“People experience the same sense of loss when they lose a pet,” explains Laurie Abshire, Pet Bereavement Counselor at Eden Memorial Pet Care. “We need to recognize that pet owners struggle when they lose a pet.” Getting certified as a Pet Bereavement Counselor, was the first step Laurie took towards helping people process and cope with the loss of a special pet of any kind.
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“I really love talking with people about their pets,” Laurie remarks. “When they lose a pet, it can be tragic, and they need someone to talk to.” The offer of a listening ear has always been a part of Eden Memorial Pet Care. Now, with the expansion and the addition of the Eternal Room, Pet Bereavement is full-service. Laurie and Christine Johnson, owner of Eden Memorial Pet Care, are both certified Pet Bereavement Counselors. They actively seal memories for their grieving clients.
“I talk to people both face-to-face and over the phone,” describes Laurie regarding how the counseling takes place. “The Pet Bereavement service is still a new thing and we’re working on additional ways to integrate the service.” One idea Laurie and Christine are discussing is forming pet bereavement groups. Eden Memorial Pet Care is leading the charge as the industry embraces the way people attach to their pets including horses.
Helping People Cope: Memories of a Pet Bereavement Counselor
Laurie has several favorite memories of helping people have full closure while respectfully laying their beloved pet to rest through a private cremation at Eden Memorial Pet Care in Paso Robles.
Laying Java to Rest
One of the first private cremations Laurie was involved in was for a retired couple living in Santa Barbara. Their beloved dog, Java, was a big part of their lives and they were passionate about looking for a special way to never forget him. The couple wanted to view him before he was cremated and planned to stay in town and take him home in an urn. The day came and the couple arrived with the body, some flowers and pics. Laurie was very touched by the care and love they exhibited towards their dog. The arrangement included time for them to spend their last moments with Java. Farewells and the couple turned away to spend some time in Paso. A few hours later they returned for the cremains and went home.
Laurie was so touched by this couple, in fact, she choked up retelling their story. They in turn sent a wonderful thank you note expressing their gratitude for the service and respect offered to them regarding their wishes for their dog and providing a peaceful end. “I still remember them standing there,” Laurie recalls. “They were so nice and easy to talk to.”
Tough Cowboy with a Soft Heart
In contrast, another memory, involves a big tough cowboy with a very soft heart. “This six-foot-five-inch, burly cowboy drove to Eden Memorial Pet Care. He was crying his eyes out as he stepped out of his truck. In his arms was a fluffy Pomeranian,” Laurie described the scene. For several years, this tough cowboy had been rescuing a batch of Pomeranians being dumped in a remote ranching area, giving these cast-offs a second chance. The fluffy dog in his arms was his first rescue.
“He was a mess of grief,” recalls Laurie. “Even more so as we gave him time to say farewell to his dog.” The scene was especially touching as the unconventional pairing demonstrated a sincere bond between a tough cowboy and his fluffy dog.
Saying Aloha to Aztec
Aloha means hello or goodbye and is the common greeting or farewell exchanged in the islands. Christine Johnson was enjoying time in Hawaii when her beloved dog, Aztec, breathed his last. Laurie has also spent time as an islander and continues to be connected through a Hawaiian surf club.
Upon Christine’s return they planned to cremate Aztec. “Christine couldn’t do it. She was too torn up,” explained Laurie. To make the memory special Laurie made a tea-leaf lei using Hawaiian flowers and tea-leaves she grows in her garden. She surrounded Aztec with the lei as a sendoff. “It was so beautiful. We created a ceremony and he was covered in Hawaiian flowers. Christine was really grateful,” says Laurie as she remembers the scene.
From Dogs and Cats to Seals and Sea Lions
“I’ve always loved animals,” describes Laurie as she tells her story of how she connected with Eden Memorial Pet Care. Growing up she volunteered at a Marine Mammal Care rehabilitation center in San Pedro, California. This work led her to a volunteer position at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. Eventually she was offered a paid staff position as a marine animal trainer. She still volunteers, and has logged 23 years with the Aquarium. Laurie enjoys working with seals, sea lions and sea otter and other wildlife who spend time at the aquarium.
“I’d probably bring all the dogs and cats home if I worked for a pet rescue!” exclaimed Laurie. She gets much satisfaction from helping wild animals heal and releasing them back into their habitat.
Her animal work included a stint as a Vet Tech for a practice in Long Beach, where she managed the business. Her life journey brought her to the Central Coast for awhile where she met Christine’s dad, Dr. O, and she helped with the Crematory in the infant stage. “At one point, I was looking for more work and Dr. O connected me with Christine who was building the Crematory business,” explains Laurie.
“I just love Christine to pieces. She is just awesome!” expressed Laurie. Over the years Laurie has stepped in to help manage Eden Memorial Pet Care whenever Christine needs her. For a time, Laurie lived on the Central Coast and was readily available, now she commutes from her home in Long Beach. Laurie takes calls to talk with people who need help processing the loss of their pet as well as meeting with them face-to-face. She is here for you as a personal Pet Bereavement Counselor at Eden Memorial Pet Care.
Photo Credit: Laurie Abshire
Are you prepared to leave your animals in the care of a pet sitter? The Horse and Pet Care Communication Checklist enables you to gather all the vital information you need to communicate all the elements of all your animals’ care to your pet sitter. What if you suddenly had to leave town? Would you be ready for someone to quickly step in and take care of your animals? What if something happened to your horse or pet while you were away? Would your pet sitter know your wishes? This checklist will help you prepare your pet sitter to care for your animals the way you do. Get your Horse and Pet Care Free Checklist here >.