Grief Can Be Deep When Pets Die; How To Cope - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Grief Can Be Deep When Pets Die; How To Cope

By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY
I didn't want this cat. Now I'm having a hard time facing life without him.

Getting a cat was my wife's idea, back in July 2000, when she was my girlfriend. I'd never had a pet before and wasn't comfortable around animals, but Jill loves them. And I love her.

We found ourselves at the shelter, looking through pens at the animals hoping to find a home. One cage had a mother cat surrounded by a brood of kittens, all of them tabbies, like her — except for one. This was a little gray guy, Siamese-looking. He climbed up the side of the cage, desperate for our attention.

Soon he was scratching up my arm and sprawling across my shoulders as Jill filled out the paperwork. In the car, we wrapped him in a jacket, and Jill pointed out his wide blue eyes. Let's call him Sinatra, she said.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 million to 8 million animals enter shelters each year, and only half are later adopted into homes.

The ones that are adopted have a much different role in American families than they did in earlier times.

"Pets these days, much more than 30 or 40 years ago, are so integrated into every aspect of our lives. They're always with us," says Adam Goldfarb, director of the group's pets-at-risk program. "Since they're mostly companions these days, we view them as friends and family members. Pets don't have a job other than to be there with us."

That also means the grief over a lost pet is deeper than before, he says. "There's a void, a vacuum. You're still doing the same stuff, but somehow it's a bit empty."

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