Help in Massachusetts


Grief Recovery Hotline

(800) 445-4808
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm PST

The Grief Recovery Institute
(888) 773-2683

The Iams Pet Loss Support Center & Hotline
(888) 332-7738 Monday thru Saturday, 8am to 8pm

College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois
C.A.R.E. Pet Loss Helpline
(877) 394-2273
The C.A.R.E. Helpline is staffed by veterinary students who have have received training from grief counselors. They also receive supervision from a licensed psychologist.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) National Pet Loss Hotline
424 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128
(800) 946-4646, 24 hours a day - use your keypad to punch in the pin number 140-7211 and then your own phone number. The call will be returned immediately.
Contact: Stephanie LaFarge, Ph.D
New York City residents may be seen in person at the ASPCA headquarters.

University of California - Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, Pet Loss Support Hotline
(800) 565-1526
6:30pm to 9:30pm PST Monday thru Friday
Summer Hours: 6:30pm to 9:30pm PST Tuesday thru Thursday
Calls may be returned collect if no counselor is currently available.

Pet Loss Support Pet Friends
(800) 404-PETS
P.O. Box 131
Moorestown, NJ 08057-0131
Long distance calls will be returned collect.

University of Florida Pet Loss Support Hotline, Gainesville
(352) 392-4700, Ext. 4080
Staffed by University of Florida Veterinary students
Calls will be returned 7pm to 9pm EST
Website -
This hotline will call back anyone, anywhere, at no cost to the caller.


The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association Pet Loss Support Helpline
Emil and Mary Baukert. C/O Riser Animal Hospital, 5335 W. Touhy Ave., Skokie, IL 60077
(630) 603-3994
This Helpline was established in 1993. It provides referral materials on professional grief counseling and information packets on the areas of children & grief, euthanasia, pet loss & the elderly, and a pet loss bibliography. A volunteer will pick up voice messages and call back between 7pm and 9pm CST every evening. Long distance calls will be returned collect.

Companion Animal Association of Arizona Pet Grief Support Hotline
P.O. Box 5006, Scottsdale, AZ 85261-5006
(602) 995-5885
This helpline is operated by trained volunteers 24 hours a day. Long distance calls will be returned collect.

Delta Society Pet Loss Support Hotline
Palm Springs Network
146 Pali, Palm Springs, Ca 92264
(619) 320-3298

Michigan State University Pet Loss Support, College of Veterinary Medicine
Clinical Center, C-100 East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 353-5064
Contact: Sally Walshaw, M.A., V.M.D.
The Hotline is staffed by veterinary student volunteers from 6:30pm to 9:30pm EST on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays.

Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline
(508) 839-7966
Hours: Monday thru Friday, 6:00pm to 9:00 pm EST

Companion Animal Hospital Pet Loss Support Hotline
Box 35, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-6401
(607) 253-3932
Hours: 6:00pm to 9:00pm EST, Tuesday thru Thursday

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Support Hotline
(540) 231-8038
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 6:00pm to 9:00pm EST


The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement's Chat Rooms are designed to provide a safe and supportive haven for those who have lost a beloved animal companion. Discussions are not ones for social chatting, as they are solely designated to cover topics related to pet loss and bereavement. It is important to note that while these chat rooms are caring and highly effective discussions, they should not be confused with clinical psychological counseling sessions. Rather, the focus is solely on pet bereavement. Although the tone is one of compassion and constructive supportiveness, this association cannot always regulate the variables that may arise in such an environment. In addition, advice or other considerations that are offered should not be construed as part of a professional counseling session. Those who are newly bereaved and visiting a chat room for the first time should try to come in as early as possible. In that way, more individual attention can be provided as chats can get crowded later on in the sessions.

Friday night, 8 - 10, EST. Dr. Wallace Sife, Moderator, Ellie Waldron, Co- host, and Karen Borga and Connie Starr, Assistant Hosts

Sunday afternoon, 2 - 4, EST. Sarah Robinson, Moderator, and Valerie Brideau, Assistant Host

Monday night, 8 - 10, EST. Ursula Brower, Moderator, Sarah Robinson and Laurie Koen Co-hosts, and Sue Laue, Assistant Host

Wednesday night, 8 - 10, EST. Ellie Waldron, Moderator, Gayla Stone and Deborah Norman, Assistant Hosts

Anticipatory Chat: Thursday night, 8 - 10, EST. Lois Roach, Moderator, and Jenny Wilson, Assistant Host

Dr. Sife, Ellie, and Ursula can be reached at if you are in deep bereavement and need to communicate before their next scheduled chat time.

To enter a chat room session, just click here.


A.T.R. Counseling Service

399 Neponset St., Canton, MA 02021
(781) 828-3717
Contact: Ann T. Resca, NCC, LMHC
With over 28 years in experience, Ann specializes in grief, loss and personal counseling. Grief/loss counseling includes pet loss for adults and adolescents, support groups, and speaking engagements.

