One Last Network
By One Last Network
One Last NetworkJan 14, 2023
The Art of Walking Through Grief with Grace
Rev. Jennifer Cormier is a grief coach and earth-based ceremonial artist who brings 20 years of experience in the healing arts to help her clients move through life transitions and grief.
She is committed to the revolution of how we view death and walk with grief. The creator of a program called Walk Through Grief with Grace, she wants us all to shift our perspective to include our body in our grieving processes and see grief as a creative collaborator in our lives.
That's when we open the door to healing and peace.
Jenn joins me today to discuss grief and grace and how we can use creative writing, nature, movement and more to release the pain of grief and bring us closer to healing.
What to listen for
1:44 Jenn's personal journey with grief and her dad's cancer
13:46 The difference between running away and questing
17:36 Finding comfort in movement and activity
22:25 Jenn's emotional attachment to a car
27:50 How to allow grief to move through the body and mind
31:55 Why creative expression can facilitate healing from grief and loss
Where to find Jenn
The Art of Checking Your Phone
In a world that often feels fast-paced and impersonal, dealing with grief can be an isolating and challenging experience. Go back to episode 49, The Art of Exploring the Loneliness Within, to hear my thoughts on why that isolation becomes compounded when we lose our beloved pets.
When a companion animal leaves our physical world, our grief is profound and often misunderstood by people who haven't experienced such a bond, including those who may be closest to us.
Recognizing this need for specialized support, Help Texts -- an innovative SMS-based grief support service -- recently released a segment dedicated to help individuals like us manage our pain and sorrow.
Help Texts makes a significant impact in the realm of grief support, providing a confidential and accessible platform for us to find solace and guidance during such a difficult time. It uses the simplicity and ubiquity of text messaging to deliver timely and empathetic support to people like us who may be struggling to find inclusive support or an appropriate outlet for our grief.
The pet loss grief segment demonstrates the organization's commitment to addressing diverse forms to grief and fostering a compassionate and understanding community.
Melissa Lunardini, head of clinical at Help Texts, and Lianna Titcombe, a certified hospice and palliative care veterinarian out of Ottawa, Ontario, and one of Help Texts' expert contributors, join me today to fill us in on all the details.
What to listen for
4:48 The beginning and intention of Help Texts
10:07 How Help Texts tailors messages to grief stages
19:58 The importance of grief support, especially in anticipatory grief stages
22:39 Why pet loss grief must be normalized and validated
27:57 The differences between generations and cultures when grief strikes
40:08 How Help Texts is changing the way grief is perceived
Where to find Help Texts
The Art of Working Through Grief
After the death of her son Jimmy in 2014, Margo Fowkes (Folks) created Salt Water, a blog and online community that provides a safe harbor for those who are grieving the death of someone dear to them. Inspired by Jimmy’s determination to live a rich, full life despite his cancer diagnosis, Salt Water’s articles and other resources focus on healing and building a new life in the aftermath of a devastating loss.
Margo is also the founder and president of OnTarget Consulting, Inc., a firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals act strategically, improve their performance and achieve their business goals. She works with clients to solve problems of productivity, morale and innovation.
Margo recently released her first book, Leading Through Loss: How to Navigate Grief at Work, and she coaches leaders on how to create a more compassionate culture by acknowledging and speaking openly about grief and loss in the workplace.
That's what we're talking about today: how to navigate grief in the workplace, from the perspective of the person in grief to her coworkers and her management team.
But particularly from the context of pet loss grief. I remember at one of the newspapers I worked at decades ago, one of our graphic designers had to say goodbye to her horse. She took her year's worth of vacation, two weeks.
And I'll fully admit I didn't get it then. It took the pain of losing Shep for me to understand the depth of pain, and I wasn't working at the time. I was home alone and I remember yearning to have a job at the time -- not just to keep me busy but also to have a community around me, even if it might not have been as supportive as I needed it to be at the time. Because pet loss grief is disenfranchised and might not rank as worthy in the eyes of many who don't get it.
We talk about that, too.
What to listen for
3:10 What drove Margo into the grief business
7:32 How we carry our grief into the workplace
11:35 How we can create a more supportive workplace
15:41 What can management teams do to help employees in grief
28:24 The essential elements of providing support in the workplace
Where to find Margo
The Art of Aging Gracefully
Dennis Wormald loves to find creative ways to educate dog owners on the misconceptions of dog behavior.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Dennis has a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine, focused on canine anxiety. As a vet, he exclusively treats dogs with mental health conditions and come to him with a wide range of behavior issues, such as aggression or separation anxiety.
He recently published his first book titled "A Dedication to Difficult Dogs," which gives a fresh perspective on canine mental health, covering common misconceptions of dog behavior, punishment versus training, and ownership vs. guardianship of dogs.
I reached out to Dennis to talk about the mental health conditions that can become present in our dogs as they age, wanting to learn more about cognitive decline and how we as pet guardians can allow our dogs to age gracefully.
What to listen for
3:25 How Dennis defines "reactivity" in dogs
6:45 Why a dog's first few vet visits can affect the rest of her life
18:13 How to identify cognitive decline and other medical conditions
24:06 The importance of consistently interacting with your dog
31:25 Treatment options for dogs with cognitive decline
36:16 Changes you can make in your home to help your senior dog
Where to find Dennis
The Art of Seeing the Individual
A few weeks ago, I drove out to the northwest side of Spokane, so far northwest I was at the tip of the beautiful Riverside State Park.
I met with Kit and Pete Jagoda, the founders of River's Wish Animal Sanctuary. River's Wish saves animal lives through rescue, education and advocacy. Kit and Pete strive to treat animals as individuals and to express their wonder and plight through visual art forms, from painting to jewelry-making.
The sanctuary is named for River, a dog who inspired Kit and Pete to do more for animals. River left their physical world in 1999 but he left an indelible stamp on their hearts, moving them to dream for a world in which every creature is able to live a full and joyful life.
Kit and I have a terrific discussion about the motivation she found in her grief for River, the constant state of anticipatory grief in which she exists, and why we must learn to see each animal's spirit and personality.
What to listen for
2:18 The year Kit's eyes were opened to animal care
6:34 How a rescue dog became the center of her life
14:58 The devastation of losing River to cancer
25:28 How Kit lives in a state of anticipatory grief
33:19 Why we must see animals as individuals
Where to find River's Wish
How to help
Find more information on how to help Kit and Pete pursue their mission to give all animals a safe haven. You can donate, sponsor individual residents, bequeath your estate in your will or, if you're in the Spokane area, volunteer.
The Art of Exploring the Loneliness Within
Grief can bring with it periods of loneliness and isolation.
Some may choose to find comfort in messages, hugs and social interactions after their pet's death, while others may need solitude to process their emotions and memories.
Our founder, Angela Schneider of Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, Washington, has experienced both.
In today's episode she explores the deep emotional connection people have with their pets and how the grief of losing them can lead to isolation.
She dives into the way society often downplays the significance of pet loss grief and the impact of unsupportive reactions from others. She explains that isolation, whether self-imposed or societal, can affect the grieving process in both positive and negative ways.
For many, Angela says, the best path may be to find a balance of solitude with social interactions to navigate the grief journey in a healthy way. She encourages honoring your emotions while seeking support from friends, family and, when needed, professionals.
What to listen for
1:41 Why we develop such profound connections with our pets
2:45 How grief can be a very lonely journey
3:38 What happens if we withdraw too much
4:43 The benefits to finding time and space to yourself
7:07 When healing begins
The Art of Learning to Walk Again
Many dogs come to Dr. Masami Seplow after injury or when age is starting to attack their old bones and muscles.
She gets them walking again.
Dr. Seplow was born and raised in Japan where she earned her bachelor's degree in sociology and then moved to Miami, Florida, where she was working on her master's in Hospitality Management.
Then she heard the call of the wild.
Or rather the howl of a dog. Maybe the mew of a kitten.
She decided to be a veterinarian before receiving her degree. She turned her attention and got her degree as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine.
While working as a general practitioner at a 24-hour hospital, Dr. Seplow decided to become certified in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, which she has been practicing for more than 15 years. She received another certification in canine rehabilitation in 2015.
She is particularly interested in geriatric medicine and food therapy, in addition to rehab and Chinese medicine, because all of these modalities are positive and gentle.
Dr. Seplow describes herself as the Crazy Chihuahua Lady. She has rescued five: Ellie, Lucas, Romeo, Juliet and Millie.
