16 TulsaPets • July / August 2022 Couch said. “We don’t want to completely shut down. You don’t want to crawl in bed and cover your head up for a week at a time. That’s when you start looking at the mental-health aspect of it.” Dealing with the Sadness Sheryl Logan of Enid said she grieved her pet poodle as a child to the point that she was considered depressed. “Other pets have come and gone, and as often as possible, I have been with them when they were put down,” she said. “They have all left me sadder and lonely. I know that when my dog Missy leaves me, it will break me.” Couch said pet owners grieve at different levels, but each level of grief is understand- able. However, letting grief take over your life or affect your relationships long term is something that has to be addressed. “What I tell people when I work with them is to set aside time in our day to focus on that grief. Take 30 minutes to think about that dog or that cat or that animal that you loved so much who is no longer with you. Set aside time to remember them and allow yourself to be filled up with griev- ing in that moment,” Couch said. “You have to acknowledge that grief and then do the other things that you have to get done. Say ‘I have to go be social with people even though I don’t feel like it.’ Intensely grieve for that 30 minutes or so, and then make yourself go and do things you have to.” Memorials and ceremonies also help pet owners remember and work through the grieving process. Paw prints, decorative ash urns, photos, or a memorial in the backyard are tangible ways to honor a beloved pet. Some pet lovers instantly get a new companion to help fill that hole, but others might not ever get another pet again because the pain of losing it would be too hard. Either way of dealing with grief is valid. “There are stages of grief that everybody goes through. Some people grieve their whole life and they grieve very heavily. But then some people hit the anger stage or the guilt stage,” Couch said. “All of us grieve differently.” Moving Past Experts often explain grief using the Kübler- Ross model, which includes five phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When a person has to make the heartbreaking decision to have an animal euthanized, the level of pain can be even more intense. No one “chooses” to end the life of a beloved animal, but sometimes it is necessary. “Considering euthanasia is not easy on any level, but at some point you have to say, is his suffering so bad that it’s worse to try to keep him alive? Am I keeping him there just for me? Or am I prolonging his suffer- ing?,” said Couch. As for Perkins, he is still in the clutches of grief for Ziggy. He wrote a song for the cat, and his family helped to build a small memorial in the backyard. “We planted orange flowers on his grave since he was an orange cat,” Perkins said. “I took all of this very hard and still do because I’m still grieving. I miss Ziggy constantly. Ultimately, he was very special to me.” For Couch, that process is natural. She offered one last piece of advice about deal- ing with the loss of a beloved animal. “Allow yourself to have those memories and know that you had that precious time with that animal. Their lives are so much shorter than ours, but they live in love con- stantly,” she said. “Just remembering that you gave them wonderful lives in their short span can help ease that pain.” How To Find Help For help coping with the loss of a pet, contact www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/ immediate-help , www.nami.org/help or www.apa.org/topics/crisis-hotlines. Johnny Perkins wrote a song for Ziggy Stardust, with his paw print as a remembrance.