Coping with pet loss
Susan Leaver is a new breed of minister, helping ease the death of furry family members.
The qualified pet chaplain offers funeral-like services and counselling for those who have lost a beloved pet.
Leaver still remembers the pain she felt when her childhood cat, Smokey, was hit by car.
‘‘There was a lot of disbelief first of all,’’ the Newmarket resident says.
‘‘Then I kept seeing my cat even though my cat wasn’t there.’’
As she came to terms with her cat’s death, Leaver began to realise the grief she felt was normal and decided to help others do the same.
The 66-year-old completed an eight month training course through a Canadian website before she qualified as a pet chaplain.
Since then Leaver has counselled people who have lost their pets ranging from dogs to lizards.
She attends many animal euthanisations and is also available for pet blessings and funerals which are usually held in an owner’s backyard or cemetery.
‘‘It’s about counselling the people who have lost a pet and feel pain that no one understands,’’ she says.
Leaver says society easily dismisses the grief people can feel when their pet dies.
It can be as painful as the death of a relative, she says.
‘‘I know of one lady who’s cat got run over and she took two days off work to grieve.’’
Despite being a Christian, Leaver says she doesn’t want to push her beliefs on people at their time of need.
‘‘I do believe very seriously that if people are grieving they don’t want to be thumped with any religion whatsoever. So for me it’s about helping people where they are at.’’
Leaver says the amount of support she is needed for varies between her clients - in one case she spent three months helping a woman whose dog had died.
‘‘Apparently they didn’t put the needle correctly into the dog and things got totally out of control…[the owner] was very stressed for a long time.’’
Leaver offers her pet chaplaincy services for free - although she welcomes donations. To get in touch, contact 021 024 11506. 1970s classic two-bedroom unit with north-west facing deck and fully-fenced courtyard garden.
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Qualified pet chaplain Susan Leaver offers services and counselling for people who have lost their pets.