Ms Goodfriend, 79, who began counseling pet owners in 2005, attributed the surge to the pandemic, which she said had made people “more aware of grief and more willing to express it”.
At Schwarzman Animal Medical Center, which has operated in Manhattan since 1910, a free pet loss support group has been available to clients since 1983. Susan Cohen, 79, a veterinary social worker who came up with the idea of the group. , said it started with about five people attending each in-person session. By the time she stopped working at the center in 2011, that number had doubled.
Demand for such gatherings has led the center to expand its offerings: there are now several bereavement groups that meet via video calls several times a month. One is for people whose pets have died in the past three months, while another is for owners still grieving pets who died in the past year. Judith Harbour, 40, a veterinary social worker at the center who runs the bereavement groups, recently launched a third party for owners of dogs with serious health problems. Each group has 20 participants from across the country, and some have waiting lists.
Participants come from diverse backgrounds, Ms. Harbor said, and range in age from 18 to 85. The pets they mourn aren’t just cats and dogs: turtles, cockatiels, parrots, lizards, horses and rabbits have also been raised in session, she said. said.
Ms Harbour, whose work also involves daily counseling for individual clients and the center’s veterinarians, said many of the group’s participants said they felt unable to fully express their sadness over a dying animal with their relatives. Some felt judged for mourning their pet, she said, while others felt rejected by loved ones who told them to get another pet and move on. .
She said the pain caused by the death of a pet often goes unrecognized by a person’s community and society as a whole: “When you go through something like that, you really feel invisible and you you’re a little alone. »