Pet Parents Day Painting Party Supports WPHS!

western pennsylvania humane society logo

WPHS logo

First of all, HAPPY PET PARENTS DAY this Sunday to all those lucky enough to share their lives with loving animal companions.

Second, celebrate Pet Parents Day AND help the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with ceramics for the Pittsburgh Pet Parents Day Painting Party! Celebrate your best friend while helping other pets find their forever homes.

As a fundraiser for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Heal from Pet Loss and Color Me Mine are hosting a painting party on Sunday, April 29 from noon to 6 PM.

color me mine logo

Color Me Mine logo.

Paint a cool food bowl, treat jar, picture frame or memorial plaque for your special animal companion. $15 covers painting and firing time, refreshments, treat bag and a donation to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. There will be a wide range of pieces to choose from to accommodate various price ranges.

Color Me Mine is located at 5887 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15217, Squirrel Hill. Call 412-421-2909 today to reserve your two hour block of time. We may be able to accommodate walk-ins on a space available basis, but pre-register to guarantee your spot!

You are welcome to bring your well-behaved pet and enjoy an outing together.

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

As part of the fundraiser, Karen Litzinger will be doing a CD signing of the award-winning Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet with profits going to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Consider having one on hand to give as a sympathy gift to a dear animal lover friend or family member.

Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet is a sponsor and organizer of this event. I’ve written about her and her wonderful CD several times on The Creative Cat in Heal Your Heart and in A Remarkable CD and Guidebook. Karen’s website is Heal From Pet Loss.

Pet Parents Day was founded by VPI Pet Insurance and this year is offering free e-cards to send to Pet Parents.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is an open-door shelter on Pittsburgh’s North Side serving over 14,000 animals every year. In addition to providing shelter for every animal presented regardless of how it arrived, they provide low-cost spay and neuter and veterinary clinic services, dog training and owner education for any animal parent, humane investigations of animal abuse and cruelty cases, pet loss counseling groups and fun events of all sorts for animals and the people who love them. I donate to them and write about them regularly; read about them here on The Creative Cat.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Animal Sympathy Cards and Pet Loss CD Featured in Post-Gazette

animal sympathy card

Tika, Therapy Dog

When Karen Litzinger let her community of followers know that she had lost her Tika a few weeks ago, and that she and I were offering a donation in Tika’s name through my Animal Sympathy Cards, Post-Gazette Pet Tales reporter Linda Fuoco decided to share the story of Tika and the collaboration between Karen and me.

We are both so honored to be featured in Pet Tales in memory of Tika, and I still treasure the opportunity to be able to work with Karen on her CD, Heal Your Heart. We’re hoping that the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, where Karen adopted Tika, and Animal Friends, where Tika’s Pet Therapy program was based, will get a sizable donation in her memory.

Pet Tales: Grief counselor copes with her own loss

A Memorial to a Loving Dog

animal sympathy card

Tika, Therapy Dog

I received the sad news that I’ve lost another member of my animal community. Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet, called to tell me that her sweet Tika ended her journey just yesterday, March 19.

Tika was an amazing senior dog who Karen adopted after the loss of her two dogs, losses which inspired Heal Your Heart. As she says, she went to the shelter looking for an adult dog but not a senior, especially after the losses of two dogs so close together. But Tika wouldn’t take no for an answer and made herself at home her very first day.

Even as a senior dog, Tika began a new career. Along with her outgoing and playful personality, Tika also had a special talent for drawing people out, especially children, and it wasn’t long before she and Karen were enrolled in the Pet Therapy Program at Animal Friends.

Tika as a model

Tika is also, to date, the only dog in my series of animal sympathy cards. I take very seriously the use of an image for my work bearing my message, especially in my series of sympathy cards. I know my cats and I feel comfortable having their images convey a message. I’ve been photographing dogs and other cats as well, but I don’t feel I know other animals well enough even though I love their images.

I took this photo of Tika when I visited Karen as we were working on the design of her CD. Even though I had just met Tika her personality conveyed a comfort with me, and I felt she saw herself as an ambassador to anyone who would come to her. I can truly say that I saw a loving depth in her warm brown eyes that I didn’t soon forget.