Companion/Service Pet Bereavement Grief and Loss
(888) 690-0240
Contact: Barbara J. Morse, MSW, CCSW
Ms. Morse provides counseling and consulting services for any age individuals and groups. She also provides telephone consultations, home and veterinarian visits, and conducts educational seminars. Offices are located in both South New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

MSPCA Pet Loss Support Program; Individual Counseling and Consulting Services
350 S. Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-7400

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Animals and Public Policy
200 Westboro Rd, North Grafton, MA 01536 (508) 839-7991

Ann Resca, NCC, LMHC
399 Neponset Street
Canton, MA 02021
(781) 828-3717

Cheryl Nahas, MA, LMHC
Stoneham, MA 02180
(781) 438-1425


Coping With Pet Loss
Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, DACVB

For pet lovers, the death of a cherished companion can be as painful as the death of a relative or friend. In fact, the death of a pet can affect some of us even more than the death of a relative or friend. All of us have distinctive and unique relationships with every pet that becomes part of our lives. The loss of one might impact us more than the loss of another, but they each shape us in their own way. Grieving for your pet is the same as mourning the death of a human being. The difference lies only in the value that is placed on your pet, or pets overall, by your family and by society in general.

Our pets come to symbolize many things. They can represent a child, perhaps a child that was lost, or one yet to be conceived, or the innocent child in us all. They may reflect the ideal mate or parent, ever faithful, patient, and welcoming, loving us unconditionally. Our pets become our playmates and siblings. They reflect our inner selves, and become the embodiment of many of the qualities, good and bad, that we recognize or lack in ourselves. Every member of your family will have a distinctive relationship with the same pet, and you might even relate to the same pet in a different way through the day. Because your pet means different things to other people in your family or circle of friends, they may not share the same depth of emotion that you do when you grieve for your pet’s loss.

When a pet becomes terminally ill or dies, it is natural to hope that your pain will be acknowledged, even if it is not shared, by your support group of family, friends, and coworkers. Although you may value your pet as much or more than many of your relationships with people, the significance of your loss may not be fully appreciated by those you turn to for support. Your grief may be intensified if you are disappointed by the lack of empathy from someone you turn to for support. You do not need approval to justify the pain you feel because of the loss of your pet. You do not need to justify your feelings to anyone. On the other hand, understand that not everyone can appreciate the joy you experienced with your pet, or how their loss has shattered your world. Perhaps they are distracted with their own turmoil, and simply are not emotionally available to you right now.

Move toward people who show you compassion. They may emerge from the least expected places. Open yourself to colleagues at work; you might make a new friend. Validate your pain with people who understand, such as your veterinarian, veterinary technician, groomer, or another pet owner. A local pet grief support group or bereavement might provide the comfort you need.

The death of a pet can trigger painful memories to resurface. It is usual to be confronted with issues from the past that were long buried but unresolved. These could complicate your stress. Still, you are not alone. Find solace with your favorite clergy, or with professional counselors in your area. Despite your grief, this is an opportunity to grow. The time you had with your pet, however brief, made your life more glorious and meaningful. This is a gift that exceeds their passage.

Stages of Grief

Grief is a universal experience. It is a normal response to an individual’s own terminal illness, or to the loss of a treasured being, human or animal. Bereavement is the general term that includes mourning, the public display of loss, and grieving, which is a more private experience.

There are five stages of normal grief, but every individual will experience it differently. The five stages do not necessarily follow in order, nor are they felt with the same intensity or duration. It is normal to bounce between stages before reaching a sense of peace. The death of your pet will probably force you to contemplate your own mortality, even questioning your own belief system. The common denominator between us all, and what helps us to survive our grief, is hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.

Denial and Isolation: It is completely normal, and even necessary to our survival, to first deny reality when it is too painful. In the face of overwhelming emotions, denial is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of a situation. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This temporary response floats us through the first wave of pain.

Anger: The masking effects of denial and isolation fade, and the pain of reality returns whether you are ready or not. Perhaps as a way to deflect unbearable emotion away from your vulnerable core, it is turned outward and expressed as anger instead. Your anger might be aimed at inanimate objects, or redirected onto complete strangers, family or friends. You might even feel angry at your pet, who is the source of your pain, even though your rational side reminds you it is not your pet’s fault. Still, it is normal to resent your pet for causing you such pain or for leaving you. You might even feel guilty for being angry, and this could anger you further.

