDATION
Offers a database of counselors, pet loss support groups, hotlines, pet cemeteries, pet burial products, books, and other resources. To locate a counselor or other service in your area, write:
The Pet Loss Foundation
1312 French Rd., Suite A-23
Depew, NY 14043
*This is a reprint—in pamphlet form—of an article that appeared in the Sept./Oct 1997 Humane Religion.See page 23 (opposite) for details.