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

The animal sympathy cards

I met Karen and designed the art for her CD in 2009. In April of 2009 my Namir had an incident in his five-year battle with congestive heart failure that told him and me that his time was limited. I met Karen in May and in listening to her CD and designing the cover, with Namir on my lap, I went on a little journey back to my beginnings as an animal lover and to my earliest losses. I finished her CD in mid-June and lost Namir on July 1. During the following month, as part of my process of grief, I decided that I’d finally design the animal sympathy cards I had long planned. I’ve no doubt I would have wanted to design the cards after losing Namir for reasons I’ve explained, but it was my work on the CD that took me on a special journey and truly gave me the long view of that project, beyond the scope of my most recent loss and grief, and working on the CD art helped me to work out some ideas I’d been carrying for years.

Karen agreed that I could use Tika’s image, and I was so happy to have Tika for people to share. People who own dogs will often ask me if I have a card with a certain breed of dog, but dog owners in general are drawn to Tika’s card because her face is so welcoming and her eyes so kind even if she doesn’t look like their dog.

A Trail of Hearts and Paws

A donation in Tika’s memory

So when Karen called me to tell me of Tika’s passing and an idea she had for a donation in Tika’s name from purchases of my sympathy card, I had no doubt I’d help her with her memorial to Tika. We decided we’d not only use the card featuring Tika but also the card inspired by the art for Karen’s CD.

Purchase six of either of these two cards for $10.00, $1.00 of your purchase will be donated to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and $1.00 to the Animal Friends Pet Therapy Program with which Tika was associated. This donation will be made for every set of six cards purchased.

And to make an extra donation, each purchase of one dozen of any of my animal sympathy cards made in addition to a Tika Memorial purchase will donate another $1.00 to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and $1.00 to the Animal Friends Pet Therapy Program.

I am so glad that I decided to use Tika’s image on a card because now Karen knows that Tika will still be out there helping people as she did through life.

Please read Karen’s e-newsletter about Tika which includes lots of wonderful photos of Tika in action as well as more of her story.


My Work is Featured by Karen Litzinger

karen with customer

Karen discusses her CD with a customer.

I’m so flattered—Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet, included mention of my animal sympathy cards and commissioned portraits in her latest e-newsletter.

She’s also local and we often attend the same events, so we recently saw each other at Hot Dogs in the Strip with the Animal Rescue League.

She’ll be facilitating an animal memorial and blessing on Pet Memorial Sunday, September 12 at Peaceful Pastures Pet Cemetery. I’ll be at the Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation remembrance at the same time, so I won’t get to join her there. (A few years ago, who would have thought there’d be this many pet remembrance events?!)

I will be able to see her again in October when she is available for animal blessings on October 3 at Journeys of Life In Shadyside, as a benefit for the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania.

animal sympathy card with dogShe mentioned one animal sympathy card in particular, the only one I currently have featuring a dog photo—it’s her dog Tika!

I take committing an animal’s image to any merchandise seriously. I can ask humans if they mind being the representative of something I create, but animals can’t directly answer that question so I need to intuit their answer. Of course, this works best with my own cats (as if they have a choice).

I don’t feel that I know most other animals well enough, but when I visited Karen and met Tika, who is a therapy dog, I knew instantly that she’d be happy to help heal someone’s grief on the cover of a sympathy card.

animal sympathy card watercolorThe other card she mentioned is the only non-pictorial card. I created the image using the abstract watercolor pattern I created for the back of her CD, working into the electronic version of the original art with PhotoShop and InDesign to create the path of hearts and paws.

She also has some exciting news about four radio interviews she’s had around the country in the last month.

I’m so glad to see Karen’s success with her CD. I’ve given it as a gift to friends who’ve lost their precious companions, and I know it certainly was comforting as I listened to it while I designed the illustrations, knowing Namir and I didn’t have too much more time together; I lost him a month after I finished the illustrations.

You can read Karen’s e-newsletter at her community site on iContact.


Hot Dogs on a Hot Day

my tent at the Animal Rescue league

My tent at the event, before it blew down.

We did have fun baking ourselves on the street last Saturday at Hot Dogs in the Strip with the Animal Rescue League! It was so hot that we had to be careful of the animals—the kitties had to go back to the shelter—and even the humans were hiding inside the hot dog shop, but once the street fell into shade we had many more people to visit.

karen with customer

Karen discusses her CD with a customer.

I was next to my friend Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart, who helped me to set up—and clean up when my tent blew down later in the day! I rarely take the large original paintings here, but when there’s a chance of marketing commissioned portraits it’s best to have a live one on hand. Nothing was broken, and only a frame on one of my photos was damaged in a way that I can use just for display or at home, so no great loss, though I did decide that I would finally purchase a real festival tent, not the cheap thing I’ve used for years and always had problems with.

