Much has been said about how people are relying on their pets for comfort during the coronavirus pandemic. And many share joyful stories. Less talked about is the impact of the loss of a pet on it's owner. Nowhere is that felt more deeply than New York and perhaps that's why pet loss therapy started here almost 40 years ago.
Radio Personality Maria Milito loves animals, especially puppies. Before the pandemic, she often had dogs from the north shore animal league in her iHeart radio/Q104.3 studio to help get them adopted.
Being around animals has always brought Milito joy. She says it helps her deal with lingering grief over the loss of her dogs Clarice in 2006 and Carmine in 2012. Episodes so painful, she wrote a book about them.
"Should I throw out my pets' bed? That was inspired by someone who told me to throw out my pets bed and collar," Milito said while reading form her book "Clarice and Friends. How They Helped Mend the Hold in My Heart."
Milito has attended pet grief therapy sessions with Dr. Susan Cohen, who was the first to create anything like it in the early 1980’s. Cohen still leads sessions today --only now on zoom.
"I got involved with pet loss counseling the way you probably imagine I lost my own pets it really hurt and I thought gee I can’t be he only one who feels this way," said Cohen.
And that’s why so many pet owners find comfort in group sessions with other who can relate.
"I lost my Pomeranian, Truffles in 2019. I’m still mourning her, I still miss her, I still cry every day," said Candi Levine on a group therapy Zoom.
"We don’t have children so wally was like a kid to us, "said Emily and DC Vito.
"Bugsby taught me everything I know about animals and patience and the unconditional love you get from animals," Dana Waiters said in the online grief therapy meeting.
Cohen says there are common themes in grieving a lost pet. Many owners blame themselves for their pet's death, or second guess medical decisions made in treating their pets. Some who lost pet also think friends or family are not being understanding enough. So what is the right thing to say to scene who lost a pet?
Susan says try starting with this: "Tell me about your pet, tell me what happened."
Cohen says with pets these days more likely to be seen as a part of a family, grief is much more accepted than years ago. New Yorkers tend to spend much more time with their pets which can make the loss even harder.
"We are very close to our pets. We’re living in tight surroundings, the pet sleeps on the bed. Many New Yorkers work from home they always have or they’re home waiting for a call from their agent," said Cohen.
"There's nothing like talking to someone else who's been through when you're going through," said Milito explaining why the group sessions and talking to others is so important.
And for some getting a new pet helps, Maria Milito has Fredo now.