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David Baxter

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Support groups help grieving pet owners
GREG BONNELL
CANADIAN PRESS
Jan. 24, 2004

When Carolyn Macdonald's shih-tzu bit her on the face, sending her to the emergency room with a serious gash, a veterinarian recommended having the dog put down.

"They're like a person in your life," Macdonald said of her dog Max. "I just couldn't."

What followed was four more years of troubling behaviour, including threatening growls that kept Macdonald out of her own bed at night.

When her daughter's family briefly moved in to her home, matters grew worse. Max would frequently make aggressive moves against Macdonald's grandson, a toddler at the time.

"I realized I had to put him down before I was in a newspaper article with him attacking someone."

Having Max euthanized in the fall of 2001 left the retiree heartbroken. Living alone again after having been divorced for more than 30 years, Macdonald decided to reach out to others experiencing similar loss.

"I went for my own sanity for a year," said Macdonald of her once-a-month meetings with the Metro Toronto Animal Loss Support Group. "Sometimes friends and relatives don't understand what you go through when you lose a pet."

For Macdonald, who is in her 60s, that included overpowering feelings of guilt and sorrow for having to put down Max, a dog she'd raised from a pup and had for 10 years.

She's not alone.

"Guilt is almost universal with pet loss," says Ottawa veterinarian Lianna Titcombe. "Not only are you responsible for their every need, you're even responsible for choosing the time they die. That adds a whole other layer of guilt and grief."

For the past three years, Titcombe has led monthly sessions to help pet owners overcome their loss. "A big part of it is just people sharing their story, having a forum where the can be heard and supported," Titcombe said.

In some instances people are so distraught that Titcombe finds it necessary to send them to a psychologist.

"I often have clients who will come struggling with grief over the loss of a pet," says Dr. David Baxter. "They're almost apologizing for the fact that they're doing it."

Well meaning but misdirected advice from family and friends, like "You can always get another dog," leads some people to question if it's normal to grieve for an animal.

"My message to them is that grief is grief," says Baxter.

"When you've been with an animal for a long period of time, the loss of that animal triggers a full-blown grief reaction which is every bit as intense as anybody else's grief reaction."

He believes pet loss support groups are instrumental in helping people deal with their pain.

"I've worked with a couple of individuals who have found a lot of help in animal support groups," Baxter says. "I think the major reason is they can go there and not be told 'Look, it's only a cat, get over it.'"

He says the healing process is not unlike what people go through when a person dies. First, one must face the loss before they can begin to talk about what it means to them. Eventually, they'll get to a point where they feel okay about remembering the positive experiences they had with the animal. And how long that can take depends on the person.

"Grief is a very individual process and can extend for years," says Baxter. "What helps them get through is having the opportunity to talk about it with somebody who will listen and not try to fix it immediately."

...more of this article
 

sister-ray

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In my experince the only people who really understand what its like to loose a pet is other pet owners who have been through it. I find non pet owners say the most insentive things, they look on pets as a commodity that can just be replaced and forgotton about, Ive had some really uncaring things said to me in my 20 years of keeping birds and always by non- pet owners. When you have to have a bird put to sleep or one dieds it hard to describe how it feels, you wonder whether you could have done more, you wonder whether you made the right decision, there have been times when I have wondered whether my bird is really dead, did the vet give enough to put him/her to sleep, have I buried them alive.

I lost a very special little bird this year and out of all the times Ive lost one of my feathered friends this has been the most hardest to deal with, she was my baby, I brought her up from a youngster and she was always with me, Ive never had so much love and affection from one bird and proberly never given so much back, losing her has left and big gap in my life. Being a believer in Rainbow bridge helps me a lot I know that one day we will be together again as I will with all my feathered friends.
 

sister-ray

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In my experince the only people who really understand what its like to loose a pet is other pet owners who have been through it. I find non pet owners say the most insentive things, they look on pets as a commodity that can just be replaced and forgotton about, Ive had some really uncaring things said to me in my 20 years of keeping birds and always by non- pet owners. When you have to have a bird put to sleep or one dieds it hard to describe how it feels, you wonder whether you could have done more, you wonder whether you made the right decision, there have been times when I have wondered whether my bird is really dead, did the vet give enough to put him/her to sleep, have I buried them alive.

I lost a very special little bird this year and out of all the times Ive lost one of my feathered friends this has been the most hardest to deal with, she was my baby, I brought her up from a youngster and she was always with me, Ive never had so much love and affection from one bird and proberly never given so much back, losing her has left and big gap in my life. Being a believer in Rainbow bridge helps me a lot I know that one day we will be together again as I will with all my feathered friends.
 

momof5

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the only people who really understand what its like to loose a pet is other pet owners who have been through it

This is very true.

I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your beloved bird. I really am.

I lost my cocketiel on 911. I had gotten up early that morning due to feeling restless and the window near her cage was open, so I had leaned down to let her know that she would be warm in a bit, and there she lay on the bottom of her cage.

I didn't know she was sick, she didn't act like she was. The day before I was laying on the floor and she was climbing on me. She was totally fine.

I think she might have been egg bound. She had layed what they call a wind egg, and usually after that they become egg bound.

I have two new tiels, one I hand fed, and a love bird whom I have had since she was only loaded with down feathers.

She and I bonded right away when I got her. So I understand how you feel about that bird that you lost. Mine is about 3 years old now, and I think love birds live a long time, hopefully. Like my dog if anything were to happen to her, I would be lost without tweety. I hand fed her when I got her.

And doc knows how much of an animal person I am.
 

momof5

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the only people who really understand what its like to loose a pet is other pet owners who have been through it

This is very true.

I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your beloved bird. I really am.

I lost my cocketiel on 911. I had gotten up early that morning due to feeling restless and the window near her cage was open, so I had leaned down to let her know that she would be warm in a bit, and there she lay on the bottom of her cage.

