In Memoriam

Pet Grief

Marcus was my chronically ill Miniature Pinscher, a spitfire that was diagnosed with Cushings and Diabetes early on in life. He had not been doing well for a couple of days. He wouldn’t eat. I spoon-fed him baby food. On Wednesday, February 29th of last year, my alarm went off at 6am and I noticed Marcus is not sleeping over my head as usual. He moved over to other side of the bed. I reached over and felt him breathing, so I hit the snooze button and went back to sleep. The alarm goes off again and when I look over at Marcus I see that he died. I performed CPR on him and although he began to breathe, he did not regain consciousness.

I called the Katonah Bedford Emergency Animal Hospital to inform them I was on my way. They have brought Marcus back from certain death on several occasions. They stabilized him and let me in to see him. I gave him Reiki and his heart beat improved for a few minutes and then settled back to where it was. He looked like he was improving and dodged the bullet yet again. A couple of hours later, he had another heart attack. I could not let him continue like this and let the veterinarian send him up. Probably the hardest decision I have ever made. Marcus is the dog that guided me into crystal therapy and Reiki.


I always said that in spite of his medical problems, Marcus would not go until he was damn well ready to do so. Looks like he was even though I was not. I was fortunate to have the full support of my family and friends, but not everyone is so lucky.


Grief is a normal response to the loss of a loved one. There is no pill you can take. Only time.


Depending on whom you talk to, there are either five or seven recognized stages of grief. They do not happen in any particular order. You may not go through all of them or spend the same amount of time on each. You may work through one stage in three minutes and another in three months. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross M.D. described five stages of grief in her book “On Death and Dying” as:


  1. Denial – This is where you have difficultly believing your pet has died.
  2. Anger – You question how fair is this. Or it can be directed at someone or yourself depending on the circumstances of the death.
  3. Bargaining – There has been a mistake. Somebody needs to fix this.
  4. Depression – You realize there is no mistake and you are very sad over the loss.
  5. Acceptance – You accept what has happened and do what is needed to move forward.


Other grief counselors may add shock and guilt as stages. Shock is the numbness you may feel after learning of the death. Guilt, somehow you blame yourself for the loss.


Grief manifests in many forms.


  1. There may be physical symptoms such as crying, shock, lump in throat, shortness of breath, tightness in chest, (do not quickly disregard the last two as it may also be the first indication of a heart attack) lack of energy, disturbing dreams, insomnia, lack of hunger or overeating, body aches, and dizziness.
  2. There may be mental and emotional symptoms such as confusion, preoccupied with the loss, hallucinations particularly in regards to the pet, sadness, anger, resentment, guilt, anxiety, inappropriate behavior, and feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Symptoms presenting themselves socially can include withdrawing from your friends or becoming overly dependent on them and distracting yourself with an increased workload.
  4. It may strengthen or weaken your spiritual beliefs, or move you to a radically different belief system from the one you currently practice.


Grief gradually improves over time, but be aware of some warning signs that immediate intervention is needed.


  1. Thoughts of suicide. In grief, it’s normal to have FLEETING thoughts of suicide. When they do not go away, tell someone.
  2. Panic Attacks.
  3. Depression. Depression and grief are two very different behaviors. Grief may mimic some of symptoms of clinical depression. While grief can runs its course without intervention, depression cannot. Sigmund Freud summed up the difference as follows, “ In grief, the world looks poor and empty. In depression, the person feels poor and empty.”


Support is crucial is helping grief run its course. This process can be hindered by such factors as circumstances surrounding the death, no previous experience with a loss, insensitive comments, or multiple losses. As everybody handles grief in his or her own way, find what support system works for you. There are many options.

  1. Supportive family and friends. Not the ones who minimize your feelings towards your loss because “It’s just a pet.”
  2. Grief Counselors. There are many that specialize in pet bereavement.
  3. Your religious or spiritual leader.
  4. Animal communicators. Be careful here because there are many charlatans. I am fortunate to have the real deal as one of my clients and good friend.
  5. Online support. One of the best listing of online resources can be found at Online sources can be valuable particularly when in person support is not available to you. Many organizations provide free online counseling, help in finding a local counselor, virtual candle lighting, and chat rooms with other people experiencing the same loss as you. Most have online shops to buy personalized mementos.




