When I first thought of doing this blog a few months ago, not only could I not stop thinking about it, but I couldn’t stop talking about it.
In a sense, sometimes it seems like talking about our pets dying is taboo. You don’t really want to talk to someone who’s suffered a loss because they’re already so broken and yet you don’t want to talk about it when you don’t think it’s near that time, because just thinking about it can break you.
But I read a story online a few months ago about how some companies are starting to offer pet bereavement to their employees.
Now, those who are not “pet people” may not be able to understand, but for those who ever have been pet owners know that absolute devastation and sadness that takes over when your dog, cat, horse, bunny, hamster or even fish die.
While I was on a business trip last year, two of my clown loaches died. Those are fish that are black and orange striped and their lifespan can go beyond 10 years. My mature one was just around that age when he died…or she died, not sure. But my husband didn’t want to tell me until I got home. Because he knew, after feeding the same fish for 10 years, there is an attachment. An attachment via habit? Maybe. But I liked seeing them swim and hang together. They seemed like they loved each other. As soon as I brought the 2nd one home a bout 3 years later, they were attached at the fin. Laugh, but it’s true.
But then there’s Odin. My dog. The dog I got going on seven years ago, when I was tired of arguing with my 14 year old daughter and wanted to come home to someone that loved me. He came home on December 12th zipped up in my sweatshirt. Hand-picked from the single littler of his mother who was owned by one of my husband’s best friends.
I can’t even think about the future without him. It brings me to tears in seconds flat. When his own mother, Sadie died I could hardly keep it together and I drove to the beach and sat on the sand late at night by myself just praying she went peacefully and thanking her over and over again for bringing Odin to me. I cry thinking about it now. And my other dog, Zephyr...she was left at a dump site. By the time someone found her, she and her 3 siblings were close to death, no hair, mange and bellies full of worms. And that's what I'm talking about.... the doctor's office visits, the medicine, the love and dedication in being a pet owner. It's worth it. Every second. Because they are loyal. And all good people who are pet owners would agree.
But that leads me to the point of this blog.
Employers are looking for new ways to bring value to their company and offer benefits that are relevant in today’s society. Before I started writing this, I looked online and just in 2016 alone, there were 12 news stories about companies either considering or have already incorporated this benefit creating a more comprehensive benefit program. The reason why is pet bereavement is no different than human bereavement. Many people really feel this way.
Recently I was at a business meeting and when we took a break, I ended up taking in the fresh ocean air with another professional in my industry who seemed very, I don't know, not stoic and not sad, but just seriously reminiscent and I asked what she was thinking about. She told me that the last time she was at the beach club she was breaking up with a college boyfriend and just after the breakup she got a kitten. She got teary eyed and said that her cat who was 16 years old had just passed away. And she broke down. And all kidding aside, she said although she was sad that her grandmother had also passed just before this, she was equally sad about her cat and thank goodness she had bereavement to help her really come to terms with her cat dying.
The bottom line is many of us have pets that we recognize as our own family. And sometimes, those people in our immediate family are estranged, live far or just become disconnected. And according to the ASPCA, it's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat. These animals live with us, sleep with us, eat with us, travel with us and become staples in our lives. They end up in our family photos, beloved by neighbors and friends and share our experiences.
So, if you're looking for ways to offer new benefits, pet insurance and pet bereavement may be a great combination. The pet insurance can be employee paid, but offer a discount because it's on a group level and the bereavement shows that an employer has a lot of compassion and understanding when it comes to losing a pet.