By NALA Klein (with assistance from SCOUT at the Rainbow Bridge)
Once upon a time there was a small black-and-tan Dachshund , who was adopted by Sarasota residents Monique Michaud and Larry Casto. They named their new puppy BENTLEY. The cute little puppy was their four-legged angel. He was very special to them and became an important member of the family.
As BENTLEY grew older, Monique and Larry rescued another Dachshund to keep BENTLEY company. BENTLEY and LEXINGTON played together and were very happy pooches.
Tragically, at the age of 11, BENTLEY was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed away in August 2009. “There was nothing we could do,” Monique remembers. “When BENTLEY was diagnosed with cancer, it was like losing a son and a best friend all at once.” Larry and Monique’s hearts were broken.
It wasn’t until BENTLEY’S death that Larry truly understood the pain and sorrow that people experience when a beloved pet passes.
Just five months after BENTLEY went to the Rainbow Bridge, LEX, as she was affectionately called, developed doggy dementia. She soon joined BENTLEY at the Rainbow Bridge. Now BENTLEY, LEX and SCOUT are all together in heaven. They have become good friends. “they are happy and they play.” Of course, MANDIE and thousands of treasured dogs and cats are happy and they play.
When BENTLEY left them, Monique and Larry tried in vain to find a local support group to help them cope with their grief. They spoke with a grief counselor. In trying to find help, they discovered that there was nothing in the area that specifically provided support and comfort for those dealing with the loss of a pet, So, they decided to start BENTLEY’S HOUSE PET LOSS SUPPORT GROUP, to celebrate the life of their beloved BENTLEY.
The support group meets on the third Thursday of every month from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Unity Church of Sarasota, located at 3023 Proctor Road in Sarasota, Florida. Although the meetings are held at a church, the founders of the pet loss support group are quick to emphasize that BENTLEY’S HOUSE is an independent group, not a religious organization. They meet in the church’s community room, not in the sanctuary. The church generously allows the use of their facilities to host the meetings.
Although not religious in nature, there is a powerful spiritual connection, one with another.
“The room is filled with warm, wonderful people that understand pet loss and grief. Everyone respects each other’s emotions and it gives everyone an opportunity to express their feelings. For many, the loss of a pet is as painful as losing a family member or a close friend.” My Mommy and Daddy always tell me how much they miss SCOUT. SCOUT sent me to them, so they wouldn't be so sad.
Reverend Amy Zehe, Associate Minister at Unity Church of Sarasota, who has been instrumental in helping to develop the foundation for BENTLEY’S HOUSE and get the support group off the ground, agrees. “We know how many wonderful memories and stories our pets offer us. But, for some people it’s difficult to share this kind of loss or express how important it is. That’s what we focus on at the support group meetings.”
With years of experience as a spiritual counselor for hospice in Bradenton, Florida, Reverend Amy knows how to help people deal with their grief and how to guide them to successfully move through the experience of loss. Reverend Amy adds. “My role is to be here to provide support and give attendees handouts with information that will help them deal with their grief. It’s important to let people know that it’s okay to mourn the loss of a pet.” Reverend Amy continues, “If someone has to put a pet down, the support group can help them move through that experience.”
BENTLEY’S HOUSE isn’t just for people who have lost pets, but for those who have no one to talk to about a cherished pet who is ailing or aging and may soon die. As people share the experiences of others, they have a better idea of what to expect when the time comes to say goodbye.
Reservations at BENTLEY’S HOUSE are not required. Walk-ins are welcomed with open arms. And while there is no fee to participate in the support group, donations are accepted to help promote the pet loss support group within the community.
It’s a quiet, peaceful and friendly haven that allows everyone to express their feelings without fear of misunderstanding or judgment.
For more information about the support group, please call 941-955-3301, Ext. 23