Marcus is forever in my heart. As a memento of him, I have his necklace in my pocket. Whenever I feel sad, I take it out and hold it in my hands until the sad thoughts are replaced with happy memories.






Audrey Ulrich

Audrey 1
One of our industry’s brightest flames has been extinguished. Audrey Ulrich, 34, along with her two year old, Rafael, perished in a car accident on October 27
th. She leaves behind her husband, Matt and a four month old baby, Xavier. She also leaves behind an entire industry. Our community is in mourning.

Her favorite quote was “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” (Roger Caras)That one line defined her approach to life. Her advocacy of dogs was present in all aspects of her life. From the way she and Matt operated The Barking Lot in Richland, Washington to her involvement with the Benton Franklin Humane Society; and Pet Over Population Prevention;  Her passion, though, was the Tri-City Dog Park. As President of the Tri City Dog Park Society, she worked tirelessly in an effort to make it a reality.  Audrey’s dear friend, Chris Walling; recounts “One of the most remarkable things about Audrey was that her passion for life was reflected in so many ways. She loved dogs and their people and believed in her work as a profession rather than a job. She was an advocate for the canine world and the driving force behind establishing the first dogpark in the Tri-Cities, WA area. In her personal life, she was a lively and caring mother. She just enjoyed her boys, her husband and her friends. She was active in her church and community and was part of the team who developed the Alternative Gift Fair, where gift-givers donate to local, national and international non-profit organizations in the names of friends and family. Her passing leaves a hole in many hearts.”Audrey2

Audrey was a member of Community Unitarian Universalist Church. She volunteered in many of their projects that helped people to regain their lives and dignity.

Audrey’s community involvement extended well beyond the Tri-Cities. She was a driving force in the pet grooming industry. Audrey was a featured speaker at national grooming educational seminars and was recognized with the honor of Highest Rated Speaker 2007. Jan Schoenstadt of Dyno-Mutt in Waban, MA recalls “I attended Audrey’s seminar on dog behavior in the salon at Hershey one year. It was the most helpful seminar I have attended to date. Thanks to her seminar, we now have a client who travels over an hour to our salon. We are the only ones who can bathe Linus without him injuring himself. This is a terrible loss for the grooming community, as well as future groomers who will not have the benefit of her sage advice. She will be missed.”

Audrey was a feature writer for Groomer to Groomer. GTG is a premiere trade publication.  Her column, PAWS-ATIVELY POSH, was a must read for all of us. Audrey made the trip to Hamden, CT, to do a feature story on Erin McLaughlin’s salon; The Little Shop of Howlers. Erin remembers “As soon as I picked her up at the train station, it was like I was meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. She was so easy to talk to and such a sweet personality. She spent a good part of the day at my shop and never once did I feel uncomfortable. She knew how to be in on the grooming, but not in the way. She was able to bring out the best in my salon, both through her words and her pictures. She seemed so down to earth and had a real heart for growth both in our industry and herself. We emailed back and forth several times since then and always her messages brought a smile. I always loved her signature at the bottom. I found it heartwarming and thought provoking. “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”  It’s such a tragedy to lose this light we found in Audrey. I only hope we take up her torch and never lose her passion.”

Audrey was always professional and ready to do what was needed. Sally Liddick, President of Barkleigh Productions Inc. worked closely with Audrey. “Audrey was the kind of person who “hit the ground running” and had a depth of enthusiasm for the industry that was contagious. Always willing to share her successes, she became a wealth of information for groomers and was a very popular speaker. But that wasn’t all. She had a thirst for new ideas which drove her to become a great writer, bringing the popular PAWS-ATIVELY POSH series of articles to Groomer To Groomer. When we would need a last minute speaker to fill in, Audrey could do it! And could usually be found in the audience gleaning nuggets of wisdom from other speakers. She would quickly trade hats and help where needed. A rare ability. Audrey will be missed. Not only by her family, who were a great support to her, but by those who knew her in the industry. We didn’t have her long enough. She had so much more to give.”

