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Memorial Program Eases Loss Of Pets
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The death of a pet can be like the loss of a member of the family, but a new memorial program is helping pet owners cope with their loss.
Companion Animals Require Excellence, a program started by Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, allows people, primarily veterinarians, to honor deceased animals through memorials.
"Anyone can send us a donation in memory of the deceased pet," Susan Kuykendall, CARE program funds director, said. "In return, the owner of the animal receives a letter explaining that their friend or veterinarian sent a donation in memory of their pet."
The donations to the CARE program help the MSU Animal Health Center in buying equipment and supplies, training future veterinarians, finding cures for animal diseases and providing quality care to patients referred to the Animal Health Center by other veterinarians.
Ann Norcross of Long Beach received a memorial in tribute to her dog, Chu, who lived with her for 16 years. Friends and her veterinarian knew how much Chu meant to her.
"The memorial made me feel wonderful. I took the letter from the CARE program and the cards that I received from friends and buried them with Chu. The donation meant so much to me," she said.
Dr. Louise Davis, extension child and family development specialist for Mississippi State University, said people grieve in different ways, but the process may be important in accepting that the animal is gone.
"When a pet that has been a very important part of someone's life dies, it is important to go through the grieving process," Davis said. "Pets are one of very few things in life that show unconditional love, and losing that support can be difficult."
Davis suggested several other ways of grieving for a deceased pet:
- * Accept the fact that no amount of wishful thinking can bring the pet back;
- * Talk about the loss with friends and family;
- * Remember that grieving is a process, and the loneliness will not go away in one day.
Davis pointed out that grieving for the pet does not mean that the pet should be forgotten, but remembered in some special way.
"Remembering an animal is important, and the CARE program is a great way for veterinarians to help ease the pain of the death," Davis said.
"CARE supplements our state budget for services that otherwise, we could not afford," said Dan Cantwell, director of the Animal Health Center. Currently 12 to 20 Mississippi veterinarians participate in this program which generates $5,000 to $10,000 a year.
"CARE is an excellent program," said Dr. Bill Nalley, a Long Beach veterinarian who participates in the CARE program. "We have had a tremendous response from owners who are very touched that we are willing to donate money on their pet's behalf. I feel that CARE is a valuable service that helps ease the pain of a deceased pet."
For more information on the CARE program, contact MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine or a local veterinarian.
Contact: Susan Kuykendall, (601) 325-1342; Dr. Louise Davis, (601) 325-3082