Recently I've connected with a new friend, Elaine Pritchard from Winnie's Dog Blog. She told me about her website, Lost and Fond, created for people dealing with the loss of a pet.
I've lost several faithful friends, the most recent our yellow lab Hudson, and it is never easy. Elaine is so kind, and so empathetic that I knew this site must be a great comfort to many people. So I wanted to find out more about Lost and Fond.
Me: Tell me a little bit about your website, Lost & Fond.
Elaine: Lost & Fond is a way for people to share memories of pets they have loved and lost, both recently or years ago. I respect that it's a very personal decision when (or even if) people want to share their stories and pictures, but I know that for some it has brought great comfort.
On L & F people can create a free memorial page and log in as often as they want to add and edit their content, add or delete pictures and memories or add a virtual gift. I set out to create an atmosphere that was respectful but not morbid as I think it's about CELEBRATING the lives of the pets who will always have a home in our hearts and minds.
I also include regularly-updated news and features on the website which highlight pet charities and projects, campaigns and news that I hope is interesting to pet lovers.
Me: What inspired you to start Lost & Fond?
Elaine: For a couple of years I had a job running an online obituary website for a major UK newspaper publisher and it always made me very sad when people asked if they could create an obituary for their pet and I had to say 'no' - because that was the company's rules. When people told me their pet was a member of their family I knew just what they meant.
My husband and I had both been journalists for years and worked long hours so having a dog was never practical. So when I got the opportunity to leave the 'rat race' and work for myself last year the first thing I did was get myself picked by Winnie the Greyhound to be her new 'mum' and the second thing was to create L& F.
Me: What memorial on Lost & Fond touched you the most?
Elaine: That's hard because they all touch your heart. It's easy to empathise with the sentiments behind every tribute and I do sometimes have a little cry - but I find the tributes really positive and life-affirming. It helps you realise that you are never alone in how you are feeling and it shows how much our lives are enriched by the pets that love us so unconditionally.
If I had to pick just one it would be Tipp, a beautiful rescue dog who I'd seen compete several times in heelwork to music. Tipp's bond with Kath was incredible. I was honoured when Kath wanted to share her memories and pictures on L & F. There are lots of images of Tipp on her page and her love of life seems so real to me when I look at them.
Me: How does this site help pet causes/charities?
Elaine: I didn't want to charge people to use the site, but I thought there was an opportunity to perhaps encourage those who could afford it to donate to a charity in memory of their pet when they created a tribute. I also thought if I could get enough people to visit the site I could perhaps make some money from advertising to boost charity funds.
The first partnership I have launched is a pet artist Jane West who will donate money to my charity of the year for every commission she receives through the site. There are two more services launching soon, and hopefully more in the future. But I am keen to keep writing about what charities are doing and raising awareness of their issues so you will regularly find articles and links on the site to a whole range of animal charities and rescues large and small.
Me: Your charity of the year this year is the Rhodesian Ridgeback Welfare Trust Charity. What are their needs and how do donations help these dogs?
Elaine: Yes, the RRWT won a public vote through the website earlier this year, so they will get money the site raises for 12 months up to the beginning of August 2012.
I've met with the RRWT and learned a lot more about this breed in recent weeks. The RRWT is a charity that works hard to educate people about the needs of this breed and encourage responsible ownership. They also put a huge amount of time and effort into supporting owners to give their dogs the best possible life and of course rescuing and re-homing Ridgebacks in need. The donations we raise will help the RRWT continue with its great work. Their volunteers will stop at nothing to help a Ridgeback in need as this story, with a wonderful happy ending for a dog on 'death row' shows.
Me: What advice can you give to those grieving the loss of a pet?
Elaine: I think the key thing is to take things at your own pace and know that however you 'feel' is not wrong. People talk about the cycle of grief and in some circumstances there are periods of anger and resentment to work through. If you have friends and family who you can lean on - lean on them. If they are real friends they will understand and step up to the mark.
It seems so hard that our pet's lives are so much shorter than ours, but I take comfort from a little anecdote I once heard. A boy who had lost his dog told his friends (with a wisdom beyond his years) that he felt that people had to spend a lot of time growing up and learning how to live good lives and love everybody and be nice - but dogs already know all that so they don't have to stay here so long.
Visit Lost and Fond, and maybe share about a special pet in your life, and check out the pet cause of the year.
Thank you Elaine for sharing with us and for the great work you do on Lost and Fond. And hugs to Winnie too!