Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Closure often hard to find when a pet dies

Marble plaques like these for retired police dogs are among the options available to people who wish to bury the cremated remains of their beloved pets at Curlew Hills Cemetery.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times

Marble plaques like these for retired police dogs are among the options available to people who wish to bury the cremated remains of their beloved pets at Curlew Hills Cemetery.

LARGO — Gigi usually slept in the bathroom, where the floor was cool. But sometimes she curled into Denise Cardoso's bed, right on the pillow.

Cardoso bought a convertible because Gigi loved the rides. She read books out loud, because Gigi loved her voice. Gigi had her very own diva crown, sunglasses and an army of stuffed animals.

Gigi was 14. In October, the fluffy brown and white Sheltie died. Cardoso also lost her father and her brother recently. But losing Gigi affected her differently.

"I go home for lunch to let her out, and I'm in tears," said Cardoso, 49, who carries an envelope of Gigi's photos. "I feel sometimes like I am going crazy."

She's not alone.

"Most people don't want to discuss the loss of a loved one, whether it's two legged or four legged," said Crystal Finnis, a grief counselor with the Pinellas Animal Foundation. "There are people who pound the table and scream and yell. There are people who withdraw into their own little world."

Experts talked to guests at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Tampa Bay's pet bereavement seminar Saturday in Largo. They discussed what to expect when your pet is near death. They discussed how to cope, and how to focus on memories.

Pets live in 71-million American homes. Some regard them as children. Constant companions. Therapists and best friends.

Sometimes, pets stir up passions.

Take Valentine, the late Labrador belonging to Sen. Jim King of Jacksonville. King helped change state law so humans can be buried with their animal's ashes. King plans to rest in peace with Valentine, a gift from his wife.

And take Trouble, Leona Helmsley's white Maltese. Trouble famously banked a $12-million trust from Helmsley's will when the billionaire died last year.

Skeptics scoff. Can an animal death really cause trauma? Cardoso admits many of her friends don't understand why she feels so bad.

But Finnis says pet death can be more devastating than human death. Pets are often a mirror image of the owner — like the yappy next-door neighbor with the yappy little dog. They represent personal identity.

Humans are flawed. Grumpy. Rude. Irritable. But animals respond with love.

"I really believe that people don't know what to do with their pain," Finnis said.

Even the toughest types break down, said Keenan Knopke, president of Curlew Hills Pet Cemetery in Palm Harbor. His cemetery provides a final resting place for many police dogs, and he sees the officers who come to remember them.

"We've watched grown men and ladies who every day carry a gun and stand on the front line for our safety bawl their eyes out," he said.

It's imperative to find a final place for your pet, Knopke said. Grief is normal, but you've got to move along and make a decision.

It doesn't have to be a cemetery. Sprinkle the ashes in your grass. Wear them in a piece of jewelry. Make a scrapbook. Once, Knopke buried a cockatiel in a Crest toothpaste box his back yard.

It's about having a place to return and reflect — however unsophisticated it may be.

"We've all flushed the fish," he said. "But we remember them."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

>>FAST FACTS

Need help coping?

The Pinellas Animal Foundation sponsors the free Hand and Paws Pet Loss Support Group. A pet loss counselor is also available by telephone every day of the year but Christmas. Call (727) 347-PETS for date, time and location of the next meeting or to get help over the phone. Each meeting lasts about two hours.

Closure often hard to find when a pet dies 04/19/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title

    Blogs

    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.