Saturday Morning Message: Pet Grief Support

Author: Carol Lane

Good morning,

Pets can be comforting. This week, survivors sent their thoughts and pictures of pets not only through the Saturday Morning Message but also through the TAPS Facebook page in a post about International Dog Day. I hope you enjoy reading about these special pets.

The opening picture this week is Sox, companion of Perry, father of Christopher. You will read more about him and other pets offering their unique support later in this message.

Cat Sox playing pianoPerry's cat Sox

Remember, you can write to me anytime — to contribute, subscribe or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. I look forward to hearing from you.  My email address is online@taps.org.

Hugs,
Carol Lane
Mother of Bryon

 

Answers from Survivors

Responses from Survivors to last week's question: How does your pet help on your grief journey?

From Perry, father of Christopher: I have two cats that I rescued the same year my son, Christopher, was killed. They are both old men now. They are my comfort and security guards. Sox is a big gray cat with white toe socks in the front and white knee socks in the back thus the name Sox. During the day Sox has to sit on the arm of my chair resting his head on my arm or shoulder, putting his paw on my arm to hold me. My other cat is Rusty, an orange tabby that is my shadow going where I go around the house. At night or whenever I get in bed, Rusty has to come and cuddle with me for a while to make sure I am OK. Then he will take a position on the bed as lookout, so if he hears anything he is there to protect me. They both can tell when I am having a bad day and will help me when I need it. When I am in my study working, they will both sit in the doorway as lookouts just in case. In the past when I have had a video conference, Rusty has been known to jump into my lap to take part in the conversation. They both have been by my side through thick and thin. I would not trade them for anything.

Dog Sammy at Zachs gravestoneKathy's dog Sammy

Dog Foxy playing with vacuumCharlene's dog Foxy

From Kathy, mother of Zach: Our son, Zach, was in the Navy for 20 years when he was killed in an accident. Two years after he was killed, I applied for a service dog because I have degenerative disease and arthritis in my knee joints and lower back. As a Gold Star Mother, I qualified for a program set up for veterans in my county. A 4-year-old rescued short legged female German Shepherd named Sammy was a perfect match for me. I met Sammy January 2019. I was allowed to bring her home in March.

The past five months Sammy has been a blessing. She knows when I need her for hugs. We learned to do puppy yoga in my service dog training course. It helps to center and calm both of us, together as one. I am able to move forward with Sammy in my life. Sammy also has been a great help to my husband. She picks up when he is in pain with his knees or lower back. The expression "a dog is a man's best friend " is so right on point! Animals truly can pick up on human emotions, changes in our bodies and react to it accordingly. We are so blessed to have Sammy in our life. She helps us through our loss of our son each day as we move forward.

From Charlene, mother of Devin: Charlene sent a picture of her dog, Foxy, attacking a vacuum cleaner. Charlene wrote, “Foxy is so lively and funny. She always seems to snap me out of my funks. We never know what she’s going to do next but it almost always brings a smile to our faces and laughter to our hearts.”

From Rachel, sister of Kenneth: My three cats, Oreo, Tigress, and Elektra, have been a huge help to me. They always seem to know when I'm feeling down and will curl up on my lap or next to me. When I've cried, at least one of them shows up to just hang out until I feel better. Sometimes I can talk to them in a way you can't to people because they will just patiently listen. They also give me a reason to get up every morning since they have to be fed. They remind me if I don't get up on time! Without them, I might have just stayed in bed most days. I know they depend on me to take care of them and I know I have to keep on going for them, so I do. On really hard days, having a little warm, furry cat curled up on your lap purring can make things just a little bit easier.

Dog SparkySharon's dog Sparky

Dog LolaSandra's dog Lola

From Sharon, spouse of Robert: Sparky my dog, knows when I’m sad and comes up. He is a rescue dog. He even snores like my husband did.

From Sandra, mother of Joshua: After the death of my oldest son, I finally decided to welcome another dog into our family. My sister, Josh’s godmother, owns two pet rescues in New Orleans and posted pictures of the most adorable puppies on Facebook. The puppies were a Lab and Boxer mix. The puppy my husband and I picked out was golden at birth, but had turned brindle shortly after. I was attending my first TAPS seminar in Austin while my husband and my younger son traveled to New Orleans to pick her up. We named her Lola from NOLA (a shortcut for New Orleans, Louisiana). Lola is part of our family. Lola is especially comforting to my younger son who has autism. Jordan was unsure if he wanted another dog. Jordan knew it was a huge commitment to care for a dog. Lola is now 2 1/2 years old. Jordan feeds his pup, tosses her treats, gives her hugs and lets her outside. Sometimes, I see Jordan giving Lola a little kiss on the top of her head. Yesterday, I heard him talking to his pup and asking her about her day. He watches over her diligently. Lola adores him, too. The pup is always checking on Jordan and jumping on his bed to visit with him. If she wants to play or would like cheese on her food, he’s the man! Lola is a sweet comfort with a kind heart and we love her dearly.

If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to me at online@taps.org and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.

 

Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message

The Labor Day weekend starts the fall holiday season, which can be hard for all of us but especially those approaching it for the first time after the loss of a loved one. So this week’s question is: What words of encouragement would you offer to someone approaching their first holiday season without their loved one? Not only will these thoughts support those new to this journey, but they may help all of us as well. We look forward to your ideas.

I am always looking for questions for future messages. I also encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing online@taps.org. You never know how your thoughts may touch the heart of another. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the week’s Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send your response to me by Tuesday morning of the following week. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.

 

♫ Song for the Week

This week’s song is from Annie, mother of Michael, who wrote, "My favorite song is "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. I am the mother of Lt. Col. Michael, a Marine killed while test piloting the Osprey helicopter, and also the wife of John, who was a Korean War Purple Heart warrior who passed away."

You can send me favorite songs for this song of the week section at online@taps.org.

 

UPCOMING VIDEO AND TEXT CHATS

Visit the TAPS chat calendar for this week's chat schedule

 

About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the Saturday Morning Message is to foster peer-based connection for support and encouragement.  It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the Saturday Morning Message is edited for spacing considerations, grammatical corrections and may be used in other TAPS publications.  

To subscribe or contribute to the Saturday Morning Message email online@taps.org.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 800-959-8277.