I also got to meet several people I’d only corresponded with, and also bought a bag of cat food from a holistic practitioner who spent a few years developing her own pet food. I’ll be checking back with her after the kitties finish this bag to talk about her process of developing and manufacturing the food.

dog with flower

Dog with a spray-on tattoo.

One of the vendors was offering spray-on tattoos, and a person had their dogs “tattooed”. Love the big flower! The decorate swirls on the other dog looked so natural that at first I didn’t realize they were a tattoo.

spray on tattoo on dog

Just a small spray-on tattoo.

One of the dogs for adoption was indeed adopted by a couple who came to the event intending to find a dog, and they did. I’m not sure which dog it was because of all the shuffling, but I do know it was one of the pit bull mixes. There are so many in shelters and they are so hard to adopt that it’s always good to see one go home with a family.

martha the owl

Martha the Owl

The animals from the wildlife center had to wait because of the heat as well, so Martha the Demonstration Owl came to visit later in the day. She is a great-horned owl, and was found on the side of a road with a broken wing. She had apparently been coming in for a landing to scavenge some road kill on the berm when a car clipped the end of her wing. She was still alive and not in bad shape, but the wing had begun to heal with the bones twisted inside.

owl and handler

Martha and her handler have a talk.

Martha’s handler explained that avian bones are very lightweight and hollow and can’t be re-broken and re-set as mammalian bones can be, so they just had to let the bones continue healing, but she can’t fly, so she can’t be released. Any animals that are rehabilitated that can’t be released for any reason are kept for the rest of their lives, though not all of them are pressed into service like Martha, though she doesn’t seem to mind.


“Heal Your Heart” Author Takes Things One Step Further

photo of karen litzinger

Karen Litzinger

Last year author Karen Litzinger turned her grief at the loss of her two dogs into an award-winning CD and network of resources.

Now, after completing a specialized training course through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) in May, Karen, already a Licensed Professional Counselor, also offers a unique counseling service specifically for pet bereavement through Heal from Pet Loss.

“I’m excited to move in this direction following producing the Heal Your Heart CD,” Karen says. “In addition to helping people with the depth of their loss at a delicate time, it will help me continue to help others by hearing stories of pet loss grief.”

She completed an internship with the APLB as an online chat room counselor supervised by a psychologist in order to renew her certification with the American Academy of Bereavement as a Certified Bereavement Facilitator. The APLB is the leading major organization in the United States that offers multiple opportunities for pet owners to seek support, like the chat room service founded in 1998.

Karen, Pepper and Zep

Karen, Pepper and Zep

Karen is the only pet loss counselor in the Western Pennsylvania region to complete the specialized instruction and receive the APLB Certificate of Training and is one of only four counselors in Pennsylvania with this training. The APLB, founded in 1997, is the only major organization in the United States that offers a pet loss and bereavement training program operated by a clinical psychologist.

A widening circle of people are finding their pets are increasingly important to family life, and are no longer viewed as “just the dog or cat”, but rather as a member of the family. This makes pet loss more difficult, but the associated grief more accepted. Still, many people don’t understand the depth of grief, and support can be hard to come by. Karen’s pet bereavement counseling practice aims to help the healing process for individuals and families.

Karen started her career over 20 years ago, and founded Litzinger Career Consulting in 2002. She decided to expand her practice following the production of her recently released Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet, a CD and accompanying booklet insert designed to guide pet owners through the process of grieving their deceased pet.

Heal Your Heart wins two book awards

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

In addition, Heal Your Heart recently won the 2010 Pinnacle Award for Best Book in the Category of Animals and Pets in April, as well as the 2010 National Indie Excellence Award for Audio Book Non-Fiction in May.

Following the death of her two dogs within four months of each other, Karen was inspired to create the CD to assist others on the pet loss journey through healing affirmations and practical strategies. She has initiated a non-denominational animal blessing service for a local church and has conducted memorial services as well as working with local shelters in organizing events, such as Pet Parents’ Day for WPHS. Karen has also been a guest on local and national pet-oriented radio talk shows.

More information on counseling services and the CD including reviews and excerpts as well as further resources for healing from pet loss can be found at www.HealFromPetLoss.com.