This week, Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography in Sacramento interviews Dr. Seplow about rehab, Chinese medicine and her work at the Sierra Ranch Veterinary Clinic and Pet Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, California.
What to listen for
4:14 When it's time to see a rehab vet like Dr. Seplow
7:14 Get the most out of your dog's rehab plan
13:24 Acupuncture can benefit your dog's recovery
18:26 Why you should always be touching your pet
20:44 How to check for changes in your dog's physical condition
The Art of Joy and Pain
Welcome to One Last Network and The Art of Joy and Pain.
One Last Network has a mission to provide you with the support and services you may need as your pets enter their twilight years and ultimately leave our physical world.
We are all pet photographers, and we are one of the services we encourage you to find so that you create beautiful, everlasting memories of the love you have for your best fur friend.
Many of us, too, have become educated in what grief means and how we can best support you as you walk a path with your pet which can be overwhelming, confusing and emotional.
I became a pet loss grief companion through Two Hearts Pet Loss Center and a grief educator through David Kessler and Grief.com so I could teach my fellow pet photographers to do just that.
We have a profound appreciation for the love you have for your pets. Many of us have loved and lost.
And we can play a unique role in your support system as you're taking these last adventures with your beloved pet. We can be your shoulder to cry on when it feels like you have no one else in your life to understand.
At your photo shoot, too, we know how to strike a balance between all the things you're feeling -- the sorrow, the pain, the confusion -- and how to celebrate the life of your pet and the deep bond you've created with that being.
That's what we're talking about today. That delicate balance.
I've gathered some of the photographers of One Last Network -- and many of them are now pet loss grief specialists -- together to chat about how we approach our end of life photography sessions so that you have beautiful artwork and images and support in your grief.
You will hear from:
Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography in Sacramento, California
Courtney Bryson of CM Bryson Photography in Atlanta, Georgia
Jessica Wasik of Bark and Gold Photography in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Chris Miller of MIL Pet Photography in Berkshire, United Kingdom
Jenn Wilson of Jenn Wilson Pet Portraiture in Kitchener, Ontario
Nicole Hrustyk of Pawtraits by Nicole in Las Vegas, Nevada
Darlene Woodward of Pant the Town Photography in Georgetown, Massachusetts
Lynn Sehnert of Lance and Lili Photography in Loudon County, Virginia
and our newest pet loss grief specialist …
Lisa Peterson of Pawsh Photos in Minneapolis, Minnesota
What to listen for
3:55 Jessica and Chris discuss how their businesses have changed since learning about grief
6:58 Kylee has become a more active listener to support her clients
11:28 Courtney strives to find that balance between joy and pain at her sessions
30:39 Nicole adjusts her sessions depending on the dog's mobility
35:54 Lynn gives her clients space to be who they are in the moment
The Art of Shuffling the Deck with Erica Messer
Welcome to One Last Network and The Art of Shuffling the Deck.
Erica Messer encountered tragedy in 2020. Just months after finding her soul cat, Wolfgang, he had an accident and left her physical world.
Her grief was overwhelming, especially since it was complicated with mental health issues.
Wolfgang's death broke her in many ways.
But like kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold, she put herself back together and found her way down a new path, helping others see light through the darkness of their grief.
In her own grief, she went searching for something simple that would help her focus on her healing.
She found nothing suitable.
In consultation with her mum, Bonnie, Erica put her whole heart in developing Wolfie's Wish, her own simple product, a deck of pet loss grieving cards. Each card carries a message, an instruction, an affirmation for dealing specifically with pet loss and the grief that accompanies it.
The cards were first runner-up in the Accessories and Gifts category for the Best New Product awards at Superzoo, a large pet industry trade show, in 2022.
The cards are just the beginning of the empire Erica wants to build as she steps forward into this new life of pet loss grief and being of service to pet guardians around the world.
What to listen for
4:06 Why Erica sought professional help for her own grief
12:20 Erica's mission to help others in their grief
21:25 Learning to talk to people in a more empathetic way
32:01 How Erica finds new ways to support people in grief
37:29 How to give someone grieving space to feel
Where to find Erica
Other resources mentioned in this episode
The Art of Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda with Angela Schneider
One Last Network founder Angela Schneider digs deep into the complex, intertwined emotions of guilt and grief.
Angela is a grief educator certified by David Kessler and grief.com and a pet loss grief companion certified by Two Hearts Pet Loss Center.
Losing a pet can be an incredibly challenging and heartbreaking experience, and understanding the psychological aspects behind guilt and grief can help us navigate this difficult journey.
The loss of a pet has a profound impact on our lives. Our pets become cherished family members, offering unconditional love, companionship and joy.
Losing them brings a number of complex emotions. We are often tortured in our grief by feelings of guilt, wishing we could have done more.
The sad reality is, though, that our pets don't live as long as we would like them to.
Listen as Angela offers her personal experience and some thoughts on how to confront your feelings of guilt as you grieve the loss of your pet.
What to listen for
2:23 Why losing a pet is so difficult
4:06 How self-blame can determine the way we grieve
5:40 Why we feel guilt after our pets die
9:14 How a bucket list can help us prepare
11:13 How to confront your feelings of guilt
Resources mentioned in this episode
The Art of Chasing Rainbows with Beth Bigler
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, your pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and strength, those who were hurt are made better and strong again, like we remember them before they go to heaven. They are happy and content except for one small thing—they each miss someone very special to them who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are shining, his body shakes. Suddenly he begins to run from the herd, rushing over the grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cuddle in a happy hug never to be apart again. You and your pet are in tears. Your hands again cuddle his head and you look again into his trusting eyes, so long gone from life, but never absent from your heart, and then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.
The Rainbow Bridge has long been a comfort to many whose pets have gone onto the next world.
The Facebook photos that get shared whenever someone posts about their loss usually list the author as "unknown." It was recently discovered, though, that it was written by a Scottish artist and animal lover, Edna Clyne-Rekhy.
She was 19 at the time -- more than 60 years ago -- and grieving the loss of her Labrador retriever, Major. Her mother suggested she write how she was feeling.
She showed it to friends. They wanted their own copies. It got passed around. It got changed over time.
Sixty years later, the sentiment remains the same. Our pets are waiting in some supernatural field of flowers and rainbows.
Waiting for us.
And many who are raised to belief in an afterlife find the words soothing, a promise that we'll see our beloved fur friends again.
Others find it off-putting. What if there's no afterlife? Why does my dog have to just sit there and wait for me until I die? What if … how does … and why …
As a recovering Catholic and an atheist, I wanted to dig deeper into this. Is the Rainbow Bridge the right piece of prose to share to someone whose pet just died? Is it meaningful, hurtful or an empty gesture like "thoughts and prayers"?
I put my friend Beth Bigler, a pet loss grief counsellor and the mastermind behind @honoringouranimals, on the hot seat.
What to listen for
4:46 Why we must be inclusive with beliefs in pet loss grief
12:39 How we maintain our connection after our pets have died
16:02 The confusion Beth experienced after Arne died
22:25 Why we must mirror a griever's language to provide support
27:30 How we can show up for people experiencing pet loss grief
36:59 Coping with the uncertainty of death, loss and grief
The Art of Being on Pins and Needles
Acupuncture is a practice originating from traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to stimulate natural healing processes.
I had it done on my right hand when I was healing from a broken Bennet's joint and on my shoulder when I was healing from a torn rotator cuff -- both epically stupid softball injuries.
I also had it done on Shep in Calgary when we couldn't get in to see his chiropractor.
That was in 2011 or 12. Over the last 20 years, acupuncture has picked up steam as a valuable therapeutic option for pets, especially senior cats and dogs. It helps with pain management, stress and anxiety reduction, mobility and flexibility and support for organ function. It has even been shown to improve weak immune systems.
Today, Lynn Sehnert of Lance and Lili Pet Photography in Loudon County, Virginia, whose story you heard last week, interviews the veterinarian who helps manage her two dogs' health and anxiety.
Dr. Kathleen Phillips owns the Franklin Farm Veterinary Clinic in Herndon, Virginia. She is originally from Buffalo, New York, and is the unfortunate fan of the NHL Sabres and the NFL Bills … as we say in the sports world, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
Anyhow … Dr. Phillips shares with us how acupuncture works and how she has seen vast improvements in the health and quality of life of several patients.
The Art of Turning Your Life Over to a Dog
Lynn Sehnert has two senior dogs, both with their own share of health and reactivity issues.
