Pet bereavement program helps families grieve the loss of beloved companions

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Thursday, October 6, 2022
New pet bereavement program helps families grieve and heal
This new Pet Loss Support Group in South Jersey gives families the chance to remember, grieve, and heal from the loss of their animal companions.

VOORHEES, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "We have a very intimate relationship with our pets that we don't really realize it because we live with them every day," said Christian Snyder, the Community Pet Outreach Specialist at the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Snyder became certified as a pet bereavement counselor in 2009. And just recently, his unique talent sparked the idea for a new program. The Pet Loss Support Group launched in August, inviting pet owners to come together to grieve and heal from the passing of their beloved companions. It is a natural outgrowth of AWA's new facility, which aims to become a community hub beyond its existing role as a shelter.

"Many individuals that have come to our program already have been talking to each other. They've been emailing each other," said Snyder. "So, that is my dream. I want people to come here and be part of this so that way, they know that they're not alone."

One of the participants is Carole Kassan, whose Pomeranian puppy, Peedi, was part of her family for 18 years.

"It touched me deeply just to be here today," she said. "It's just so nice that somebody's interested in your pet. That like, it's not a pet. It's like I'm talking about my son."

In her dog's memory, she created 'Peedi's Pantry,' an organization that collects pet items for other families who need them.

Another participant is Sharon Anderson, who developed a passion for fostering dogs alongside her late husband. She even specifically brings in dogs who have pre-existing health conditions.

Anderson has befriended Snyder through their compassionate work with animal welfare and is hopeful that the program will soar with his leadership.

"People are going to come in here feeling guilt, shame, all sorts of things that we know they shouldn't feel...," she said. "And he's going to help people lighten up their judgment of themselves."

The AWA Pet Bereavement Program is free with the suggested donation of $5 per session. Meetings are held both virtually and in-person.

Additionally, this weekend, AWA is expected to receive animals from the Florida area to relieve shelters dealing with Hurricane Ian. Those animals will be set for adoption soon after.

For more information about AWA, visit their website.

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