Pastor and vet reach out to bereaved pet owners

  • Cindy and Mike Grimes of Villa Park share a photo of their dog, Kaiser, who recently was euthanized, with veterinarian Dr. Georgianne Ludwig. The couple plans to celebrate Kaiser's life at a service Saturday at Lombard Veterinary Hospital.

      Cindy and Mike Grimes of Villa Park share a photo of their dog, Kaiser, who recently was euthanized, with veterinarian Dr. Georgianne Ludwig. The couple plans to celebrate Kaiser's life at a service Saturday at Lombard Veterinary Hospital. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/31/2011 6:40 PM

The Rev. Emily Mellott knows what it's like to lose a beloved pet.

When her cat of 14 years, Bronwyn, died last spring, Mellott was comforted by the "very supportive" staff at Lombard Veterinary Hospital.

 

And that gave her an idea.

"Every church I've ever been involved with offered a regular pet blessing, but when a pet dies, the grief is very real and it's not something we know what to do with in our culture or in our churches," said Mellott, pastor at Calvary Episcopal Church in Lombard.

"I realized here are the people who know what this grief is like for people because they see it regularly," she said.

So she decided to partner with the veterinary hospital on a Service of Thanksgiving for the Lives of our Pets. The service, to commemorate pets that have died and bless those that are still playing catch or curling up on their owner's laps, is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, on the grounds of the hospital, 244 E. St. Charles Road.

Bereaved pet owners may bring a photo, favorite toy or the ashes of their pet to the short, family-friendly service. Afterward, they'll have an opportunity to pray with one of the three participating clergy members.

Pet owners are invited to bring their living animals to be blessed.

Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and all sort of other pets are expected, so the service will be punctuated by the occasional bark or tweet and not the electronic kind. Pets must be on leashes or in carriers.

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"We don't want any escapes," said veterinarian Dr. Georgianne Ludwig, who will be bringing her own dog, a 100-pound golden retriever "known for great mischief."

Ludwig, who was a social worker before she became a vet, grew up helping her veterinarian father at the animal hospital.

"I have seen the love, joy, compassion and sorrow that humans experience with their animal companions during the journey of life together," she said. "We are many times the last stop on that journey and feel this was a great opportunity to be there for both our human and animal neighbors."

These days, many people choose to have their pets cremated and to scatter or bury the ashes.

"At least 50 percent of our clients have some sort of a ritual after their animal is gone," Ludwig said.

That gives them some closure, but they still may need support in dealing with their loss. For children, losing a pet is often the first way they learn to deal with grief and the end of a relationship, Mellott said.

The service which Mellott said will be "as ecumenical as possible, given that it's a Christian pastor planning (it)," is open to all. "It's something that I hope meets a real need in the community," Mellott said.