SEATTLE -- Cats and dogs usually don't mix. But Cat – Cat Ritzinger – and her dog, Vita, were inseparable.
"Suddenly one day, she developed a limp,” said Ritzinger.
A vet found a tumor. It was bone cancer. For Ritzinger, it brought heartache and the feeling of helplessness.
"That's when I thought I needed support,” said Ritzinger.
Ritzinger called in Michelle Nichols, an animal hospice consultant.
Hospice can help prepare people for the loss of a loved one. Ritzinger will tell you pets are all about love.
"It's important to get that kind of support by the right people, the right people who understand where you are coming from,” said Nichols.
As the day arrived in May, the tears came - and the support was there.
"Maybe it's unfair to compare human loss with the loss of a pet, but that's how it is for some of us,” said Ritzinger.
Those words are echoed by Moria Bolduc.
"There is a society thing, you are not suppose to grieve pets like you grieve people,” said Bolduc, who is dealing with the loss of her dog, Henry. "He was my best friend, and he was my family."
Grieving a pet's passing can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be.
Bolduc has been receiving help from Pet Loss Support Group, which meets weekly at the Seattle Animal Shelter. Every year, she celebrated Henry's life, but the dog was diagnosed with liver disease at age 4. Henry died in March.
"None of us wanted to believe he was going to die because he was just a wonderful dog,” said Bolduc. "It's just a very lonely feeling."
Marilyn Milano volunteers at the Pet Loss Support Group, to help people like Bolduc.
"They are spending day in and day out with their pet. It is part of their routine,” said Milano.
Over the years, Milano has dealt with losing pets. Eventually, she welcomed new dogs into her home. She said that helped her deal with the grief.
These days, Ritzinger surrounds herself with dogs. She is a dog sitter. She is not ready for a new pet because she is still in the process of saying goodbye to Vita.
If you are dealing with the loss of a pet, here are some resources that can help:
- Seattle Animal Shelter’s Pet Loss Support Group
- Pet Memorials and Ceremonies
- In-home Animal Hospice Consulting and Care Management for Seattle and Eastside