Her boy Lance has been struggling with a physical mobility problem in his shoulders and Lynn has been sleeping in the downstairs section of her house to keep him company while he stays comfortable.
She has indeed turned her life over to managing Lance's and Lili's special needs, all while she keeps her focus on the photography business inspired by her two babies, Lance and Lili Pet Photography, based in Loudon County, Virginia.
Lynn is one of the very few pet photographers I know who dedicates her business to senior dogs and end of life sessions.
She is one of those gals who is like an M&M, hard outer shell but soft on the inside. She bares her soul for us around the challenges she has faced with her dogs' care and why her heart lies in photographing senior and ill pets … even as she exists in a swirl of her own anticipatory grief, caring for Lance and Lili in their senior years.
What to listen for
2:39 Lynn's life on the road
8:11 Why she's more of a homebody now
18:21 The choice to focus on senior dogs in pet photography
25:04 How Lynn makes sessions lighter for her clients in anticipatory grief
34:09 How Lynn is managing her own anticipatory grief
Stay at the end tuned for Angela's thoughts on anticipatory grief. We would love to hear from you if you're in the anticipatory grief stage and whether you're making plans for that inevitable day. Comment on this post or drop me a note at email@example.com.
The Art of Staying Open
I first encountered Bryn Souza several years ago as a member of a writers group called BlogPaws and through the Dog Writers Association of America. We met in person the first time at the DWAA annual awards ceremony in February 2020 and again this past spring at Global Pet Expo.
To know Bryn is to see the sunshine in every day. She has a bright, engaging personality and she loves dogs. Oh my dog, how she loves dogs, especially her Boston terriers.
A graduate of Quinnipiac University with a master's in business administration, Bryn is smart and articulate. She hosts a blog about her life with her dogs at ADogWalksIntoaBar.com and she's now the marketing director of Pet Hub, the first company to launch a QR code ID tag in an attempt to lower the United States' dismal return to owner rate for lost pets.
Bryn's life took an awful turn in 2022. She lost her beloved Bean, her marriage, her cat Mimi, the home she loved … I wished I could have reached out to her and say, "Hey, I'm here if you need me," but I was in my own shitty year.
Bryn is our guest this week, sharing her journey through these last 18 months. Through it all, she has remained positive … and open to signs sent to her from Yoda and Bean, who are both in the next realm now, wherever that may be.
What to listen for
2:24 The losses come one after another
10:02 How Bryn managed multiple losses
12:49 When her comfort dog Yoda starts slipping away
16:28 Guilt knocks on the door
20:23 Messages from Yoda and Bean
28:45 How to stay open to change
The Art of Caring Until the End
Julie Gass of MSPCA-Angell in Boston is a veterinary social worker, who started her career in human medicine, working with serious illness and grief. She provided end of life and bereavement support to patients and their families at Mount Auburn Hospital but then turned to end of life care for pets and their families.
She's combined her love of animals and her passion for helping people to heal from loss and trauma.
With Darlene, Julie sheds light on the crucial yet often overlooked field of pet hospice care. With deep empathy and compassion, Julie helps pet owners navigate the painful process of saying goodbye to their beloved animal companions.
And through her insights and experiences, she illuminates the profound bond between humans and their pets and the importance of providing support during the final stages of a pet's life.
Julie breaks down the emotional challenges faced by pet owners as they prepare to say goodbye and emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and validating the grief experienced by these individuals.
All while guiding these humans to make one of the hardest decisions we have to make as pet parents.
Find Julie and MSCPA
The Art of Unleashing Your Fury
Grief comes with a set of complex, profound emotions, and anger is a particularly intense one.
In this week's episode, One Last Network founder Angela Schneider launches a monthly series in which she aims to unravel the various emotions we encounter during the journey of anticipatory grief and post-loss grief. By combining her personal experiences with grief studies, she offers valuable insights and coping strategies for those navigating the depths of sorrow after losing a beloved pet.
Grief, an intricate tapestry of emotions, becomes even more intense when we lose a cherished furry companion. Angela explores the multifaceted nature of grief, with a particular focus on anger as an emotion intertwined with loss. Drawing upon the work of renowned psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who theorized the five stages of grief, Angela explains how anger can serve as a coping mechanism, allowing individuals to express and release their emotions.
To further understand the impact of pet loss on human emotions, Angela highlights the research of Dr. Sandra Barker, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction. Dr. Barker's studies reveal that the loss of a pet can evoke emotions as profound as those experienced in the loss of a human loved one, emphasizing the unique bond we share with our pets.
Angela candidly shares her personal experience of grappling with anger following the loss of her mother in January 2022. She describes the confusing mix of grief, sadness and rage that overwhelmed her, leading to unexpected bursts of fury. Recognizing that anger during grief can be directed towards oneself, circumstances surrounding the loss, friends, family, or even the departed loved one, Angela emphasizes the need to acknowledge and process this emotion constructively.
Angela reminds us to be patient with ourselves and to grant permission to feel and express all the emotions associated with grief, including anger. She affirms that grief is a deeply personal journey with no prescribed timeline or right way to grieve. Through self-reflection, healthy outlets and compassionate support, individuals can navigate the grieving process, gradually moving towards acceptance and healing.
What to listen for
2:10 The impact of pet loss on human emotions
3:43 Where our anger in grief lands
7:24 The 90-second rule by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
9:41 Ways we can redirect our anger
10:50 Where to find support
Resources mentioned in this episode
On Death and Dying by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
The Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University
Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain by James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth
Forever Friends @ Big White Dog Photography on Facebook
The Art of Summer Lovin'
Chris Miller is the eye behind the camera at MIL Pet Photography in Windsor and Ascot, United Kingdom.
After a 40-year career in tech, he heard the call of the shutter release button … his dad having been a semiprofessional photographer, too.
But he also heard the howl of dog, too, and settled on a second career in dog photography.
With his wife Sue on his team, Chris created MIL Pet Photography with a goal to take pet guardians on magical adventures throughout their borough, which is about 30 miles outside London.
Things took a turn last fall, though, when Chris and Sue experienced the loss of their precious kitty, Summer. The heartache at their cat's sudden passing weighed … continues to weigh heavily.
But when Chris heard me interviewed on a podcast for photographers about One Last Network and the training I give to help professional pet photographers better support their clients in grief, a new path became clear.
He registered almost immediately, took the grief training and scored a perfect 18 on the certification quiz.
He now seeks to be a conduit for his clients to find the support and services they may need but not be aware of within his community. He strives to connect people and what a wonderful goal that is.
What to listen for
2:28 Chris's journey in dog photography
6:51 How dog photography fills Chris's soul
11:21 Why it was time for Summer to go
28:41 How Chris carries his grief into his sessions
39:17 How grief training has changed the way Chris exists
Where to find Chris
The Art of Saving Our Sugar Faces
Senior dogs are a vulnerable population in North American society.
Family dogs may develop health problems that can be expensive to treat and require an investment of time to care when life is busy.
A family's life circumstances may change, having to move to a new place … a rental where pets are not allowed.
There may be changes in behavior due to cognitive decline and keeping the dog in the family may become challenging.
Or cruelest of all the reasons, senior dogs are often abandoned because they're just old and a family wants a younger, bouncier puppy.
According to the Grey Muzzle Organization, the adoption rate for senior dogs out of shelters is much lower than that of all other ages combined. Just over 50% of dogs in shelter who are 7 or older find new homes.
The Grey Muzzle Organization is one of the only national organizations dedicated specifically to advancing lifesaving efforts on behalf of senior dogs. It is not a shelter or rescue group. Rather it funds programs such as hospice care, senior dog adoption, medical screening and other special programs to help old dogs at animal welfare organizations across the United States and Canada
This month, the Grey Muzzle will be announcing more than $705,000 in grants to 78 animal welfare groups working to save and improve the lives of senior dogs. That will bring its total in grant funding to more than $3.8 million since the Grey Muzzle's inception in 2008.
Our guest today is Lisa Lunghofer, the executive director of The Grey Muzzle Organization and Making Good Work, a nonprofit that provides grant writing, strategic planning, program development and other services to mission-driven organizations. Her expertise lies in the human-animal bond, animal welfare, at-risk youth, juvenile justice, child welfare, violence prevention and education.
Have a listen as Lisa shares her journey from child welfare research to advocacy for senior dogs … and how she can't believe her own dog, Cameron, is about to turn 14.
