Healing Pet Grief

Lily was my first dog, she was my daughter, my best friend, she was the best dog I could ever have asked for.  I had her for 16 years (her entire life and my entire adult life) and couldn’t imagine life without her. I knew when she passed it would be devastating to me, I wouldn’t know what to do each day, after work, on weekends, I knew I would be completely lost.  I also knew I wouldn’t know the best way to handle the grief. How long would I feel lost, how long would I feel un-whole?  I don’t know what I would’ve done without Mimi.  She is one of the most compassionate nonjudgmental and truly helpful people I’ve ever met. When I felt so empty inside, completely lost, and overwhelmed with sadness…I didn’t know what I’d talk about in our sessions but every time she seemed to know how to get me talking and at the end of our calls I felt so much better.  It’s been five months since Lily passed, I no longer cry every time I think of her or talk about her but once in a while I’ll tear up when talking about a precious memory of her.  I highly recommend talking to Mimi if you lost your dog and you’re having a hard time.  

I started pet loss counseling because I didn’t know how to cope when my cat Lacy died. She was everything to me. She’s been with me since I was a teenager and now I’m in my thirties. She was my best friend and with me through so many hard times. I loved her more than anything. When she was 18, she started having seizures and we found out it was from cancer. I felt so guilty because I didn’t even notice anything was wrong. I didn’t notice how much weight she was losing. I couldn’t afford really expensive treatment and I didn’t want to put her through anything that meant going to the vet a lot. She was terrified to go in the car and hid and fought me when I tried to get her into the carrier. It was so hard on both of us. Eventually she lost her vision and I had to make the horrible decision to end her life. I talked with Mimi a lot about my guilt and how much I missed her and how important she was to me.  After a while we naturally shifted into more of a life coaching mode. I like being able to do both, talk about Lacy when I need to but we are also working on a plan for me to take better care of myself. I know that I’m healing because I’m thinking a tiny bit about getting another cat someday.   

When I met Mimi Handlin, I was in a very dark place. In fact, I couldn’t remember being so miserable in my whole life. I lost my very best friend, my companion…my soulmate, if you will. I had lost my Sweet Maggie Mae, a Cornish Rex. If you don’t know what that is, look it up.  She had been my companion and best friend for nearly 15 years. The last 2 and a half years of her life were spent caring for her because she had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a heart condition. Maggie was 12 when she was diagnosed. HCM is considered terminal but with treatment, determination, round the clock care, and a ton of love, it can sometimes be stabilized or even reversed. Maggie showed great signs of improvement but then something started to happen to her. She came down with a bladder infection which was treated, but then she got another one. It was discovered that she had a tumor in her tiny little bladder. I thought the HCM could get her, but I never considered that  anything else could cause her death. We went to an oncologist in February and by the 17th she was gone. And so was I. I couldn’t sleep, eat, I cried 24/7. I couldn’t even think of Maggie’s name without breaking down. I knew it would be bad when she left but this was way more than bad. My grown up daughter gently suggested I see a pet grief counselor. I had no interest in a group setting, I needed one on one care. That’s when Mimi came into my life. Even though I spent most of the first sessions sobbing, Mimi got through to me and even got me talking after a while. She is compassionate, empathetic and kind. She’s been there. A big problem for me was that I felt like no one would understand my grief for Maggie was just as real as if she had been a human being. Mimi understood. I would absolutely recommend Mimi if you or someone you know is suffering the loss of a constant companion. Mimi supported me while I made the decision to adopt another baby. On Mom’s day 2021, I became a “new mom.” Her name is Zelda and yes, she’s a Cornish Rex! 

I just wanted to update you and thank you again for all your kindness and support after Misha died. It’s been almost a year since we lost our fur baby. About a month ago, my husband and I went to Eastern Washington to spread his ashes. He used to love to hike with us there and we knew it was finally the right time to do this and the right place. We stopped at a bakery on the way back to our cabin and someone from a small pet rescue had posted a picture on the bulletin board of a darling puppy, asking if anyone knew of a home for her.  My husband and I just looked at each other and knew that puppy was meant for us. We called the rescue and luckily the puppy was still there! It was so coincidental, I knew Misha had arranged this so we could have another dog to love as much as we loved him.  We named our new puppy Abby because it means one who brings joy. I never thought I could love another dog, but she opened our hearts.  Again, thank you very much for all that you do.  

I  only had a few sessions with Mimi, but I think she really helped me.  Even though I knew it was the right thing to do and there was no other choice,  I was devastated when I had to get my mutt dog euthanized. He was suffering so much and it killed me to see him struggling to get up. He couldn’t do any of the things he loved anymore, he could barely walk and we had to help him up the stairs. Afterwards, I started questioning whether I had done it too soon and whether it was a mistake. (I guess most people do this.) Mimi listens well and something she did for me that I really appreciated was she sent me an email after we talked to remind me of all the things I said about why it was time. She just listed what I said, almost verbatim. It helped so much because it’s easy to forget after the fact. I printed it out and now whenever I question my decision, I look at all the reasons and know I did the right thing. That was the best thing anyone could have done for me.

Healing Pet Grief
Mimi Handlin, MSW - Pet Grief Counseling Seattle

As a long time social worker, certified pet loss counselor with the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and one who has experienced many losses of both people and animals, I would love to help. Please contact me for more information.

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