In addition, I had the honor and opportunity to illustrate the Heal Your Heart CD and Karen and I became friends through this project. I listened to the CD repeatedly in order to adequately illustrate its content, and I can attest to its effectiveness as I was losing my Namir at that time.

I’ve written about Karen and her CD numerous times on The Creative Cat, so please browse these articles:

Pet Loss in the First Person

Pet Loss Support Information

Heal Your Heart After Pet Loss, a Remarkable CD and Guidebook

To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long

Do Animals Have Souls?

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet


Celebrate Pet Parents Day and Support WPHS!

photo of green dog bowl

Dog Bowl painted by Megan Beck.

First of all, HAPPY PET PARENTS DAY to all those lucky enough to share their lives with loving animal companions.

Second, celebrate Pet Parents Day AND help the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with ceramics!

You can participate in one of two ways:

  • If you’re in Pittsburgh, join the Painting Party and CD Signing at Color Me Mine in Squirrel today from noon to 6:00 p.m. Visit Heal From Pet Loss for details and links to a map and the Facebook page for National Pet Parents Day Pittsburgh. You can paint a special food bowl, treats jar, picture frame or other fun item in honor of your special animal companion. $15 will cover appetizers, desserts, drinks, a two hour block of painting time and a contribution to the WPA Humane Society. Ceramic pieces to paint will be offered in a wide range of prices to accommodate everyone’s budget.
  • If you’re not in Pittsburgh or you want to help even more, bid on pieces that were already painted by staff and volunteers at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. As part of the fundraiser an ongoing silent auction of already painted animal-theme pieces is posted April 18 to 25 on eBay. Click here to go to the auction on eBay. (Let’s help them out—at the moment nothing has a bid!).
photo of steelers dog bowl

Steelers fan dog bowl painted by Karen Litzinger.

Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet is a sponsor and organizer of this event. I’ve written about her and her wonderful CD several times on The Creative Cat in Heal Your Heart and in A Remarkable CD and Guidebook.

She’ll be signing CDs at this event and also painted a bowl that’s in the eBay auction. Steelers fans, start bidding!

Karen’s website is Heal From Pet Loss.

photo of painted ceramic bowl

Cat bowl painted by Lee Nesler, Executive Director of WPHS.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is an open-door shelter on Pittsburgh’s North Side serving over 13,000 animals every year. In addition to providing shelter for every animal presented regardless of how it arrived, they provide low-cost spay and neuter and veterinary clinic services, dog training and owner education for any animal parent, humane investigations of animal abuse and cruelty cases, pet loss counseling groups and fun events of all sorts for animals and the people who love them.

So before it gets too much later in the day, head on over to Color Me Mine or visit the eBay auction site to help WPHS and get yourself a new pet-themed item for your collection!


“Heal Your Heart” Author Featured on Wendy’s Animal Talk

Karen, Pepper and Zep

Karen, Pepper and Zep

Karen Litzinger, author of the CD and guidebook Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet, will be the featured guest this Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 4:00 PM EST on Wendy’s Animal Talk, an internet radio program that has over 400,000 listeners weekly.

Karen is a licensed professional counselor and while her main business is employment counseling she has long had an interest in animals and naturally gravitated to grief counseling after the loss of her dogs. Also from that loss came the inspiration to create something that veterinarians could give their clients who had lost pets. Once begun, this project grew into the gentle counseling voice of the CD which offers kind words, a guided meditation, repeated affirmations, readings and more. The CD comes with a booklet that offers more support and resources for pet loss counseling and information.

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

I’ve written about Karen various other times on The Creative Cat including Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet and Heal Your Heart After Pet Loss, a Remarkable CD and Guidebook. I can vouch for the effectiveness of the CD and for Karen’s gentle personality.

The host of the radio program, Wendy Nan Rees, is formerly of Animal Planet’s Pettsburg USA.

Tune in to Wendy’s Animal Talk at healthylife.net. Listeners can call in with comments or questions: 800-555-5453. The show will be repeated at 4 AM EST on Wednesday, April 14 and will be in the archives for three months.


Karen Litzinger, “Heal Your Heart” Are Featured on Pittsburgh’s Talkin Pets

photo of karen litzinger

Karen Litzinger

Karen Litzinger, author of the CD/guidebook Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet, will be the featured guest this Thursday for the nationally streamed radio show, Pittsburgh’s Talkin Pets on KQV AM 1410.

