Dealing with the Loss of a Pet as a Professional Pet Sitter
At this year’s Quest for Excellence convention, one of the most moving sessions was a breakout workshop, “Dealing with Pet Loss: A Professional Pet Sitter’s Guide,” presented by Rob Nager of Decadent Dog, Inc. While we all know the pain we experience from pet loss on a personal level, professional pet sitters face the unique challenge of dealing not only with their pets’ immortality, but also that of their clients’ pets.
As Rob discussed in the workshop, professional pet sitters face unique difficulties dealing with the loss of the pets that they have often cared for over many years.
Pet sitters, have you had any of these thoughts when a client's pet passed?
- “We build such strong, personal relationships with our animal clients that it feels like we keep losing our own pets over and over again.”
- “How can I express my feelings to the family without interfering in their grieving process?”
- “Why do I need to grieve alone?”
- “But the dog loved me more than her own family!”
- “It just becomes overwhelming losing one after another ALL the time…”
As a professional pet sitter, it is important to realize that the grief you experience over the loss of a client’s pet is very real and it’s important to find a way to deal with your feelings to avoid burnout, compassion fatigue or depression. Talking to friends, family or your clergy/spiritual advisor can be very helpful. Also, do not forget the support that can be offered by fellow pet sitters through local networks, the PSI Member Forum or other online pet-sitter chat groups.
As Rob pointed out during his workshop, assisting your clients as they deal with the loss of their pets can also be very therapeutic to you as well. He recommended that professional pet sitters take on an advisory role during these situations and keep these best practices in mind:
- YOU are the professional
- Be an information resource
- Provide support during time of need
- Help yourself by helping others
As a pet sitter, you often become a trusted advisor on all things pets for your clients, including the difficult issues of euthanasia and end-of-life planning, as well as aftercare options. To be prepared when these questions arise, educate yourself on these topics and local or online resources available that can help your clients.
Pet loss support hotlines can be an excellent resource when you or your clients deal with the loss of a pet. The following links provide the contact information for no and low-cost pet support lines, many of which are run by veterinary students:
During the convention's pet-loss workshop, another question that was discussed was how pet sitters should recognize or pay tribute to a client's pet when it passes. Many attendees said they sent pet sympathy cards and others also made a donation to a local pet organization in honor of the pet and client. Sharing a copy of the Rainbow Bridge poem or photos of the pet were also popular suggestions. There are also a variety of customizable pet memorial items now available and another idea suggested was helping the client plan a pet memorial service.
For additional pet loss resources, a detailed description of pet end-of-life and after care options, or more information on how pet sitters can deal with the grieving process when a client’s pet passes, visit the Members’ Area of petsit.com to access a free pet-loss webinar.
Not a PSI member or interested in learning more about professional pet sitting as a career? Download this free resource from PSI.