You might take your anger out on the veterinarian who first diagnosed your pet’s illness, failed to cure your pet, or performed your pet’s euthanasia. Veterinary professionals may deal with death and dying every day, but that does not make them immune to the suffering of their patients or to their grieving guardians. If you need to, ask your veterinarian for extra time or just one more explanation of your pet’s condition and treatment options. Arrange for a special appointment or telephone time with you. You are entitled to clear answers about your pet’s diagnosis and treatment. Discuss the potential cost of treatment options. Inquire about a referral to a veterinary specialist who might provide more advanced care. Discuss burial plans. Understand the options available to you. Take your time; write things down. Honest and open communication with your veterinarian now is a long-term investment in your professional relationship and emotional health.

Bargaining: No one likes to feel helpless. It is perfectly normal to try to regain control and feel less vulnerable. In this next stage, you might find yourself trying to stabilize the present state of turmoil by rationalizing the past and even the future. Your thoughts will be flooded by questions that start with ‘what if’ and ‘if only’... If only you had gone to the clinic sooner, what if you get a second opinion from another doctor, what if you had changed our pet’s diet, if only your pet would might make a deal with God or your higher power in an attempt to change the dismal outcome. The bargaining stage is a weaker line of defense that makes a final, almost desperate attempt at protecting us from the inevitable.

Depression: There are two types of depression associated with grief:

The first one is a reaction to more practical considerations, such as the cost of treatment and burial. We feel guilty for spending less time with others because of our grief. Sometimes it helps to have simple clarification and reassurance that we haven’t let anyone down. A bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words can go a long way to boosting our spirits.

The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a way, more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate from and to say goodbye to a beloved friend. Sadness and regret predominate this stage. Sometimes all you really need is a hug.

Acceptance: Not everyone reaches this stage of grief. Some may never progress beyond denial, or may remain angry. It is important to work through each phase, however it comes, so that you can achieve a sense of closure. Finding peace in your heart is a gift. This phase is characterized by withdrawal and calm. It is not a period of happiness but it is different from depression.

Pets who are terminally ill or aging appear to go through a final period of withdrawal, too. This does not mean that they are aware of their own mortality. Perhaps physical decline produces a similar response. Their behavior, however, suggests that limited social interaction is natural near death. The last gift that our dying pets give us is the example of their dignity and grace.

Explaining Pet Loss to Your Child

We instinctively want to protect our children from hurt and harm. Surprisingly, most children soon adjust to the death of a pet if they are prepared with honest, simple explanations. Children begin to process the concept of death from a young age, even though they may not consciously be aware of it.

It will be more difficult for a child to resolve grief for a lost pet if the child is not told the truth. Adults should avoid terms such as ‘put to sleep’ during discussions about the euthanasia of a family pet. Some children have misunderstood this common but unfortunate expression and have developed a terror of going to bed and falling asleep. This expression, and others like it, is not helpful to the child and imply the adult’s own denial of dealing with death. Another commonly used explanation to children is that ‘God has taken’ the pet. This has been known to create conflict in children, who could become angry at God or their parent’s beliefs, for being so cruel to them and their pets.

Each in their own way, children can understand that life must end for all living things. Your goal should be to acknowledge their pain, support their grief, and validate their every emotion. The death of your pet is an important opportunity to teach your children that you can be relied upon for comfort and reassurance. Encourage your children to express their innermost feelings. Losing your pet can make your family reach out to each other, and become closer and stronger for it.

Grief in Pets

Dogs and cats develop strong emotional bonds with people as well as with other pets. They can develop signs of depression or anxiety, such as loss of appetite and social withdrawal, in response to the death of a close companion. These reactions are usually brief, but serious or prolonged reactions following the death of another member of the household (human or nonhuman) are reported. For example, episodes of house soiling and destructiveness are common. This does not mean that pets understand the concept of death, however, they certainly can feel emotional pain caused by the absence of an attachment figure. In every way, grief is an extreme form of separation anxiety. From this perspective, your pets may well react to death.

Part of the emotional reaction and recovery of surviving pets will also depend on you. The behavior and mood of your pets will necessarily be impacted by your deep sadness. During your initial phases of grief, your remaining pets may get less attention, exercise and playtime with you. If your dog or cat shows any change in behavior or health following the loss of a housemate, consult your veterinarian. A referral to a veterinary behavior specialist will help them to cope. Although this is a difficult time for, it is important to maintain your daily schedule of walks, feeding, or play time. This will help your surviving pets to adjust, and will also be very comforting to you.

Reasons for Euthanasia

Regardless of whether the death of our pets is sudden and unexpected or comes at the end of a slow decline, we are never fully prepared to lose them or aware of what they have brought to our lives until they are gone. Your involvement with their final passing may be passive. Perhaps you simply chose not to pursue additional treatment in an older pet. Perhaps there was no cure available and the best treatment option was to control pain and make them as comfortable as possible. Perhaps their illness or an accident took them from you suddenly.

We secretly hope that our pets will pass peacefully. We would prefer to find them curled comfortably in their favorite sunny spot. If you are in the position of having to take an active role in your pet’s ultimate destiny, however, the impact of his or her death could be quite different.