Heal Your Heart features Karen, a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Bereavement Facilitator, reading comforting messages, pet-focused affirmations, and even a guided meditation along with comforting accompanying harp music. The booklet provides supportive suggestions, information explaining the stages of grief and resources such as books and hotlines to assist the grieving person.

In addition to introducing the audience to her CD and discussing how she authored and produced it, Karen will discuss pet loss in general with the hosts. This will be her first appearance, but she will be a featured guest in the future as well.

The weekly radio show covers many topics and is hosted by Nan Cohen of KQV and Carol Boerino-Croft of Cozy Inn Pet Resort and Orchid Spa. Pittsburgh’s Talkin Pets is at 8:00 PM (usually 8:30, and the station website still reflects this) and is scheduled for rebroadcast on Saturday at 3:30 PM.  You can listen to the audio stream from any location at www.kqv.com.

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart was recently reviewed by the prestigious Spirituality and Health Magazine, March-April issue.

Also, in April, Heal From Pet Loss is teaming up with Color Me Mine paint your own pottery studio in Squirrel Hill to host a creative fundraiser for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society in recognition of National Pet Parents Day, hosting a painting party on Sunday, April 25.

Karen will also be a featured speaker at the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement Conference in May. She will be delivering a Guilt and Pet Loss Overview, as she describes:

Guilt is often a natural part of the grieving process. Because of our role as caretaker to a dependent animal, guilt can be even more significant in pet loss than with other losses. Whether we have made real or perceived mistakes, many of us can become stuck in an unforgiving grip of guilt. By understanding the nature of guilt we will be on our way to take back control of our thoughts, feelings and lives. This session will also review multiple strategies to combat guilt, whether for yourself or for people you assist, and will invite strategies from participants. We will take an in-depth look at how to use cognitive psychology principles to examine and reframe negative self-talk as a strategy to overcome guilt, including a hands-on exercise.

I had the honor of illustrating this CD, and I can attest to its effectiveness, and also to Karen’s comforting and gentle nature, and it’s my pleasure to promote Karen and her CD whenever I can. I’ve written about her on this blog in Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet covering the content and creation of the CD, and in Heal Your Heart After Pet Loss, a Remarkable CD and Guidebook covering the more personal aspects of Karen’s journey from the loss of first one dog and then another, turning her experience into a creative effort.

You can also visit Karen’s website at HealFromPetLoss.com, or on Twitter.com type in HealFromPetLoss (all one word) to follow events and activities related to pets and the CD.

For extra interest, check out Cozy Inn’s Zen approach to pet care at www.cozyinnpetresort.com.


Pet Loss Support Information

Sixth in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”

pastel painting of a gray cat on a pink sweater

A Rosy Glow, my Moses, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

If you’ve lost your pet, if the loss is imminent or if your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal condition or you know someone in that position, don’t feel you are alone or that no one cares. As our relationships with our companion animals have become more widely accepted as valid, loving, reciprocal relationships, grieving the loss of your pet has become more widely accepted and even encouraged.

This is not an exhaustive list of possibilities—because there are so many other lists of pet loss information I’ve provided links to main sites and other lists, and focused on the theme of first-person pet loss and and how that loss changed lives and turned into a creative effort.

Support Groups

photo of white cat sitting in sun

Speckle Sally Sitting, my Sally, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

For as much as is available on the internet today, there’s nothing like communicating in person. Sometimes a regular meeting with a local support group can be the most welcome respite from your grief, especially if you begin before you lose your pet because you can learn from the group’s members what to expect, and they’ll understand how you feel when your pet’s time comes. Find a group with whom you can share your fears and feelings, talk about your pets and plan and attend ceremonies.

You’ll find your local animal shelters often offer pet loss support groups as one of their services. Pet-related businesses also sometimes offer support groups or host events honoring our companion animals as do many religious organizations.

Internet Discussion Groups

pastel painting of a cat on a bed

Afternoon Nap, my Stanley on my bed, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Moving to the internet, you can find discussion groups for pet loss in general, and discussion groups for every possible condition your pet could have, often species and even breed-specific. These groups are usually moderated by one or a group of persons and send out a digest of entries each day, and are ideal if your pet is ill or has been diagnosed with a disease because you can share your experiences and information with others dealing with the same condition. The ASPCA has a number of discussion groups including one for pet memorials. You can also check Yahoo groups and Google groups for information.

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