- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) - The bond between human beings and their animal companions is one of life’s strongest connections, undoubtedly anchored by the unconditional love and loyalty provided by pets.

So when this kinship is shattered by the death of an animal companion - whether it be a family pet, ranch horse or service animal - the experience can be one of life’s most traumatic experiences and among the most difficult to navigate through.

To help those dealing with the loss of a beloved animal and to provide some closure, an Animal Companion Remembrance was held one recent Sunday in the St. Therese Chapel at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center, the Pueblo Chieftain reported (https://tinyurl.com/nnswy5a).

Conducted by the Rev. Linda Stetter and Deacon Karen Burnham of the Spiritual Care Services at St. Mary-Corwin, the service was an emotional blend of reflection and remembrance, with harp music providing a soothing cushion to the pain and heartbreak evident among the attendees.

“No other kind of grief compares to that which follows the loss of an animal,” said Stetter. “Animals teach us a lot about life and its cycle.”

Burnham praised the animal owners in attendance, noting their great investment and responsibility in caring for the creatures.

“There is so much love involved, it is no wonder that your companion remains so important to you today,” she noted. “There remains a bond that will never go away.”

Those who took part in the ceremony brought mementos of the life of their late pet - paw prints in ceramic, toys, scrapbooks, leashes, photographs, cremated remains and so forth - for placement on a small altar. At the conclusion of the service, pet owners retrieved the items and replaced them with lit candles as Stetter said to each animal, “Your memory will be a blessing forever.”

Stetter told of an unnamed local woman who fled Poland after the Nazi occupation and found herself a refugee in America. This woman, who saw kindred souls in the homeless animals on the street, has devoted her life to caring for them.

At the woman’s request, Stetter lit a candle for Penny, a 17-year-old greyhound who was recently put down in her own home.

“It was this woman’s hope that today’s ceremony would help City Council see the plight of animals and thus support animal services,” Stetter said. As candles were illuminated for Amos, Annie, Goldie, Lucky Boy Wilson, Chico Curly, Lazarus, Pebbles, Gidget and many others, there were more than a few moist eyes in the quaint chapel.

By far, the animal owner with the most to remember was Cindy Collins, who placed a list with the names of 41 senior and special needs animals on the memorial altar.

Collins said he has been rescuing and taking in the hard-to-place creatures since 1983, through referrals from rescue groups, shelters and hospices and hospitals. She currently cares for 10 animals and fostered 30 more before finding homes for them.


Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, https://www.chieftain.com

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