Ohio State University supports grieving pet owners through Honoring the Bond

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Fort Wayne, IN (WOWO): Losing a pet is one of the most traumatic life experiences people can encounter. The Ohio State University is part of a growing, national network of veterinary schools and hospitals that provides support for pet owners faced with end of life decisions and the loss of a pet-family member.

Joelle Nielson is a licensed social worker at The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, who specializes in supporting pet owners through a program known as “Honoring the Bond” and she recently told WOWO News that the overall mission of the program is recognizing and honoring the bond between humans and their animal companions and providing resources and support, especially during times of potential or anticipated loss of a pet, as well as when that loss happens.

Some of the areas they touch include quality of life, making difficult decisions regarding a pet, coping with the loss of an animal companion, talking to children about serious illness or loss of a pet, and even how to support a surviving companion animal who may be grieving.

One other critical role, according to Nielson, is that the social workers act as a liaison between the veterinary medical team and the pet owner, and that they are equipped to provide crisis intervention, should they need to. They also stand by with pet families before, during and after euthanasia and make referrals for ongoing grief counseling.

One of the chief proponents of Honoring the Bond, and a major sponsor of the program at Ohio State University is Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service. CEO Randy Schoedinger actually initiated and built the Pet Services operation at the family owned and operated funeral home more than ten years ago. Rather than just focusing on pet cremation, Schoedinger took a different approach, taking care of pet owners and families with the same care and dignity as those who have lost human family members. Thus the collaboration with Ohio State University to take care of family members to a higher level was a natural one.

Schoedinger is very pleased with the partnership with OSU saying ““ We noticed many years ago that we could make a difference if we participated in funding a program at OSU focusing on then human-animal bond. We felt that veterinary students needed some education in this area specifically how it relates to when a pet dies. We are very pleased with how OSU has taken our gift and developed this program.”

Purdue University has brought a licensed social worker on board, and they are working to build a program similar to Honoring the Bond at Ohio State.

More information, including the full library of resources for pet owners can be found here.

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