Experiencing the death of a pet can not only be devastating, but also isolating. Pet loss is a type of loss that is frequently invalidated.
"Disenfranchised grief isn't seen as (being) valid as other losses, like loss of human life," said Tess Payne, director of community engagement at DoveLewis. "But our pets are our family."
Which is why DoveLewis, in adding to their nationally recognized pet loss support program, is partnering with the Pamplin Media Group on a new program called Pet Tributes.
Every week, people who have lost their companion animals will have the opportunity to post a pet tribute to honor the memory of their beloved pet. Pet Tributes will be published in each of the Pamplin Media Groups local weekly newspapers and on Pamplin's corresponding local websites.
Inspiration for pet tributes came from a letter that Payne's friend penned to her, following the death of her pet. "She wrote letters to all of the people her dog had been friends with when (he/she) was alive," Payne said. "I loved receiving the letter. It was full of humor and love and great stories. It put joy in my heart for having known that animal. And it was a cathartic experience for my friend."
For those experiencing grief following the death of a pet, writing can prove to be a powerful tool for healing.
"When you're grieving, emotions can be quite tumultuous and out-of-control. Writing forces you to slow down, to process the moment," said Debrah Lee, director of the veterinary well-being program at DoveLewis. "It helps to reflect on the richness of your companion's life. Otherwise, feeling the sadness of loss all the time, you forget the little joys, the funny little things — like names you used to call them and songs you used to sing. We all have diddies we sing for our animals, don't we?"
"We're thrilled to partner with DoveLewis on this new Pet Tributes program," said J. Brian Monihan, vice president and publisher with Pamplin Media. "We understand how important our pets are to our readers. Occasionally over the past few years, readers have placed obituaries for their pets. In fact, just this spring, a reader purchased a full-page ad to honor the loss of her dog."
According to Monihan, thanks to the support from DoveLewis, readers can now place Pet Tributes at a significantly reduced cost.
"With DoveLewis helping to sponsor this program, the cost for a reader to place a tribute in honor of their pet starts at just $50," he said. "Tributes include a photo of the pet and whatever message the family would like to share to honor their pet. In addition to the therapeutic value to the writer, the few tributes we have run over the years have been very inspiring."
DoveLewis' mission, to "care for every animal and every person who cares for them" is certainly a promise they make good on. With Pet Tributes, DoveLewis is creating a space for grieving pet owners to share their pet love stories. Both Payne and Lee emphasized that the loss of a companion can be just as profound as an important human, because of the deep bonds people share with their pets.
"Some days, the grief is like a rock in your shoe, other days it's like carrying a 50-pound backpack," Lee said. "We live in a pain-avoidant society. Hopefully pet tributes will make people feel less alone."
DoveLewis is Portland's nonprofit 24-hour emergency and ICU animal hospital offering advanced veterinary care. DoveLewis also shares several donor-funded programs with the community, including: one of America's largest volunteer-based animal blood banks, a nationally recognized pet loss support program offering free group therapy sessions every month, 24-hour stabilizing care for lost, stray and wild animals, and financial assistance for qualifying low-income families and abused animals.Â For more information about DoveLewis, go to www.dovelewis.org.
In addition to placing a Pet Tribute in memory of your pet, readers can also place tributes to honor their pet's birthday or adoption day.
"We hope our weekly Pet Tributes section will bring some joy to our reader's lives at a time when there is way too much negative news in the world," Monihan said. "And thanks to the support of DoveLewis, sharing these stories is very affordable."
To read current tributes or to place your own Pet Tribute, go to your local Pamplin Media Group newspaper website and click on the Pet Tributes link located under the OBITS tab. Or click here.
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