Grieving a Constant Companion
by Danielle Cookish
Kayla-Bo-Bayla “KK”, was a loving, silly black lab mix adopted from Dakin many years ago. Every day she was ready to greet her family with a happy wagging tail when they arrived home. KK filled her role as “family dog” with every ounce of lab love. And, when KK’s teenage human friends quickly became young adults, KK was there to support her adopter through the transition.
“When my children launched into adulthood and left home, KK supported my process of letting go and taught me to be brave even when I felt fearful,” Gwen explained. It was this incredible human-animal connection that led Gwen D Gannon, Inc to sponsor Dakin Humane Society’s monthly Pet Loss & Healing Support Group. Gwen D Gannon, Inc. is a research and evaluation consulting firm that works with community agencies that provide behavioral health services and capacity-building support. Gwen noted that Dakin “was a natural fit for [our team] as we all had adopted, rescued, and loved pets of our own”. And, of course with that, “we had all experienced the loss of a family pet.”
Pets are many times our source of support, as Gwen points out. “A few years ago, I had a short period of multiple, losses of all of my elder family members. At the time, I decided to adopt a puppy hoping the young sweetness of puppyhood would support my healing. Sure enough, that little girl reminded me to live fully each day, be grateful for what I have, and ultimately be hopeful. I often think she saved my life and she certainly brought me back to living.”
But, what happens when we lose the ones who have been our furry support systems, sidekicks and best friends? “People experience a deep connection with their pets that leaves them feeling overwhelmed with the intensity of their loss” adds Kaitlyn Holloway, Community Engagement Manager at Dakin Humane Society. “Our Pet Loss & Healing Support Group provides a safe space to share with others, learn about the grief process, and express and work through your emotions.”
The support group is facilitated by family therapist and author Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio. Drawn from decades of experience leading groups for people who grieve the loss of their animal companion, Dakin’s Pet Loss & Healing group offers the opportunity for healing that comes from sharing the journey of loss with others that are grieving. Thank you to the generosity of local business owner Gwen D Gannon, Inc for making this support group possible.
Dakin’s Pet Loss & Healing Group meets monthly on Zoom and is sponsored by Gwen D Gannon, Inc. More information on our upcoming session and how to attend can be found here.