I didn't know she was sick, she didn't act like she was. The day before I was laying on the floor and she was climbing on me. She was totally fine.

I think she might have been egg bound. She had layed what they call a wind egg, and usually after that they become egg bound.

I have two new tiels, one I hand fed, and a love bird whom I have had since she was only loaded with down feathers.

She and I bonded right away when I got her. So I understand how you feel about that bird that you lost. Mine is about 3 years old now, and I think love birds live a long time, hopefully. Like my dog if anything were to happen to her, I would be lost without tweety. I hand fed her when I got her.

And doc knows how much of an animal person I am.
 

sister-ray

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Hello momof5,

Thank you for your kind words, Im sorry to hear about your cockatiel, Its aweful when they leave us so quickly like that, I know how you feel, Ive had birds die very suddenly from heart attacks/strokes, one minute you all happy playing with them, then they are gone, its hard to describe to someone who hasnt experience it. I always say to people who dont understand , imagine it was your child, how would you feel then, but some just cant make that connection, they cant see a bird or other animal in the same way as they would a human child or baby.
 

sister-ray

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Hello momof5,

Thank you for your kind words, Im sorry to hear about your cockatiel, Its aweful when they leave us so quickly like that, I know how you feel, Ive had birds die very suddenly from heart attacks/strokes, one minute you all happy playing with them, then they are gone, its hard to describe to someone who hasnt experience it. I always say to people who dont understand , imagine it was your child, how would you feel then, but some just cant make that connection, they cant see a bird or other animal in the same way as they would a human child or baby.
 

ThatLady

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I'm so sorry for both of your losses. It's always difficult to lose a loved one. To me, a beloved pet is family. When it comes time for one of them to leave us it really hurts, and we grieve as we would for any family member. :(
 

ThatLady

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I'm so sorry for both of your losses. It's always difficult to lose a loved one. To me, a beloved pet is family. When it comes time for one of them to leave us it really hurts, and we grieve as we would for any family member. :(
 

momof5

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I also highly believe in pet therapy.

Not long after i was injured was when I recieved the cocketiel. I had her for 3 years. And she choose me, which unless you are truly into animals, people don't understand this.

She was a source of comfort to me. I named her "R" so that when she was sitting on my shoulder I could say "R" matie! lol.

Not long after she died I have a neighbor that is into birds and rescuing animals, she got the two tiels and the love bird for me. So I managed to go right into a new set of animals, and that helped.

My dog, she lets me know ahead of time when things are going to be rough for me. She won't let anyone near me. And doesn't leave my side.

Animals provide so much for us, that I feel so sorry for people who dont' understand this.

Thank you ThatLady, appreciate your words.
 

momof5

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I also highly believe in pet therapy.

Not long after i was injured was when I recieved the cocketiel. I had her for 3 years. And she choose me, which unless you are truly into animals, people don't understand this.

She was a source of comfort to me. I named her "R" so that when she was sitting on my shoulder I could say "R" matie! lol.

Not long after she died I have a neighbor that is into birds and rescuing animals, she got the two tiels and the love bird for me. So I managed to go right into a new set of animals, and that helped.

My dog, she lets me know ahead of time when things are going to be rough for me. She won't let anyone near me. And doesn't leave my side.

Animals provide so much for us, that I feel so sorry for people who dont' understand this.

Thank you ThatLady, appreciate your words.
 

sister-ray

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They dont know what they are missing not having pets in their life, all the unconditional love and affection, very often when I feel depressed or have been crying one of my birds will come and sit on my shoulder and preen my hair or do something to make me feel better, they know,, The birdie I lost this year was very in tune to my feelings. My birds are always their for me day or night, they never let me down or judge me, or lie to me, and all that love and affection is so special, it very rare to get that from another human.
I know what you mean about animals choosing you.
Love the "R" matie, lol
 

sister-ray

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They dont know what they are missing not having pets in their life, all the unconditional love and affection, very often when I feel depressed or have been crying one of my birds will come and sit on my shoulder and preen my hair or do something to make me feel better, they know,, The birdie I lost this year was very in tune to my feelings. My birds are always their for me day or night, they never let me down or judge me, or lie to me, and all that love and affection is so special, it very rare to get that from another human.
I know what you mean about animals choosing you.
Love the "R" matie, lol
 

momof5

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preen my hair

My teil Spiro loves to do ths when I am sitting by his cage. He puts his beak through the cage until I put my head up to the cage for him to grab my hair! He is so funny.

Animals are truly awsome.
 

momof5

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preen my hair

My teil Spiro loves to do ths when I am sitting by his cage. He puts his beak through the cage until I put my head up to the cage for him to grab my hair! He is so funny.

Animals are truly awsome.
 

David Baxter

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He puts his beak through the cage until I put my head up to the cage for him to grab my hair! He is so funny. Animals are truly awsome.
It's a lucky thing pet owners are so trainable... I often think that our pets must be thinking, "Yeah I know it's dumb but humans seem to like it for some reason so I do it to make them feel better"... :eek:)
 

David Baxter

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He puts his beak through the cage until I put my head up to the cage for him to grab my hair! He is so funny. Animals are truly awsome.
It's a lucky thing pet owners are so trainable... I often think that our pets must be thinking, "Yeah I know it's dumb but humans seem to like it for some reason so I do it to make them feel better"... :eek:)
 

sister-ray

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Mr Baxter,
My birds have me trained really well! I get up when they start squawking, and go to bed when they go quiet, sometimes I cant sit in my faverite chair as one or all are sitting in it or on it, and I cant wear my fav slippers because one of them likes nest in them, they really do have control here, I'm their slave LOL. I love it though and would not have it any other way!!
 

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