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Counselor offers tips for dealing with sudden loss of pets

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Jan 16 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 17 2013 05:50:26 PM CST

A Reading woman is grieving after losing almost everything in a house fire, including her four dogs.

READING, Pa. -

A Reading woman is grieving after losing almost everything in a house fire, including her four dogs.

Betsy Rosa wasn't home when the fire engulfed her Centre Avenue home Wednesday night.

"I lost my home," said Rosa.

She was visibly upset from learning that, while her human family was safe, she lost her four Chihuahuas, which were like her children: Gordo, Bravo, Diva and Ruby.

"My dogs died," said Rosa.

Neighbors who were also affected by the fire said they know how much the dogs meant to Rosa.

"They were puppies. They were adorable. They were four, well not puppies, but they were little dogs and everybody loved them," said Edna Barbitta.

A grief counselor said people can belittle someone's grief when it comes to a pet and say, "It's just a dog."  She said that can be detrimental to someone's healing.

"Loss is a loss, and we send sympathy cards and we do things for people, but when it comes to our companions, our animals, we tend not to recognize that loss," said Linda Kennedy Hassel, a licensed clinical therapist.

Kennedy Hassel said the best thing someone can say in a situation like this is, "I'm thinking of you."

"They deserve as much care and as much consideration as anyone else who might be hurting," said Kennedy Hassel.

Rosa is obviously hurting, and the grief counselor said it could be for a long time considering the compounded trauma she experienced.

"I don't have anything," said Rosa.

But if she has a friend who will listen, the therapist said she can begin to heal.