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ReCHAI to Host Memorial for
Pets That Have Passed

Francesca Tocco understands the pain of losing a pet.

“I have lost my fair share of four-legged, winged and scaled family members,” said Tocco, a doctoral candidate in the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing and the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “The losses have knocked me down, shaken me at my core and altered the bedrock of my day-to-day life. However, I've learned that those losses feel so monumental because I've truly connected with my furry family members.”

In an effort to help people work through their unique emotions after losing their pets, Tocco designed the Together In Grief, Easing Recovery program. The program assists with many aspects of companion animal loss, including family counseling, resources to help people cope with the loss of an animal and training for veterinary clinicians and students.

To honor the lives of animals who have passed, the TIGER program will offer the third annual Companion Animal Memorial Event at 11 a.m. May 2 at the Adams Conference Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine, 1600 E. Rollins.

“Memorialization is a very special part of the grief process,” Tocco said. “It can be comforting to be in a room with like-minded individuals who recognize that a pet can be a family member and a best friend.”

The loss of pets due to death is inevitable given their shorter lifespans when compared to their human families. Many people experience this loss with an expression of grief similar to that as when a human family member dies. The memorial event is designed to help owners celebrate the lives of their deceased companion animals while moving through the grieving process, gaining closure and connecting with the memories associated with their departed companion animals.

Speakers at the event will include Carolyn Henry, DVM, MS, associate dean for the CVM Office of Research and Graduate Studies and a professor of veterinary oncology, and Chad Johannes, DVM, medical director for Kansas City, Kansas-based Aratana Therapeutics Inc., a pet therapeutics company.

Participants are encouraged to bring a memento of their pet to share during the event.

“All who have ever loved a companion animal know the pain of losing them,” said ReCHAI Director Rebecca Johnson, RN, PhD, FAAN. “Our memorial event gives people a chance to remember, to share and to heal.”

Johnson is also a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing.

In addition to the memorial, the TIGER program has recently formed a pet loss support and grief group. Upcoming meetings are scheduled for 2 to 3 p.m. on April 11, April 25, May 9 and May 23 at the Adams Conference Center.

For more information about the memorial event or other TIGER program activities, contact Tocco at 823-9405 or

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Last Update: February 29, 2012