For many people, pets are members of the family. When these furry, feathered or scaled animals pass away owners may feel tremendous grief, but finding someone to talk with about these feelings can be difficult. That’s where organizers of the Utah State University School of Veterinary Medicine’s new Pet Loss Hotline hope to help.
The new bereavement hotline, modeled on partner-school Washington State University’s program, is staffed by first and second year veterinary medicine students, with support from psychologist Steven Lucero, the program’s director of wellness. Lucero said the telephone hotline and email service is a good way to provide hands-on patient experience to veterinary students.
“This was the best opportunity to be able to both meet the needs of people who have lost pets as well as our students who don’t always have time or opportunity to have regular times to work at a walk-in clinic,” Lucero said.
While the program offers students a chance to hone their skills at building trusting relationships with clients, the hotline will also benefit local veterinarians.
“It can be difficult for veterinarians to allocate the time to really talk with some of their clients about these very difficult issues,” Lucero said. “Hopefully, this will be a good resource for them and they can still support their clients.”
Veterinary clinics throughout the state have been notified about the new hotline, and Lucero said students have already received a few calls and emails from pet owners during the program’s first week in operation.
Instead of sitting by a landline waiting for a call, students carry hotline cell phones with them. Lucero said this will enable the students to talk with grieving owners from wherever feels most comfortable to them. People are also invited to use email to express their feelings about losing their pets.
“It is so heartbreaking to say goodbye to our beloved pets who bring so much to our lives,” said first-year vet student Shayla Zeal. “Sometimes, it helps to have someone to talk to or just have someone to listen, I hope to be that for those who need it.”
The Pet Loss Hotline phone is staffed Monday-Thursday, 5-7 p.m., and emailed questions and concerns may be sent at any time. Pet Loss Hotline: (435) 757-4540, email@example.com.
Contact: Steve Lucero, Steven.Lucero@usu.edu