Audrey had always given freely of herself to help so many. Now her family needs help in the wake of this tragedy. Audrey’s family needs help to cover medical and funeral expenses as well as living expenses. Matt was also injured in the accident and cannot return to work at this time. A fund has been established for the needs of the Ulrich Family. Donations, made out to the Ulrich family, should be sent to the Bank of the West, 1045 George Washington Way, Richland,WA 99352.

All who met Audrey will remember her. Her spirit and giving nature touched all of us. Christein Sertzel, President and Founder of the Wisconsin Area Pet Professionals Inc sums it up best. “As we go through life, if we are fortunate, we meet certain people that make their everlasting impression on us. For me, Audrey was one of those people. An individual so kind, so full of life and passion and tenderness. I cannot help but feel grateful to have known her. Though my friendship with Audrey was so new, her soul and personality left a great and deep impression on me and her passing has left an equally great and deep sense of loss in my heart. I hope that her family knows all of the people she has touched and all of the wonderful ways she has lifted others up. Bless you Audrey and little Rafael.”

Audrey will be missed. We can only console ourselves that our loss is the other side of the Rainbow Bridges’ gain.

I would like to extend special thanks to Karla Snyder, for all of her efforts to keep the industry informed and updated.

Jack and Ruby

As pet professionals, we all have dog and cat clients that have touched our lives. Jack and Ruby are two such dogs. The connection between them was amazing.  When you were around them, you could participate in their conversation.  Ruby was always getting Jack into trouble, but Jack would follow her everywhere.  When Ruby crossed the Rainbow Bridge, it was not surprising that Jack followed a couple of weeks later. A typical day for them went like this.

One summer evening, Jack, a black lab, who is as wide as he is tall, lay on his bed. His sister Ruby, a German shepherd lay next to him on her bed.

“Ruby, stop touching my bed.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Stop touching my bed.”

“My paw is clearly on the floor.”


“You’re such a baby. Knock it off before Mom comes.”

Mom came. At least once a day, Mom needed to move Ruby’s bed away from Jack. Somehow Ruby always managed to scoot it closer.

“Everytime Mom moves your bed, I don’t get a cookie.”

“You’re welcome, Fatboy.”

“Good night Ruby.”

“Good night Jack.”

Of course, whenever Ruby had an idea, it needed to be put into play.

“Hey Jack, let’s go outside.”

“No, go back to sleep.”

“No, really Jack, I just have to pee.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t. Go to sleep before Mom comes down and makes me go outside too.”

Mom came down. When you have an older large breed dog and she announces she needs to go pee, it doesn’t matter what time it is. You get up and let them out. This fact was not lost on Ruby.

“Thanks, Ruby.”

“Since , we’re outside annyyywaaay, let’s go over to the pond.”

“No, Ruby. Mom said make it quick.”

“Mom is sleeping at the door right now. She won’t notice how long we take.”

“But Ruby.”

“I just want to look at it. I won’t go in.”

“Mom will get mad if we come in wet.”

“We won’t go in. Oops, I just walked in the water. My feet are all wet. Oh well, might as well go for a swim.” Come on in, Jack.”

“But Ruby.”

“Mom won’t notice.”

Jack and Ruby had a grand ole time. When they finished playing, they were covered head to toe in muck.

“Now Jack, follow my lead. Walk in the house like nothing’s wrong. Mom won’t notice.”

Mom noticed. A second set of beds were already in the garage. This was not the first time this had happened.

“Thanks, Ruby.”

“Hey sleeping in the garage is fun.”

“Stop touching my bed.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

On the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, you just know that Ruby is touching Jack’s bed. Jack wouldn’t have it any other way.