Euthanasia is the induction of painless death. In veterinary practice, euthanasia is accomplished by the intravenous injection of a concentrated dose of anesthetic. There may be slight discomfort as the needle tip passes through the skin, but this is no greater than for any other injection. It will take just seconds to induce a total loss of consciousness, followed by respiratory depression and cardiac arrest.

Doctors of veterinary medicine do not take this option lightly. Like our human counterparts, our lives are dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of disease. We, too, pledge to do no harm to the patients in our care. Veterinarians must continually balance the benefits of extending an animal’s life versus prolonging suffering. Euthanasia can be merciful if it ends a pet’s suffering.

The request for euthanasia of a pet is the most difficult decision a pet owner can make. You may resent being charged with so much power. You may feel angry at your pet for forcing you to make such a painful decision. You might postpone your decision, hoping that if another day goes by your decision will be unnecessary. Guilt sits heavily on the one who must decide. There are two fundamental guidelines to help make your decision clearer:

* Do what is best for your pet, even if you temporarily suffer for it.
* Do what will cause you the least amount of regret later. Your pet deserves a painless death, but you have the right to live a happy life.

Grief and mourning are individual experiences. Some of us are more private and appear to recover more quickly. Some pet owners become angry at the mere suggestion of looking for another pet, while others find great comfort in acquiring a new pet right away. In their grief, pet owners may feel disloyal to the memory of their deceased pet. There is no rush. No pet can replace the one you lost, but if you choose to get other companions, they will make another place in your heart that is all their own. Try not to make comparisons to the pet that preceded them. Appreciate any new pets as individuals and love them for who they are, not for who they remind you of.

The following list of questions is offered to help you make some difficult decisions in an emotional time. The list is intended to guide you, but only you know what is best for you and yours. Resist feeling pressured to make decisions if you are not ready to make them. Speak with people who can provide additional clarity or options. Consider what will bring you the least cause for regret after your pet is gone...

  • What is the current quality of your pet’s life? Is your pet in pain?
  • Is your pet eating, playful and affectionate toward you?
  • Is your pet very tired and withdrawn most of the time?
  • Is there something you can do to make your pet more comfortable?
  • Are other treatment options available? Would referral to a veterinary specialist help you make a clearer choice or improve your pet’s quality of life?
  • If a behavior problem has caused you to consider euthanizing your pet, have you consulted a veterinary behavior specialist?
  • Are you increasingly frustrated, angry or resentful because of the impact of your pet’s declining health or behavior on your own quality of life?
  • Are your negative emotions impacting your pet’s desire to be near you?
  • How would the quality of your life change if your pet were not with you?
  • Do you want to be present if you choose to euthanize your pet or would you prefer to say your goodbyes before and not be present?
  • Do you prefer to be alone or invite a family member or friend for support?
  • Have you thought about making special burial arrangements such as cremation or private burial? Your veterinarian can help you with these arrangements, and might also be able to temporarily store your pet’s body to give you time to decide when you are feeling better)
  • Do you want to adopt another pet right away?
  • Would it be better to take the time to heal from your loss before thinking about opening your heart and home to another pet?
  • What can you do to turn your pain into something positive? (e.g. donation to a pet shelter or veterinary teaching hospital; volunteer at a veterinary clinic; put together a special photo album or scrapbook full of happy memories; write a poem; visit a long lost friend or relative; work out at the gym; take a class; start a new hobby...)


Acushnet: Kempton Memorial, 358 Middle Road, Acushnet MA 02745, 508-995-2921

Bedford: Kanine Corner, 40 North Rd., Bedford, MA 01730-1051, (617) 861-0206

Boston: Memorial Services for Pets, - offers graveside services and eulogies in the Boston area.

Dedham: Animal Rescue League, 238 Pine St., Dedham, MA 02026-4005, (617) 426-9170

Foxboro: Pet Memorial Park, Foxboro, MA 02035, (508) 543-0331

Methuen: Hillside Acre Animal Cemetery, 400 Broadway, Methuen, MA 01844-2052, (508) 687-1140,,

Middleboro: Angel View Pet Cemetery, 465 Wareham St., Middleboro, MA 02346, (508) 947-4103

Plymouth: Pleasant Mountain Pet Rest, 76 Liberty St., Plymouth, MA 02360, (508) 746-5550

Sandwich: Forestdale Pet Memorial Park, Route 130, Sandwich, MA 02563, (508) 477-0990



The above resources only serve as a guide. Although I am a Nationally Certified School Psychologist published in the field of human loss and bereavement (Stress and Illness in the Family: A Linear versus Family Life Space Perspective; The Child with Cancer: A Life Space Study of Six Families), I do not have personal knowledge of the expertise of any of those persons or facilities providing these pet loss services.

Rochelle Lesser, School Psychologist
President & Founder

Famous model Golden Rusty