What to listen for
3:27 How Lisa's research led to the Grey Muzzle
10:51 The rewards Lisa finds in a life surrounded by trauma
12:47 How the Grey Muzzle changes the world for senior dogs
25:24 The benefits of adopting a senior dog
32:12 Ways you can help the Grey Muzzle
Where to find Lisa
Other Important Links
The Art of Knowing When It's Time
We don't want to think about the last day we have with our best fur friend, but as we've heard a couple of times from Coleen Ellis in The Art of Making Memories and The Art of Loving a Soul Dog (or Heart Dog), planning can help take some of the stress and pain away from the end.
Today, Darlene Woodward of Pant the Town Photography in Massachusetts takes the mic to chat with her friend, Dr. Jennifer Cushing of Beloved Pet Home Euthanasia and Hospice in Reading, Massachusetts.
Jennifer helped Darlene say goodbye last summer to her precious Kota, a Siberian husky full of spunk and sass.
The planning and in-home euthanasia gave Darlene the perfect way to lift Kota up to the next realm … gently and peacefully with her eyes on the backyard where she spent so many years chasing squirrels.
What to Listen For
4:13 Jennifer finds joy in the work she does
7:44 The difference between euthanasia at home and at the clinic
12:41 How this moment can be a celebration of life
19:29 The quality of life consultation
27:06 Why we can't wait until it's too late
Where to Find Jennifer
Where to Find In-Home Euthanasia Near You
The Art of Counseling Pet Parents in Grief
Nancy Kieffer of Nancy Kieffer Photography in Syracuse, New York, interviews Linda Colletti of the Pet Loss Resource Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Linda recently took the reins of the Pet Loss Resource Center, after acting as the director of support services for several years. She launched her grief career in the late '80s after experiencing the loss of several pregnancies.
She chose to live her life in grief, becoming a grief counselor and working for Hospice Care Inc. for 21 years, facilitating support groups, individual counseling and other presentations.
She has authored 101 Rainbow Ribbons: Helping Children Understand Basic Concepts of Dying and Death and she now dedicates her life to guiding pet guardians on their grief journeys.
At the Pet Loss Resource Center, she provides a safe place for pet parents to express their grief over the tremendous loss they endure after their pets have been lifted up.
She holds a Bachelor's of Science in individualized grief counseling and social work and she has completed course study at American Pet Loss and Bereavement.
The Pet Loss Resource Center, founded in 2009 by Mark Meinholz, provides free support to the pet loving community. It is dedicated to providing pet parents with supportive resources as they face the hardest part of loving a companion animal -- the last goodbye.
What to Listen For
6:08 Why pet parents may have a bigger need for grief support
8:18 The pets that stole Linda's heart
13:36 Why anticipatory grief can be part of our healing
22:00 How guilt shows up for almost every one of Linda's clients
Where to Find Linda
The Art of Loving Midnight
The business of pet photography draws many people who have experienced loss, the kind of loss that leaves a hole that often feels like it can never be filled.
We may come from other genres of photography, landscape or wedding and family portraiture. We look at our cameras and know it's the tool that gave us so many great images of our own dogs.
But we never turned the cameras on ourselves.
We never got the great portraits of us and our dogs together.
Then they were gone. Our best fur friends posed for our cameras no more. And we were left with silly selfies, digital dust in the bottomless ocean of our social media feeds.
And then we decide to change that for other people. We make a conscious decision to ensure humans have amazing portraits of themselves with their best fur friends.
Printed on their walls or in beautiful photo albums.
My guest today, Nancy Kieffer, is no different.
When her Midnight died of lymphoma at 4, she realized there was more than landscapes that she had to do with her camera.
She started volunteering for rescues in Syracuse, New York, and then Nancy Kieffer Photography was born.
She shares that journey with us today.
What to Listen For
4:58 The event that kept Nancy from being a veterinarian
9:05 Midnight's devastating diagnosis
10:39 The guilt Nancy felt from thinking she didn't do enough
13:45 Finding comfort and laughter in Midnight's memories
19:42 Becoming a pet loss grief specialist with One Last Network
24:20 How Nancy brings meaning to her work
Where to Find Nancy
The Art of Loving a Soul Dog (or Heart Dog)
As a professional writer of 30-some years, words and phrases carry a lot of meaning for me. When I see one I don't know, I rush to look it up. Find out more about what it means, how it should be used.
My husband and I have an unending squabble. I say "six of one, half a dozen of another," while he claims to should be "six to one, half a dozen to another." Same difference, I say, but he insists on correcting me whenever I say my version.
(Feel free to let me know in the comments which one you think it is.)
In any case, I've been over the last year or so really wondering what the terms "soul dog" and "heart dog" mean. I knew Shep was my soulmate from that one very special moment we shared in the Rocky Mountains when he changed my life.
I called him my heart dog.
Then Bella came along and after nine years of being together I feel my heart growing bigger and bigger every time I look at her.
Is she my heart dog now? What happens to Shep?
Then I heard the term "soul dog," and I thought, "Well, maybe Shep is my soul dog and Bella is my heart dog."
But what happens when Bella is gone? Do I get a catchy new phrase for the next love of my life? Do we get to have two soul dogs or three heart dogs?
And what the hell does "soul dog" and "heart dog" mean anyway?
And … here's the big one … are we doing a disservice to our past loves and our future loves by latching onto these terms?
I knew precisely whom I needed to help me answer these questions: my friend and mentor, Coleen Ellis, founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, which helps pet care-related professionals better support their clients in grief, and our guest on Episode 10, The Art of Making Memories.
What to Listen For
5:51 How many heart dogs can you have?
11:27 The power of reframing your thoughts
14:23 Guilt and grief often walk through the door together
22:34 Planning for the end gives us time to say "how can I make it perfect?"
31:40 We each have our own way of defining "heart dog"
The Art of the Human-Animal Connection with Genie Joseph
The name of today's episode, The Art of the Human-Animal Connection, comes from the book written by and the organization led by my guest today, Genie Joseph.
Genie is a Ph.D., certified in the Trust Technique practice and the creator of the Act Resilient method, which combines drama and improv comedy to help lower stress and improve mental health in military personnel and their families.
President Barack Obama presented her with the Silver Volunteer Service award for this work.
Genie believes resilience can be learned, not just in humans but also in animals who have experienced trauma. She has rescued two badly abused dogs -- Oscar and Sophia -- and turned them into therapy dogs.
She has over 2,000 hours of volunteer work in animal shelters, rescue centers, and sanctuaries. She does private consultations, conducts workshops and classes, and speaks to groups on communication, healing, and the human-animal connection.
Her recently released book, The Human-Animal Connection, explores that deep emotional bond we build with our companion animals.
The book is divided into three parts: How to Be a Better Human For Your Animal, What Animals Can Teach Us About Being a Happier Human and The Spiritual Connection: How Humans Can Be of Service to Animals.
Each part features a series of principles that teach us how our animals are trying to communicate with us and how we can open ourselves up to listen to them.
Today, Genie and I talk about her work, the book and the ways we as pet guardians can be better humans for their comfort, happiness and health … which leads to us doing better for our own comfort, happiness and health.
What to Listen For
4:02 How an abused dog helped soldiers manage their PTSD
11:32 Getting an animal to trust
14:59 How animals use their senses to overcome trauma
20:30 Learning to communicate better with our pets
26:10 A horse teaches Genie to find her higher self
38:11 How learning to communicate with our animals can bring us comfort after they're gone
Where to Find Genie
The Art of Lessons Learned
For The Art of Lessons Learned, we have another roundtable with the professional photographers at One Last Network.
Each one of us has a deep appreciation for the companion animals who have come into our lives and left behind not just lessons learned, but sometimes profound transformations.
Incredible life changes.
Shifts in personality.
They've altered the way we see the world, the way we walk among our fellow humans.
Animals, dogs in particular, have been our loyal companions for thousands of years, and over time, humans have come to appreciate their incredible capacity for love, empathy, and companionship.
If we pay attention to the way they live, move and treat their fellow animals, we start to see their emotional intelligence and we can absorb those traits to make ourselves better human beings.
I think you'll hear that as a common thread as each photographer who joined us today shares their amazing story.
We even talk about a cat … a CAT! … with one of our newer members, Chris Miller of MIL Pet Photography, joining us all the way from the United Kingdom.
