By Maggie Sharpe Correspondent – Insidebayarea News – 11/18/2015
OAKLAND — Pet owners grieving the loss of a cherished dog or cat — or any companion animal — are invited to “Forever in My Heart,” the first Chapel of the Chimes pet memorial, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at 4499 Piedmont Ave. Pets are welcome to the free event.
“This is a lovely way for pet owners to have closure on the loss of a beloved pet,” said Allison Rodman, community service consultant for the chapel, which was designed in the 1920s by architect Julia Morgan. “We hope to help take care of the emotional needs of people who are deeply grieving the loss of a pet.”
Rodman said that many of the chapel’s clients want their pets’ cremated remains to be buried alongside them.
“I regretfully have to say ‘no,’ because it’s against the law to bury human and animal remains together,” Rodman said. “This comes as very sad news to people who have deep connections with their pets. The memorial is our way of reaching out to the community we serve and giving people a place to grieve.”
Attendees are encouraged to bring a photo of their pet or other special memento to place on the community altar. The guest speaker and co-organizer of the memorial is Francine Brevetti, author of “Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts — the Joy of Sleeping with Critters.”
“I became interested in people who sleep with their pets after my dog, Lola, passed away,” said Brevetti, who now owns Dante, a poodle-Bichon mix, and a cat called Mei Mei, meaning “little sister” in Mandarin. “I used to sleep with Lola, and when she passed away I missed her a lot. So I decided to research other animal lovers who sleep with their pets.”
She said she found hundreds of reasons online why you shouldn’t sleep with your pet, but that didn’t jibe with her personal experience. The result: a book with 75 anecdotes about people who do sleep with their pets — including a rabbit, parrot, rat, boa constrictor, horse and a pig.
“I didn’t interview them personally, but I read that Paris Hilton sleeps with her potbelly pig,” Brevetti said. Another online article describes how George Clooney sometimes slept with his 300-pound pig, Max, which he owned for 18 years.
Brevetti will address the hard decisions pet owners must make when it comes time to euthanize a pet — and the hard questions after the animal’s passing, such as “Should I keep my pet’s remains?” or “Should I get another pet? It was so painful to lose this one.”
“My answer is ‘yes,’ get another pet when you are ready — there are so many animals at shelters in need of a home,” Brevetti said.
Other guest speakers at the memorial include registered nurse and social worker Jill Goodfriend, a grief recovery specialist who will talk on “Facing Pet Loss and Recovering.” Goodfriend offers grief counseling and a monthly support group for those grieving a beloved pet through Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. Animal chaplain and communicator Rev. Nancy Schluntz will also speak about the pain of losing a pet.
“People sometimes feel more joy with the unconditional love of an animal friend and more pain and grief over their loss than they do with their human counterpart,” said Schluntz, who felt this experience personally when she lost her mother and her dog within a month of each other. “My dog was a wolf-bear shaman wrapped in dog fur and my daily companion. The depth of grief for my dog was stronger than for my mother, who had not been part of my daily life for many years. Nobody understood my grief.”
The pet memorial will also include a presentation by somatic psychotherapist and yoga teacher Sylvia Wenniger, a naming ceremony with bell ringing, breakout discussion groups, a vendor fair and tea and sweets provided by Chapel of the Chimes.
When: 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 94611
Information: www.oakland.chapelofthechimes.com and go to “Community Events” or call Allison Rodman at 510-593-6978