Tammy Wynn was driving to a crematorium to retrieve her father’s remains in 2004. En route, she was praying and reflecting on her father’s life when her thoughts shifted to her beloved cat, Cagney, who died a year earlier. While she found plenty of support during her father’s death, she had to suffer through Cagney’s death all alone. Pet owners, she thought, could benefit from the same kind of hospice-style care provided to humans and the families of their terminally ill loved ones.
“Home hospice on the human side was so amazing,” she says. “I realized how amazing it would be to have the same service for pets and their owners.”
Wynn, a licensed social worker with a master’s degree in hospital and health administration from Xavier, soon took a job at Hospice of Cincinnati to learn more about the end-of-life care business for humans and also began taking classes to become a registered veterinary technician. With that knowledge, she opened Angel’s Paws, a hospice-style pet loss counseling and cremation business in Cincinnati, last year.
Wynn serves any type of animal-—her most exotic pet clients have included a monkey and an African gray parrot. No matter what the animal, she admits it’s tough when they die.
To help, she offers some helpful tips:
1. Cuddle something furry.
3. Do something. Focus on a task so you don’t dwell on the loss.
4. Count your blessings. Good things are still happening in your life.
5. Eat something. Grief burns energy and you need fuel.
6. Avoid irrevocable decisions. If you can’t stand the sight of your pet’s toys, don’t throw them away. Put them in a box out of sight.
7. Think of the special moments shared with your pet, not its final moments.
8. Be honest with yourself. Losing a beloved pet is a big loss. You’re not weak, crazy or overly sentimental to feel sad.
9. Make a decision to work through your grief. You can’t control whether or not you grieve, but you can decide whether you let grief control you.