What to Listen For
2:21 Cisco teaches Sharon gratitude
5:17 Kota teaches Darlene routines can change
8:25 Lynn finds her voice, thanks to Lance and Lili
10:54 Summer teaches Chris to appreciate time together
15:57 Kylee learns how to be more compassionate from Omega
20:06 What we learn from each other's stories
28:59 Shep teaches Angela to just be herself
Our Featured Photographers
Canovas Photography, Hamilton, Ontario
Lance and Lili Pet Photography, Ashburn, Virginia
Kylee Doyle Photography, Sacramento, California
Pant the Town Photography, Georgetown, Massachusetts
Jenn Wilson Pet Portraiture, Kitchener, Ontario
MIL Pet Photography, Windsor, United Kingdom
Big White Dog Photography, Spokane, Washington
The Art of Talking to Animals with Nancy Mello
Our guest today talks to animals.
And they talk back to her.
Nancy Mello learned early in her life that she was able to hear what animals are trying to tell us all. Their likes, their dislikes, their wants, their needs … and when they feel it's time to go.
Nancy reached out to be a guest on the podcast and share her abilities as an animal communicator and evidential medium. I told her in full disclosure that I'm a skeptic, that I may not fully believe what she does is real.
She said that was OK, that she relished the challenge.
Nancy connects with her clients over the phone or on Zoom, so she's able to help and comfort pet parents all over the world. Her readings range from 15 minutes to two hours and, like our friend Laurie Blomer who was featured in Episode 4: The Art of Seeing into a Photo, she uses a photo to hear the animal talk.
Nancy's been featured in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Tribune, Cosmopolitan UK and Dogster magazine. Since 2020, she has worked with almost a thousand animals and helped owners find dozens of lost pets. She also helps rescues understand what kind of family an animal in shelter may need to thrive in its furever home.
She has a special passion for end of life sessions, in which she talks to animals about how they want their last days to look.
Nancy and I have a lively discussion about her abilities, how they work and what it all means to her.
What to listen for
4:56 What are the most common things animals talk about?
10:30 How the world reacted to Nancy's abilities
20:07 What is faith? What does it mean?
26:31 Working with rescues to find the right home for animals
41:12 How learning to communicate with animals creates a better world for every species
50:31 Nancy's one piece of advice
The Art of Honoring Izzie
Izzie was a French bulldog whom Victoria lifted up into the next realm in February 2021 after a protracted battle with pulmonary hypertension.
Izzie was the perfect mix of sweet and sass and resolved Victoria's fear of big dogs. They found love at first smooch.
When Izzie was diagnosed, Victoria and her husband did everything they could. They spared no expense to ensure Izzie fought her terrible diagnoses and that she was comfortable and happy.
After Izzie left Victoria's physical world, Victoria was left with the feeling she had to do something, anything.
She knew that she and her husband were fortunate to make the choices they made for Izzie while other families are left wondering what to do, thanks to the financial burden some veterinary care can bring.
Together, they started the Izzie Fund which helps keep those families from having to make difficult decisions like leaving their beloved pets at shelters and rescues or lifting them up because that may be their only affordable option.
Victoria shares that journey and what the Izzie Fund is all about today with Jessica Wasik of Bark & Gold Photography in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
What to Listen For
2:36 Izzie becomes Victoria's soulmate
5:17 Izzie's diagnosis with pulmonary hypertension
10:10 Victoria starts to manage her grief
16:38 Victoria embraces her grief
19:56 The Izzie Fund is born
Find the Izzie Fund
The Art of Remembering Zoe
Zoe is one of Nicole Begley's many loves in this lifetime. She spent too few years in the comfort of Nicole's home in Pittsburgh and then North Carolina, after being found by firefighters in a bucket of water in Puerto Rico.
Nicole is the lead educator at Hair of the Dog Academy, a platform that teaches pet photographers, like me, how to master our craft and launch then build our businesses.
If it wasn't for Nicole, well, I don't know where a lot of us would be.
And many of us met Zoe, an always smiling pup, on the webinars during which we learn the ins and outs of our businesses.
Then Zoe died.
Very suddenly, very tragically.
I remember Nicole publishing a podcast shortly after about how some companies go above and beyond for their customer. She revealed that Chewy.com sent her a card and flowers when called them to possibly return an unopened bag of food.
Her sorrow and pain cut through me like a knife. I wanted so badly to reach out through the airwaves and hug her.
Today, we are remembering Zoe … and many of the other animals to whom Nicole has bid farewell, many of them suddenly and tragically.
We honor their lives with their stories.
What to listen for
6:26 A meet-cute for Nicole and Zoe
12:26 When Nicole had to say goodbye
21:41 The beginning of Nicole's healing
25:14 Bringing Cami home
33:55 A lifetime of losses
35:32 Gratitude and self-regulation
The Art of Becoming a Couch Potato
There are dogs -- Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, pointers, retrievers -- who are shipped overseas to work in several different capacities.
Many of them are bite trained.
They live in kennels, their social interactions limited to what they gain from their handlers.
Then they lose their drive to work. They don’t get to punch the clock at 65 and say, "Yo, bro, I'm out. I'm going home to get my Social Security check."
They just have to lose their will to do the job.
Then they often get discarded. Much like a football or hockey player who blows his knee and can't play anymore.
Bob Bryant is the chief technology officer at Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group that is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming these working dogs.
Today, Bob and I have a lively discussion about helping these dogs, how quickly they're willing to become couch potatoes and why you might want to adopt one of these dogs.
Since 2013, Mission K9 Rescue has helped working dogs find a comfortable, peaceful retirement.
I think you know by now that I believe every dog deserves the love of a good human and these retired working dogs, in particular, have given their lives to service.
They deserve all the scritches, snuggles and bacon.
Of course, bacon.
What to listen for
2:00 Mission K9's mission
7:23 When working dogs retire
14:01 Adopting a retired working dog
23:15 How this work has been life-changing for Bob
26:21 How to adopt a retired working dog
Where to find Mission K9 Rescue
The Art of Adding to the Family
You were my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.
Every time I see that meme shared on Facebook, it pinches a corner of my heart.
The day we bring our puppies home is the day we start preparing to say goodbye. No, we don't live our lives like that. That would suck, wouldn't it? Constantly thinking about the day we have to say goodbye.
Instead, we revel in the in-between. The glorious time filled with adventure and snuggles and scritches and laughs and smooches.
And then comes the silence. The time after the day we say goodbye.
The sorrow. The pain. The grief.
You listen to this podcast because you are an animal lover, and when your beloved companion animal leaves your physical world, you feel lost. You desperately cling to the memories, cry into his pillow, stare at the leash hanging by the door.
I know. I did all that.
And you wonder … should I get another dog? How soon is too soon? How could I do that to the memory of my beautiful boy? How could I possibly replace him?
What you will hear on this episode is an informal conversation between two women who endured that conversation with themselves.
My good friend Darlene Woodward of Pant the Town Photography in Georgetown, Massachusetts, and I share our stories about bringing home a puppy after the loves of our lives had to leave us.
This is a subject of much debate. Some say wait, others say don't wait. And of course grief experts say we shouldn't make any life-changing decisions for six months to a year after an important loss.
Six months? Or nine days? Or four months?
Nine days is my story. Four months is mine. Have a listen.
The Art of the Adventurous Life
If there's one topic that sets my heart soaring, it's adventure.
Both of my dogs, Shep and Bella, have helped me realize the art of the adventurous life and my work at Big White Dog Photography is a tribute to every step I've taken with them.
To see dogs exploring the great outdoors is to see their most core instincts at play, to see them sniff and watch and claim their territory with their pee is to see thousands of years of coded behavior at work.
Our guest today, Britt Kascjak (KAZ-YAK), is a 30-something pet mum to three dogs -- Daviana, Indiana, Lucifer – and two cats, Pippen and Jinx.
She works from home as a digital marketer, freelance writer and professional blogger. She's the director of content and SEO at BlogPaws, an organization I follow as a dog blogger, and she runs two revenue-generating blogs, Shed Happens, a space for pet parents of rescues, and The Kas Pack, a diary of the adventures she takes with her husband John and their pack.
The Kas Pack struck me as a great reason to chat with Britt, because both Daviana and Indiana are in their senior years so I hoped to pick Britt's brain about how our adventures have to change as our dogs approach their golden years.
