Friday, 26 January 2018 21:55
Scott Delucchi, SPCA Executive Director
Years ago, when I was new to this field, I sat in on a pet loss grief support group session. I wanted to experience all our programs in action and I was amazed this one existed.
I specifically remember a young couple. They were in tears, talking about their loss, how it hurt so much, how they were depressed and losing sleep and how their home felt empty. Then, the kicker. “And we don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get another bird” A bird!? I assumed they were talking about a dog or cat and never imagined people could connect as deeply with a bird.
Of course, I now know these bonds exist with all kinds of pets and that losing an iguana can be every bit as difficult as losing a cat or dog. I see co-workers and volunteers, friends and family struggle with loss. I’m careful not to say “I know how you feel.” I don’t, really. We all process loss differently.
The last time I lost a pet was 10 years ago. My dog came from backyard breeder, before I knew better. I was a Twin Peaks fanatic, so the little pup became Cooper, named after the show’s lead character.
Eager-to-please, food-motivated with super long ears, a loose face and droopy eyes. Gentle and unflappable, he was like Eeyeore, from Winnie the Pooh, in his twilight years. That was Cooper. He drooled like nothing anyone had ever seen and sent his long “slingers,” as we called them, sailing across the room when he shook.
During my bachelor years, friends joked about my four-legged “wing” man in a bear-huggable, 85-pound, black velvet package. Still, I attracted my wife, Jay, on my own. She quickly accepted and loved us as a package deal, and Cooper fell for her with me. As the old saying goes, a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. My wife, a former chef, nabbed us both quickly.
Cooper went to work with me daily. We attended the shelter’s black tie affairs, city council meetings and dog walk fundraisers. We made countless community presentations and — once he was certified for therapy work — regular visits to a long-term care facility. He sat calmly beside me when I hosted a local cable tv show highlighting the shelter’s work and happily passed gassed as I interviewed guests. Once, when an elderly man we were visiting in a hospital knocked his evening set of pills off the nightstand, Cooper shot under the bed, thinking “treats for me.” It’s a miracle he had no effects from the stool softener he hoovered.
We said goodbye to Cooper after 13 ½ years. I felt lucky to have that much time, and to have the last stage happen so quickly.
I was surrounded by people in my family and at work who “got it”. Not everyone is as fortunate and many can and do benefit from a support group. Last year, following brief discussions with the Papillon Center for Loss & Transition in Monterey, the SPCA was thrilled to see the formation of a local pet loss grief support groupthat now meets twice a month.
For people who don’t know what to say when a friend, neighbor, co-worker or family member loses a loved pet, or for those who want to show their care and concern, please know that your SPCA offers Memorial Gifts. When you make a donation in any amount to the memory of a pet, we send a nice card to their owner, informing them of your thoughtful gift which benefits shelter animals.
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