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Support available for Montanans grieving loss of pet

The Bitter Root Humane Society in Hamilton has created a pet memorial park for community members to honor their pets.
Posted at 9:36 AM, Sep 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-25 18:58:47-04

MISSOULA — Pets bring joy and comfort when they come into our lives. During their life, they form deep bonds with humans and with other pets in the home.

But when a pet passes away and they have a furry sibling, does the surviving pet grieve? Lisa Allison the president of the Bitter Root Humane Association says they do.

“Pets do grieve, and they have very deep relationships with their human family members and what we would consider as their pack members,” said Allison.

But grief for an animal and a human can look different. Allison says that being gentle and having patience with your surviving pets is key.

“Be gentle with one another and be patient with one another and there's no timeline for when we grief for when your pet will grieve. Everybody goes through it differently and everybody acts differently,” said Allison.

After a pet passes, the idea of seeing their toys or bowls isn’t ideal. But, if there is another pet in the household keeping those items in place for the other pet might help.

"But for pets, they see the world through their noses, so having the scent of a sibling, a pet sibling that was there, a blanket, a toy, sometimes it’s very comforting and very helpful. So to pick everything up and wash it might not be the best thing for your pet that is remaining,” Allison said

The Bitter Root Humane Society in Hamilton has created a pet memorial park for community members to honor their pets. Owners can buy a brick to be placed in the park.

The memorial space is a perfect fit for the campus of the humane society. Each brick is 125 dollars and can ordered on the Bitter Root Human Society website.

Sue McCormack, a board member of the Bitter Root Humane Society Association says that this new park is a place to feel connected with loved pets that have passed.

“I think it's just a quiet place to come and contemplate your friends,” said McCormack.

When it comes to losing a pet, Tina Barett the executive director of Tamarack Grief Resource Center says that death ends a life but not a relationship.

“We as humans form really deep relational bonds with our little four-legged furry friends and family members as well. And so what we're looking at at Tamarack is how can we honor those relationships, how do we mark that a significant event occurred and how do we integrate these losses into our lives and how do we find strength,” said Barrett.

Currently, the Tamarack Grief Center is working with the Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic to develop a grief guide to support families who might be going home without their pets. The center also offers one-on-one support and group support.