What to listen for
4:48 Time to meet Britt's pack
14:21 How Britt's adventures have changed with her senior dogs
18:10 Britt's favorite adventure with Daviana
25:46 Rating Ontario's provincial parks for dog-friendliness
32:10 Beer … because, well, beer
Where to find Britt
The Art of Holding On with Kayla Seifert
"Just always get the pictures, don't hesitate on them."
That's a quote from today's episode, The Art of Holding On, No. 24 of our podcast about this continuous, crazy journey called grief.
Kayla Seifert is a past client with Jessica Wasik at Bark & Gold Photography in Pittsburgh.
Kayla had a beautiful tri-colored beagle named Stanley whom she adopted from Forever Home Beagle Rescue eight years ago when Stanley was about two years old. He was 10 when diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure, prompting Kayla to schedule a Rainbow Session for him.
She had always wanted to get professional photos done of Stanley but money, time and life kept getting in the way.
She was finally ready to schedule a portrait session in 2021 but the dire diagnosis pushed up her timeline.
Stanley had always loved being outside, and their favorite pastime was going for hikes in the woods where Kayla said he'd always come to life.
Stanley, Kayla and Jessica met at a favorite park and, well, Kayla's description of the day will sit in my heart forever.
Stanley left our physical world in November and Kayla continues to wind her way down this new path, the grief journey.
She explores with Jes that journey and how long and convoluted it can be.
What to listen for
1:00 Stanley, my dog, my baby
7:38 Finding the right location for your photo shoot
10:13 That one unforgettable photo
15:05 Kayla embraces her grief journey
21:30 Do you "get over" such a profound loss?
The Art of Learning from Your Dog
"If they love me that much, why can't I love me that much," Maureen Scanlon asked herself one day.
And it's true.
It's a very common story I see in not only my Big White Dog Photography clients, but also in my dog-loving friends and, of course, myself.
Maureen Scanlon is the founder and of Maureen Scanlon Life Coaching, an author, relationship expert, motivational speaker, positive change integrator and spiritual coach. From young professionals to middle-aged adults, Maureen has successfully helped many clients overcome past experiences and negative thinking.
In addition to her real-life experiences, Maureen has held group coaching sessions and retreats for mindful change, and created a five-step program for fostering meaningful relationships.
She is an award-winning author of two books called My Dog is More Enlightened Than I Am and My Dog is My Relationship Coach.
Maureen and I have a lively discussion about what our dogs teach us … in their time here with us and in the days after they leave us. Right before Christmas, Maureen's beloved Brodie died from osteosarcoma, the second-most common cancer that takes our best fur friends.
We explore that and how Brodie continues to show her the way, even making occasional appearances to let her know he's still around, looking out for her and the rest of the pack.
Have a listen.
What to listen for
7:59 The secret to happiness is easy, just ask your dog
19:06 How Maureen found peace after Brodie's death
26:41 Getting ready to say goodbye
41:05 Brodie continues to show up for Maureen
The Art of Canine Rehab
When Jennifer Lyons was 16, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament, and physical therapy allowed her to return to playing the sport she loved, softball. She went onto play college ball and ultimately settled studying physical therapy.
She became a licensed physical therapist in 2010 but then became drawn to her passion, helping dogs retain and regain their mobility.
She is a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner with a beautiful new clinic in Massachusetts. Her goal is improve mobility and function in dogs so they can regain or maintain daily activities.
Many dogs come to her post-TPLO surgery or because their owners are seeing the signs of age and the dogs are losing function in their hind end.
In today's episode, Darlene Woodward of Pant the Town Photography in Georgetown, Massachusetts, interviews Jennifer about her practice and how we can help our senior dogs stay active in their golden years.
What to listen for
3:20 Why dog owners seek Jennifer's services
9:50 The most common challenges for senior dogs
17:00 The signs of age in dogs
21:00 Managing our dogs' pain
The Art of Seeing Grief as a Gift
Many people have never heard the term "anticipatory grief" even though you've probably experienced it.
If you've had a family member fade in front of your eyes with cancer or another debilitating disease, you've experienced anticipatory grief. If you've watched your cat or pet slow down, struggle to rise to his feet and take his last walks toward the proverbial rainbow bridge, you've experienced anticipatory grief.
I didn't have a name for it until I started studying grief, so it's OK if you're unfamiliar with the term. Clinically speaking, it's the grief we experience in advance of a loss. It's often associated with the death of a loved one -- or pet -- who is terminally ill or facing a life-limiting illness.
It's different because the loss has yet to occur but the grief can be just as intense, if not more so, because there's an extended period of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Our minds build up the stories around the impending death and we can be wracked with feelings of guilt, anger and sadness.
While we still have our loved one or pet right here in front of us.
Nancy Gordon wants to change the experience of anticipatory grief and shift our perception of dread to one of a gift.
To experience anticipatory grief, she says, is to see an opportunity to live more in the moment and enjoy every last moment possible with our loved one.
Nancy is a No. 1 international bestselling author, speaker and an expert in how to manage life-changing loss. A car accident upended everything about her life -- her practice in social work and her health. Today, she combines her personal experiences with fibromyalgia, a mild traumatic brain injury and loss -- loss of her both her parents and her two loves, Toaster and Pink -- to offer not only a clinical perspective on loss and grief but also a personal one.
I think, after listening to today's episode, you might start to see loss and anticipatory grief in a new light, too.
What to listen for
5:30 The emotional, mental and spiritual impact of chronic illness and disability
12:40 The healing power of Toaster
30:20 The cancer diagnosis that transformed Nancy's life
49:30 How anticipatory grief is different
56:00 Staying present with our pets in their last days
The Art of Growing Love
Remy Bibaud is the co-founder of PetPerennials.com, an online resource of gifts for pet lovers that cover all the milestones of our pets' lives.
She and Lori Davidson started out eight years ago wanting to create a personalized way to bring comfort to families going through pet loss.
Because of Olive.
A beautiful yellow Labrador retriever mix, Olive loved to play fetch, go on long walks with Remy and sniffing out the deer in the backyard.
She went to work with Remy every day at her old business office and claimed her spot on the loveseat for seven years.
Olive became suddenly ill one day and was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. There was nothing that could be done.
Combining their experiences with love and loss, Lori and Remy came up with the Pet Perennials Kit, a do-it-yourself gardening kit that generates new life by sowing and growing perennial wildflower seed wafers.
Remy has some wonderful thoughts to share about the gifts we can send to our friends and family who are experiencing pet loss grief, and how the pet business industry can change to support pet guardians through all stages of their beloved companion animals' lives.
What to listen for
0:23 The beginning of PetPerennials.com
5:58 The most popular items at Pet Perennials
16:53 How ignoring pet loss grief is a disservice to mankind … and pets
32:18 How Remy gives space for people in grief to be heard
43:12 What to write in a sympathy card to a pet lover in grief
The Art of Creating Memories of our Pets
Your host, Angela Schneider, brings together another roundtable of our member photographers.
While the podcast is designed to connect you with resources to support you as your pet ages and you face those last walks together, our website supports a directory to help you find a professional pet photographer in your area.
We had our first roundtable for Episode 7: The Art of End of Life Pet Photography, when several of us gathered to chat about why memorial sessions are such an important part of our businesses.
Today, we're discussing how we create memories for you, our listeners, our clients, the memories of our own pets that are so important to us, and how you can have beautiful artwork made with just your cellphone shots.
What to listen for
4:03 How we have created memorials for our own pets
14:53 Why it's important for pet lovers to have professional artwork
28:30 The love – not the devil – is in the details
40:03 What you can do if you haven't had a professional photo shoot
The photographers who joined us
Jessica Wasik of Bark & Gold Photography
Sharon Canovas of Sharon Canovas Photography
Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography
Kirsten Hough of Wort & Flea Photography
Nancy Kieffer of Nancy Kieffer Photography
Lynn Sehnert of Lance & Lili Photography
Nicole Hrustyk of Pawtraits by Nicole
Angela Schneider of Big White Dog Photography
Darlene Woodward of Pant the Town Photography
The Art of Training Reactive Dogs
Kylee's journey in pet photography has shifted in the last several years. Since adopting an emotional Dutch shepherd named Omega, she has realized pet parents with reactive dogs may not feel confident in exposing their best fur friends to a portrait session.
She wants to change that and ensure pet parents in Northern California not only have the opportunity but also the resources to learn how to manage their little basket cases.
Kylee found a wonderful resource in Allison Daack of Daack Pack Dog Training, which Allison founded in June 2016 after nearly a decade of working in wildlife rehabilitation and dog training facilities around the United States.
