Program developed for grieving pet owners

Francesca Tocco
Francesca Tocco

A program to help people get through the grief from the loss of a beloved animal has been developed for the University of Missouri’s veterinary teaching hospital.

Francesca Tocco, a doctoral student in the university’s Sinclair School of Nursing and its Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, designed the Together In Grief, Easing Recover (TIGER) program to help people work through their unique emotions after losing their pets.

Tocco used her background in social work to help pet owners come to terms with their grief as well as prepare veterinary medicine students for working with grieving clients.

“Companion animals make a strong and lasting mark on the lives of their human counterparts,” Tocco said.

“This bond does not disappear when those animals pass away. Strong emotional and physical reactions such as grief, pain, shock, anxiety and guilt are healthy and normal.

“These reactions can often be overwhelming, which is why TIGER strives to provide assistance and support to those going through this difficult time.”

The TIGER program, which is free to clients of the university’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, can assist with many aspects of companion animal loss, including:

  • End of life concerns such as euthanasia.
  • Moral and ethical concerns related to animal health care.
  • Family counseling.
  • Grief in anticipation of an animal’s death.
  • How to talk to children about animal health and death.
  • Ways to memorialize the special bond with a companion animal.
  • Resources to help people cope with the loss of an animal.
  • Grief counseling.
  • Training for veterinary clinicians and students.

Rebecca Johnson, director of the  Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction and a professor in the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Sinclair School of Nursing, says the program provides a chance to put research into action.

“The TIGER program is a great opportunity for the researchers at [the center] to assist clients at the MU Veterinary Teaching Hospital with the difficult decisions and circumstances they often face surrounding the death of beloved pets.

“The program aims to help people during these difficult experiences, and also to assist doctors and students at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in helping their clients.”

The program is supported by the College of Veterinary Medicine and a donation from William Canney, an alumnus of the university.

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One thought on “Program developed for grieving pet owners

  • November 21, 2013 at 5:36 am

    This program is needed every where. So many of us regard our horses , dogs and cats, etc. as family.


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