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The Ponderosa Pet Resort fire: Why we all feel a sense of loss

Pets often become beloved family members, which makes their deaths all the more heartbreaking.

AUSTIN, Texas — The loss of a beloved pet in such a tragic manner, in which 75 dogs perished in a fire at the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown on Saturday, has caused an outpouring of sympathy and, in some cases, grief, even from those who were not directly affected by the loss of their pet.

Psychologist Dr. Frances Douglas, who serves as president of the Texas Psychological Association, said because we often bond with our pets, many have experienced the weekend tragedy as though it happened to them. 

“I think it's easy for people in the community who didn't lose an animal, but who read about it or heard about it, and to experience vicarious trauma just from imagining that that might have been their pet,” she said. “People love their dogs. Dogs have a very special place in this community, and I think everybody that hears about this tragedy is impacted, and it's not just people who have lost a pet this way who would be grieving. They might also be traumatized.” 

Dr. Douglas said we shouldn’t ignore our feelings, however painful they might be.

“What I would advise people to do is to take care of themselves, to recognize that that's what this is, that there are other people sharing this experience with you. Don't isolate, talk to other people about it, take care of yourself. And don't think that you're crazy because you're having a reaction like that. It's totally normal, and the best thing you can do is talk about it and reach out to other people,” said Douglas.

Dr. Douglas said the Spicewood Springs Animal Hospital holds weekly support groups for people who are grieving over the loss of a pet.

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