Allison and her team are committed to helping owners create practical, actionable solutions to problematic behaviors using the latest science on animal behavior, a deep understanding of their client's lifestyles and needs and an empathetic approach.
I'm turning the mic over to Kylee this week so she can put Allison on the hot seat about working with reactive dogs. Have a listen. You are sure to pick up a few things about working with your own sweet babe.What to Listen For
3:07 What drew Allison to animal training
9:05 What does "reactive" mean for humans and dogs
15:17 How Allison uses fear-free training
24:12 The signs of increased reactivity in older dogs
29:19 Why you should do your research before hiring a dog trainerFind Allison
The Art of Photographing Reactive Dogs
Our podcast is centred around connecting you, the human, to the support and services you may need as your pet ages and ultimately leaves your physical world.
At the heart of those services is professional pet photography. All of the individuals who bring you this content are professional pet photographers.
Some have niched down into what is known as end of life pet photography but none of us really like that term, since it's so clinical and cold. We prefer Rainbow Sessions or Legacy Sessions or Memory Sessions.
As a professional dog photographer, my niche is adventure, celebrating humans and dogs doing dog things in the great outdoors.
Today, I'm chatting with Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography in Sacramento, who has found her niche in reactive dogs. Kylee serves pet parents in Northern California, from Sacramento to Tahoe, helping them turn their pets into photographic artwork they can proudly display in their homes for generations to come.
Reactive dogs often have an intense fear or aggression toward humans or other dogs, which can make it difficult for them to be in public spaces. That certainly presents its own set of challenges.
Kylee has a reactive dog, Omega, a Dutch shepherd who has heightened sensitivities and can be an emotional handful.
In trying to find resources to help Omega, Kylee realized other pet parents with reactive dogs may need someone to work with in a way that makes them feel safe and comfortable. Many may even shy away from having a portrait session done because they don’t know how their dog will handle it.
But they have a beauty, personality and spirit that should be documented and celebrated, too, in photos that don't scream "reactive dog!" or "aggressive dog!"
They are loving, individual beings who should be a part of your family photos and home décor.
But enough of me going on about it. Let's let Kylee tell us about photographing reactive dogs.
What to listen for
6:30 How reactive dogs can be challenging
12:30 The ways Kylee mitigates reactivity in her canine clients
21:00 The different parenting skills you need to develop for each dog in your house
28:10 Why Kylee sees herself in her reactive dog's eyes
The Art of Finding the Right Support
Pet loss grief is a disenfranchised grief.
That means it isn't always accepted by general society, and it can lead people to say inappropriate things to people in grief, be unsupportive or be entirely absent.
These are people who don't understand the depth of love we have for our pets, the profundity of our connection to our best fur friends, and the pain we experience when we lose them.
In today's episode One Last Network host Angela Schneider has some real talk with Beth Bigler of Honoring Our Animals about the stupid shit people say, how to manage those people and where to look for support.
Beth is a double-certified pet loss grief counselor, a certified pet chaplain and a certified end-of-life animal companion doula. She works with individuals and families before, during and after the loss of their beloved animal companions.
She's known for her Instagram account, @honoringouranimals, where she shares daily content and tips about pet loss grief with a unique blend of humor, compassion and telling it like it is.
She works closely with animal care workers, veterinary professionals and other pet industry brands on grief training and awareness.
She is a seasoned film and television professional, college instructor and mom of a 3-year-old son and three crazy cats.
The Art of Living in Love
After the death of her two sons, Cathy Cheshire walked away from a 30-year career as an executive in health care.
She heard a calling to help other learn to heal from their grief.
First, she studied what all the expert had to say about grief, then she created her own Master Grief Coach certification program. She learned from traditional and nontraditional professionals with various expertise in grief, including emotions, mindfulness, psychology and resilience.
When Angela started the One Last Network earlier this year, she searched online for such a course and found Cathy, enrolling after comparing it to a few other courses.
Cathy's course is based in simplifying the information and expert research around death and loss and grief. She chunks it into understandable, memorable bits because, when she found herself in despair, she felt overwhelmed by the information she found.
She created the Master Grief Coach program after three years of researching the work of prominent psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists and other specialists.
Cathy has also authored a book, "Thriving After the Death of a Child," a powerful guide on how parents can enrich their lives with lessons about love. She recounts her spiral into a dark, relentless depression and then learned to live again in a powerful way.
In today's episode, Cathy and Angela dig into the idea that we live in a grief illiterate society and how we can all take steps to change that … to normalize grief as a part of existence.
Because death and loss and grief are an inevitable part of living and loving.
What to listen for:
- Why grieving the loss of your pet is normal
- The power of memories and photos
- The importance of sharing your story
- How self-care moves you forward to healing
- The difference between guilt and regret
The Art of Sending Comfort
Penny Layne, or Aunt Penny as she's also known, is the force behind Pittsburgh Pet Prayer Blankets. She also runs her own grief companion program and does a wonderful job helping those who have lost a beloved furkid manage their grief.
Penny also owns Aunt Penny's Professional Dog Training and is committed to providing the most effective, convenient force-free solutions for clients’ dog training needs, expectant families' dog challenges, shelter/rescue staff and volunteer safety education classes, children’s dog bite prevention programs as well as first responders challenges with dogs they encounter on the job.
She brings a diverse background in canines and training through her work with service dogs for people with physical challenges, working in a vet hospital, owning a boarding, grooming, and training kennel.
Penny is a National Speaker, licensed presenter for the International Family Paws Parent Education programs (Dogs and storks and Dogs and Toddlers), as well as an Advanced Certified Pet Tech, a Nationally Certified Professional Dog Trainer, an occupational dog bite prevention instructor, a media consultant, and the first certified fear-free dog professional in Western Pennsylvania.
Penny and her husband Shawn reside in Irwin, PA, and have four adult children and four grandchildren. When not educating humans about canines, Penny enjoys her husband, grandchildren, their own nine dogs, two pygmy goats, and two betta fish.
This week, Jessica Wasik of Bark and Gold Photography in Pittsburgh interviews Aunt Penny about the Pittsburgh Pet Prayer Blankets and how they are sending comfort to ill or injured animals and their humans all around the world.
The Art of Mentally Stimulating Your Senior Dog
We are hitting lucky number 13 today, our 13th episode. I'm not into superstition at all … like AT ALL. Any time I see a black cat, I give her a nod and say, "What's up, cat?"
And today, we are taking a little break from the discussion of death and loss and grief. It can be a bit of a heavy topic, eh?
We are, at One Last Network, dedicated to the support and services pet guardians need as their pets age, too, not just as we prepare for those last walks with our precious babes.
As our pets age, we need to adjust our behaviors and schedules to allow them the space to grow old gracefully. But in ways, you might not think …
We might imagine our dogs need to spend all day sleeping or stay away from rambunctious younger dogs. (Or maybe that's us, projecting our desires to be old and cranky and … well, if you're over 50, you know what I mean.)
Research at the University of Toronto has shown that giving older animals mental exercise, encouraging them to engage in problem-solving activities and exposing them to new, different and richer environments, helps to offset the decline in mental acuity.
We can, says psychologist Norton W. Milgram, change the physiology of our dog's brain by creating new connections between existing neurons simply by changing our dog's routine and giving them new experiences.
That's what Episode No. 13 is all about. I turn the mic over Courtney Bryson of CM Bryson Photography in Atlanta and she interviews her friend Paula Nowak of Canine Country Academy, based in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
They discuss simple modifications on common tricks and behaviors to help our senior dogs live out their best lives.
Episode 12: The Art of Finding the Perfect Imperfect
Sometimes, it's our grandparents who make the most impact on personalities, our growth, our development.
Courtney Bryson spent childhood weekends on her grandparents' farm and developed a love for animals and photography because of her gramma and grampa.
Today, she is the mastermind behind CM Bryson Photography in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Rescue Ranch, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing special needs Boston terriers.
She's also one of the founding members of One Last Network and a graduate of our pet loss grief certification program in which she learned how to be a better support for her clients who come to her for end of life pet photography.
Courtney has endured more than her fair share of loss since right before the pandemic, including her beloved horse Ginger and both of those amazing grandparents who helped her become who she is.
In this episode, Courtney and I talk about that grief journey and how it has made her a better photographer, allowing her to find the perfect in the imperfect.
