David Murphree knew that his dog, Grayce, wasn’t long for this world. At 14 years old, she had far exceeded the typical life span of six to eight years for her breed, Blue Great Dane. She was completely blind. “We’re watching the dying process in action,” Murphree said last spring.

But Murphree, 56, felt a little guilty about his grief. “I was really concerned,” he said. “It’s just a dog — it’s just an animal.”

That all changed when he happened to see a flyer for Heel to Heal, a pet loss support group. In just one meeting with facilitator Natalie Crohn, Murphree says, “She really gave me justification for the grief and made me feel that there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Crohn, a licensed social worker, partnered with Arlington Heights Veterinary Hospital to start the support group in January.

Heel to Heal

“I realized that there’s nothing in the community for people dealing with pet loss, and that’s just not something that our society recognizes as a part of grief,” says Crohn, who recently earned a certification from the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, a New Jersey–based organization.

“A lot of times, it’s harder than losing even a human being,” says Crohn. “When a human passes away, we have a memorial, people gather, they bring food, your job recognizes bereavement time. None of that goes on for a pet. When people are extremely attached to their pet, they have no one to turn to.”

Heel to Heal meets the second Wednesday of every month from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Better Day Club at 4211 E. 3rd St. “Some people feel that one meeting meets their needs — they just want to come and share their experience and find out what other people went through with their loss,” says Crohn. “Other support groups I’ve talked to around the country say they’ve had people come for a year or more — it’s one hour a month that they dedicate to talking about their pet that has passed away.”

One meeting, says Murphree, “turned out to be just the right thing for me.”

Registration for Heel to Heal meetings is requested but not required. To register, email or call 812-332-6955.