Shortly after attending the euthanasia with Dr. Mary in March 2014, a long-time friend of mine from Niagara-on-the-Lake and I were talking one evening and I was explaining to her what the plan was for my new career path. She had recently euthanized her miniature Schnauzer, who was the darling of her late husband. This loss had brought back memories of her husband and so the conversation looped back to him.
The next evening, while at a Rotary meeting, she ran into her vet and casually mentioned what | wanted to do. Dr. Tracey Hobbs, being very interested, wanted to hear more and requested that Joy give me her contact information; excitedly she called me the next evening! Timing!
After our initial contact through email, we agreed that it would be best to meet in person. From the moment that we met, there was an instant connection because of what she had seen, and been a part of for her 20+ years as a veterinarian. We spoke the same language.
She felt that this service would be of benefit to her clients and her clinic, and proceeded to detail her own reasons. We spent well over an hour, and as with the vets that I had already spoken to, she underscored the fact that training was lacking in this very important piece of a vet’s training. We also spoke about compassion fatigue. Dr. Tracey asked me to be in touch once I had finished my certification. In my mind, I
had set a very aggressive target date to complete all of my coursework — September 2014. Her partner, Dr. Martina Bukovska, would be back by then and we could talk in detail about how we could develop a working relationship. I assured her that I would follow up in September!
At roughly the same time, I was put in the path of a mobile vet, who would round out my initial set of “supporters” — Dr. Wayne Foster. His wife Sherry, also his clinic manager, was a good friend of a friend. While grooming their horses one Thursday afternoon, Val told Sherry of the “plan”. While Sherry was initially skeptical, later that evening, she spoke to Wayne. He thought that it was a good, solid idea; in fact, perhaps the “Smiths” (name changed), who had euthanized their 2 Bull Mastiffs two days earlier could use some assistance.
Sherry made two calls the next day; one to the Smiths to see if they would like to speak to me, and when they said yes, the second call was to me. Late Friday afternoon, she called, introduced herself, briefly explained the situation, and gave me their contact information.
By the time that we were able to connect, it was early Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Smith was very distraught and needed help. I made it clear that I hadn’t completed my Certification, but that I would do my best to help them. Thinking that I would have a day, possibly two, to prepare for the appointment, when I asked whether Monday or Tuesday would be better for an appointment, she said …“could you come now?” I was out the door within 10 minutes.
l’ll never forget driving to that first appointment — and yes, I was nervous, unsure of myself and questioning whether I would be able to help in any way. The next hour flew by as we talked and cried, and even laughed together. All that I had read to date and knew from experience about loss and the stages of bereavement played out before my eyes with these two people. They were torn up about the loss of their babies, both ravaged by severe, crippling arthritis. I left, knowing that I had helped; over the next several weeks, I would make many more calls to check in with this couple and help move them to a place of resolution.
Very shortly after my appointment, I was invited to visit with Sherry. Since their clinic is strictly mobile, I went to their beautiful farm and was invited into their century home for tea and a “chat.” Little did I know that she and Wayne wanted to be sure that I was the “real deal”! Sherry and I spent the next two hours talking about pet loss and our mutual love of animals — and especially horses. Sherry, herself, had euthanized 3 of her horses within the previous 6 months. Not only did she report to Dr. Wayne
that | was the “real deal’, but she would be one of my next clients.
And, so, to Dr. Rolf King, Dr. Mary Bell, Dr. Tracey Hobbs, and Dr. Wayne Foster (and Sherry Foster), I say a heartfelt thank you for the support that took me to executing the next part of my plan — getting certified as a Pet Loss Grief Specialist.