What to listen for:
- How Courtney became a pet and equine photographer
- The special relationship she had with Ginger
- Why getting her own portraits with Ginger was so important
- Courtney's experience with loss and grief
- And how that all changed her approach to end of life pet photography
Connect with Courtney
Episode 11: The Art of Sharing Your Pain
Gayle King once introduced Carol Bryant as "a dog lover of the highest order."
Carol, whom I met in 2020 just weeks before the whole world shut down with the COVID-19 pandemic, has been on King's Oprah Radio to talk about the love of dogs.
Carol is so much into the dog business that she had her catchphrase "my heart beats dog" trademarked and tattooed on her left bicep.
She is the immediate past president of the Dog Writers Association of America, a member of the American Spaniel Club, founder of the Club Cocker Facebook group, and founder of Wigglebutt Warriors, a fundraising group that has raised over $80,000 to date for homeless Cockers and other dogs.
That's not all. Carol is a very very busy woman.
In November last year, Carol's beloved boy, a Cocker Spaniel named Dexter, was diagnosed with and then very suddenly died from hermangiosarcoma.
Hermangiosarcoma is a highly malignant cancer that commonly attacks a dog's spleen, liver, heart and skin. Hermangiosarcoma's cause, according to NC State Veterinary Hospital, is in most cases unknown. There are options for surgery and chemotherapy but the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University says despite treatment, the long-term prognosis for dogs with hermangiosarcoma is generally poor.
Carol very publicly shared her pain on her Facebook profile.
Every post, every word she wrote on Facebook tore my heart apart. I could feel her panic and agony as Dexter was diagnosed and dying of hermangiosarcoma.
What she didn't realize at the time was how she helping other dog lovers recognize the signs of hermangiosarcoma and get their dogs to treatment. She was also able to bring comfort and learning to thousands by being very public about the trauma she experienced in losing her Dexter.
Join me and Carol as we look back on those days and discuss why she felt she needed to be so public with her pain and how the stories she and others have told about her beloved Dexter have brought her comfort in the days following his death.
- Why the Cocker Spaniel is Carol's special breed
- The sudden onset of the news that Dexter had hermangiosarcoma
- The lessons she learned from Dexter
- How Carol is learning to live with her grief, carrying her "grief suitcase" with her wherever she goes
- What not to say to a grieving dog owner
Episode 10: The Art of Making Memories
Coleen Ellis understands and appreciates the depth of love pet guardians have for their companion animals.
She's felt it many times over.
Her dogs, her fur kids, are her world and as each one leaves her physical world she finds ways thoughtful, impactful ways to honor the lives they lived here on Earth with her.
Coleen started the nation’s first stand-alone pet funeral home, Pet Angel Memorial Center, which now has locations across the Midwest, southeast and Carolinas.
Coleen also recently released her first book, Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief.
She also operates Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, an online resource for pet professionals to learn more about the grief journey pet parents endure. I am a certified pet loss grief companion under Two Hearts Pet Loss Center.
She is a student herself of Dr. Alan Wolfelt, who teaches that people in grief need a companion, someone to listen and be present, rather than treatment.
Because we are not broken. We simply need others to witness our pain and loss, and support us on our new paths.
Coleen is an incredibly engaging, dynamic interview and I am so proud to have my teacher, my mentor and my friend on the podcast today to talk about the ways we can keep our best fur friends alive in our hearts and in our stories.
And with that, we talk about how to make those final days with your pet peaceful, empowering and memorable.
Have a listen. It is a long one but Coleen gives us so much great information and advice.
What to listen for:
8:56: What will you do right now to make the end perfect?
11:30: The rules for pet loss are written by the 30% who don't get it.
31:24: How we can honor the memories of our pets through art.
43:05: Making the decision to attend -- or not -- your pet's euthanasia
Buy her book on Amazon:
Episode 9: The Art of Helping Senior Dogs in Need
Alongside her husband Joe, Darla is the founder of Gray Paws Sanctuary, where they are passionate about senior dogs! Since 2014, they've been caring for older dogs in the greater Pittsburgh area in need of preventative and routine medical care, physical therapy, socialization, and above all, love!
Darla and Joe do this in three ways. First, senior dogs in “sanctuary” live with them, spending every day caring for this pack of senior dogs themselves.
The couple also matches senior dogs with local families through their “Forever Foster Care – Medical Coverage Program” to care for them for the duration of their lives.
Finally, their LOYAL Program provides financial support to families in order to help prevent the surrender or premature euthanasia of senior dogs that can be kept healthy and safe in their current homes.
Darla is the creator of "The Eight Pillars of a Dog's Life Chart" designed to assist people in deciding when the quality of life is such that it is time to let go.
Find Darla and Gray Paws Sanctuary
Episode 8: The Art of Loving an Old Man
Jessica Wasik is the top dog at Bark & Gold Pet Photography in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jes is unabashedly in love with her 13-year-old boy, Hunter, a Siberian retriever and Bark & Gold Photography’s Frisbee-catching, bed-hogging Head of Shed. Hunter, her heart dog, is the reason why her home is a little hairier, her bed a little tighter, and her heart a lot fuller. He is the inspiration behind Bark & Gold Photography.
When Hunter turned 10 a few years, Jes had a moment. She was hit by the fact Hunter had turned from a bright, bouncy puppy to a gray-faced old man. In this week's episode, we dig into that and how our lives might change as our dogs grow older. We slow down with them and we want to … because who wants to miss a single moment when there are fewer days ahead of us than behind us?
We also chat about photos … of course … and why we shouldn't just take all the photos we possibly can of our best fur friends but also get professional photos done with them.
November is National Senior Pet Month. Thanks to veterinary medicine and research, our pets are living longer and healthier lives but we do have to watch for those signs of aging and maybe take some slower steps with our sweet seniors.
Episode 7: The Art of End of Life Pet Photography
End-of-life pet photography -- which is an icky, clinical term that many professional pet photographers don't prefer -- is an honor and a privilege. As pet photographers we get to share in our clients' taking their last walks with their faithful companions.
This week, some of the Founding and Platinum members of One Last Network have gathered for a roundtable discussion on our legacy sessions and what offering this service to pet guardians means to us. Everyone is or will be trained as a pet loss grief specialist under the One Last Network banner, because we not only want to create beautiful images of you and your best fur friend together but we also want to be a part of your support network.
Many of us have taken that last walk and we know it can be a lonely, painful time and sometimes all you need is someone to listen or hold your hand through it. We are equipped as pet loss grief specialists to be that friend.
Appearing on today's call are:
- Darlene Woodward of Pant the Town Photography in Massachusetts
- Jes Wasik of Bark and Gold Photography in Pittsburgh
- Kylee Doyle of Kylee Doyle Photography in Sacramento
- Nancy Keiffer of Nancy Keiffer Photography in Syracuse, New York
- Lynn Sehnert of Lance and Lili Pet Photography in Ashburn, Virginia
- Nicole Hrustyk of Pawtraits by Nicole in Las Vegas
- Angela Schneider of Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, Washington
Join us as we explore the topic of memorial sessions and why they're such an important part of our businesses.
Episode 6: Stephanie NIlles and the Art of Honoring His Legacy
This week, I'm chatting with my good friend Stephanie Nilles of Pawsitive Connection Dog Training in Spokane, Washington.
I first met Stephanie two years ago when I wanted to spotlight local dogpreneurs on my Big White Dog Photography blog. She was just about to embark on a new branch to her business: hydrotherapy for dogs.
She has since completed construction of a hydrotherapy spa for dogs on her property and she's using the pool to help physically compromised dogs get some gentle water activity.
There's so much more to the story, though, including how one white boxer with degenerative myelopathy drives Stephanie's soul every day and what it's been like to carry on since Bam left our physical world.
Let's walk with Stephanie on her journey.
But maybe grab a pint of Ben & Jerry's.
Because ice cream.Find Stephanie Find Stephanie
Episode 5: Donna Wilson and the Art of Using Humor to Heal
Donna Wilson is a professor in the Faculty of Nursing at University of Alberta in Edmonton. Her program of research focuses on health services and health policy, primarily in relation to aging and end-of-life care. She has conducted or been involved in studies on grief and bereavement, ageism, social isolation and many more topics.
This summer, she and her team released the results of a study that found humor to be both a grief trigger and a coping mechanism for grief.
Have a listen as Donna and I dig into more subjects than grief and humor, including what a good death is and why it's OK if all you do for a grieving friend is show up with a casserole.