KILAUEA — Dudley Wilson knows what it’s like to lose a pet.
“I had six or seven dogs that I had to put to sleep in my adult life,” he said. “It doesn’t get easier. But being able to express your emotions about it during that time becomes easier.”
In May, the Kilauea man had to put his 11-year-old Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Toby, to sleep after a bout with kidney disease.
“I knew there was going to be a time to put him down,” he said.
Caroline Miura, spiritual care coordinator for Kauai Hospice, said it’s important to honor the death of a pet.
“Pets, they love us unconditionally, and it’s devastating when they die,” she said.
Miura said that in previous grief forums, people who attend to mourn the passing of their four-legged friend felt left out because they were the only one experiencing the loss of animal. Everyone else was mourning the death of a human.
“Those who had a pet die didn’t feel as comfortable,” she said. “So we thought what if we did a remembrance ceremony at the Kauai Humane Society. We’ve had different people with different pets come, and it rocked their world because they’re a part of the family.”
On Saturday, Kauai Hospice is teaming up with KHS to offer those grieving the loss of a pet an outlet to channel their emotions.
“If we don’t pay attention to feelings, we start projecting them. Unresolved grief issues in families is what we tend to give to everyone else,” Miura said. “If you want your relationships to be healthy, it’s good to let emotions run through you. Grief is so isolating, but it can bring people together and know they’re not alone.”
Wilson said those kinds of services are helpful because not everyone understands what it’s like to lose a pet.
“When you lose a family member or friend, people are really understanding and nurturing,” he said. “But when you lose a pet, they don’t get it, don’t understand because they don’t connect to animals the way a lot of us do.”
It’s important to be in the company who understand the grieving process, Wilson said.
“They’re my kids. To bury them, to be with people who know grieving is real (is important),” he said.
Wilson said his favorite memories of Toby are the small things.
“At night, he used to sleep on my pillow above my head. He would jump up, and that would be he place,” he said. “He was always right beside me wherever I went.”
This is the second year Kauai Hospice has hosted the ceremony.
“We’ve done some grief stuff, but not as obvious as specific memorial for folks who had a dog who died,” Miura said. “This was the first time for that.
The ceremony will include food, music and a memorial activity. The one-hour service provides an opportunity for healing, remembering, and expression.
Those planning to attend are asked to bring pictures, memories and stories of their pets to share.
To help the grieving process, Miura suggests making a collage of favorite pictures of a pet to display in a home.
“Find pictures that bring wonderful memories that help with healing,” she said.
She said to make sure the family designates time in their day to talk about their favorite memories of the pet.
“When there’s grief, people don’t mention happy memories because people are feeling sad. But those kinds of things can be helpful,” she said.
But really, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to working through the death of a pet, she said.
“All we get is a crash course in grief. Sooner or later, waves come fewer and aren’t as intense for as long,” she said.
The goal of the service is to let attendees know grief is normal, Miura said.
“At end of the day, it’s about validating that you feel lousy,” she said. “It’s about going from grief to gratitude for blessings of the time spent with them.”
The service begins Saturday at 10:30 a.m. To RSVP, call Kauai Hospice at 245-7277.