The loss of a pet

The bond shared by humans and their animals is indescribable. The grief resulting from their loss profound. What is it about these wet nosed and furry pawed creatures that touch us so deeply? Is it their ability to without words communicate genuineness and gratitude? Is it their ability to lower our inhibitions or perhaps their silliness that lifts our spirit?

Minnie the Therapy Yorkie

Minnie the Therapy Yorkie

I have the privilege to work along Minnie the therapy Yorkie. Her presence in client sessions is invaluable particularly when working with traumatized clients. As my pet, she brings me joy and laughter. She’s always there waiting at attention to see if I will toss the ball or play chase. She’s such a goofball, but don’t let her diminutive size fool you, she’s a terrier, a hunter and my guardian angel. Minnie is also my rainbow fur baby. Many years before her, I had Lolita a beautiful apple head tea cup chihuahua.

Lolita was my soul mate.  When she died, a piece of me died too. Till this day when I talk about her my eyes well up. What made her so special was how empathic she was. When I was sad she was sad, when I was happy so was she. After her death I was unable to connect with any other dog and didn’t think I would have another as a pet, her loss and my grief were too deep. What made the difference as I grieved her was the support of understanding friends.

Many pet parents suffer the loss of a beloved pet alone and in silence due to the embarrassment of acknowledging the impact pets have in our lives. Many pets have long lifespans of over 20 years or more!  The grief resulting from the loss of a pet is not to be taken lightly and it should be no cause for embarrassment.

Many pet parents schedule their day around their pets’ routines, we socialize, exercise and depend on them for assistance with medical issues and emotional issues. Other animals we form bonds with include service animals, dogs who are part of law enforcement, search and rescue teams and military dogs trained for special missions. There are even dogs who are companions for other wild animals to aid in the wild animal’s conservation. Their value and impact in our lives should not be underestimated.

Acknowledging the significance of the loss of your pet and its impact in your life moves you toward working through the grief. Finding supportive persons are not only sounding boards, they are often like-minded individuals who have mourned a pet and can direct you to resources to help fill the voids left by the loss. The following list compiled by Best Friends Animal Society has resources that may be helpful when dealing with pet loss. They include hotlines, support groups, websites, web pages, web articles and books.

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by Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW

If you are having issues with grief, anxiety, panic and depression, Minnie and I, are here to help. We at Central Counseling Services Murrieta, look forward to journey with you on your path to mental wellness. For appointments, I may be contacted at 951-778-0230. We are located at 29970 Technology Drive #116 Murrieta, CA 92563.

Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW joined Central Counseling Services as a therapist in 2018. She is a graduate of California State University Long Beach School of Social Work where she earned her Master in Social Work with a concentration in older adults and families (OAF). She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW#69056) and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California since 2015. She is fluent in Spanish.

Ms. Anaya-Baca has experience working with a wide range of individuals and settings. Prior to entering private practice, she practiced as a clinical medical social worker with individuals and families facing life-limiting illness in the area of home health, palliative care and hospice. Susana is a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately

All information, content, and material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any health care related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. The information presented should not be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health related advice or provide a basis to delay consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. You should not use any information presented to initiate use of dietary supplements, vitamins, herbal and nutritional products or homeopathic medicine, and other described products prior to consulting first with a physician or healthcare provider. Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW disclaims any liability based on information provided.

Symptoms of Dementia


Dementia: What is it? Why hasn’t my doctor addressed it?


What’s confusing about dementia is that it’s not actually a disease by itself. Rather, it’s a collection of symptoms such as impairments to memory, communication and thinking.

While the likelihood of having dementia increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Before we had today's understanding of specific disorders, "going senile" used to be a common phrase for dementia ("senility"), which misunderstood it as a standard part of getting old. We simply assumed as we aged we would lose our memory and it was normal. Some mild cognitive impairments such as poorer short-term memory can happen as a normal part of aging (we slowly start to lose brain cells as we age beyond our 20’s). This is known as age-related cognitive decline, not dementia, because it does not cause the person or the people around them any problems.

Dementia describes two or more types of symptoms that are severe enough to affect daily activities. The leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia can also be caused by brain damage incurred from an injury or stroke, and from other diseases like Huntington’s, Vascular Dementia, Cruetzfeld-Jacob Disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, Lewy body dementia, Mixed dementia, and Korsakoff Syndrome.

Why is Dementia not addressed by physicians?

First, if you or a loved one are concerned about memory loss, you have to say it. Clearly. Provide some examples to illustrate your concern. Then, be aware of the following:

•  Dementia symptoms can be so subtle initially that your loved one will acclimate to them, as will you.

•  Patients frequently recognize they are having symptoms, and are so scared by them that they won’t tell anyone. The stigma and fear of dementia is so great they won’t tell their doctor- or you.

• Doctors may not know they are seeing dementia. They may not know all the symptoms because you haven’t written them down, and when you arrive it’s so overwhelming that you forget some of what you wanted to say.

• Doctors may see the symptoms separately, and misdiagnose. Depression mimics many of the early stage symptoms. Patients may react badly to being told this is “all in their head.” It really is in their head, but it’s dementia. And some dementias are accompanied by depression because of the impact on the brain. Lewy Body is one of those.

• You may not get the referrals you need because you didn’t know to ask for them. You should have a neurology referral, at a minimum, to a specialist in dementia and cognitive disorders.

• Symptoms can increase and change in an hour or a day or a month. If a patient has already been sent home being told this is normal aging or depression, they are unlikely to want to return to try again and to have to list more symptoms in the hope that they will be heard and listened to. LIST EVERY SINGLE SYMPTOM. DEMENTIA AFFECTS THE BRAIN, WHICH REGULATES THE ENTIRE BODY. YOU MAY NOT KNOW YOU ARE SEEING A SYMPTOM.

• Some doctors do not want to tell your loved one they have dementia. Dementia is not treatable like other illness. There are some medications that have a chance to slow it down for a time, but decline is inevitable. Doctors, like the rest of us, don’t like facing that some things are simply hard to accept, and that they can’t fix them. They want to keep patients positive and hoping for the best so they fight the symptoms. It’s done with the best of intentions, but families need to know if they are facing difficulties, and patients need to know this is real.  

We are here to help. If you or a loved one are trying to cope with the onset of dementia and the stress it creates, we have an expert at CCS who can provide support, education, and a safe place to talk. Call us.