The 2013 Companion Animal Remembrance Ceremony was held in May by the Honoring the Bond program at the Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center. The ceremony allows owners dealing with the death of a pet to gather together for a service. The Honoring the Bond team helps owners to express emotions and memories and provides support during the difficult times. “The Remembrance Ceremony gives people a sense of closure and provides an opportunity for them to remember and grieve the loss of their pet,” says Joelle Nielsen, coordinator of Honoring the Bond.
Joelle, a full-time licensed social worker employed by the Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center, says “I enjoy my job because I can help during a natural part of life. If I can help someone through the hard process and make it easier on them, then I have done my job.” Joelle describes her role as an emotional supporter of the owner, to provide information on resources that owners can go to for further help, and to be a “calming” presence. When she is on the job, Joelle likes to teach students in rotations how to best work with grieving clients. The program provides resources for difficult decision making through quality of life scales that help owners make end-of-life decisions.
The Honoring the Bond Program has been coordinated by Joelle since 2007 and in 2009 the inaugural Companion Animal Remembrance Ceremony was held. She was given the idea of a ceremony through the Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service, which facilitates the cremations of animals. Randy Schoedinger supports the Honoring the Bond programs and suggested there was a need for a “funeral service” for people’s pets. The owners who gathered at the Remembrance Ceremony seemed to share a mutual understanding toward each other; they were not alone with their feelings of the loss of a pet. At the 2013 ceremony, there were about 100 attendees. Each year the service has included a slide show with pictures of pets submitted by their owners. This year, several people spoke about the grief process and participants placed painted rocks around the Remembrance Tree area. Several attendees participated in an optional activity in which they made memory boxes or scrapbook pages.