Published by The Barre Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald
“Mourning lost pets together helps heal”
BARRE — JD Green, the well-known radio personality who has had a longtime morning show on Froggy 100.9, lost his best friend, Buddy, not quite a year ago, last August. His dog, a black lab/shepherd mix, had been by his side for 16 years, and they had been through all of life’s ups and downs together. Losing Buddy, who came into Green’s life as a 10-week-old puppy, was more than Green could bear. The grief was crippling.
The final months of Buddy’s life were heart-wrenching, and losing him broke Green’s heart, leaving him with such despair that he felt he needed time away from the station. His girlfriend, CharilynWilliams, began searching for a support group to help her grieving boyfriend, and herself, through the difficult loss.
When Williams began searching for a support group for those who had lost a pet, anticipating that Green and she both would benefit from one, she could not find one in the region.
“The idea came to us to start a local pet bereavement group when I was searching ahead of putting our beloved Buddy down, for someone or somewhere we could go to help with both our individual and combined grief that we were experiencing, and about to experience,” Williams explained. “We found there was nothing available but the typical 1-800 numbers that sent you to a stranger who knows where?”
Green said the Froggy listeners, who he has shared his life with for 14 years since moving here from West Hartford, Connecticut, “were very familiar with Buddy. I would talk about him all the time. … He would spend a lot of time in the studio with me when I was on the air doing the morning show all these years, so the listeners were very familiar with him. I would tell stories about him on the air. He was very well known for doing adventures and hiking with me — I spoke of him often as if he were another human,” Green shared in an interview this week. “I don’t have any kids, so Buddy was kind of like my child. Buddy just aged and aged over the years. He stopped climbing mountains with me. … A year ago in August is when he passed away.” “I was very traumatized” by losing Buddy, said Green, “and my girlfriend was with me when Buddy died, and she was trying to help me. I took some time off from work, from doing the morning show. You have to have personality and be light (to be on the air) and it was a pretty dark time for me,” Green said. “I was losing my best friend, and I was struggling with it. Everything I knew for 16 years … and we had just done so much together,” was changing, and he was struggling to cope with the loss, he explained.
“There wasn’t a pet bereavement group anywhere, and “The only way that we’re going to be able to go to one is if we start one,” said Green. “It was mostly her idea,” Green said of Williams, who is a paralegal in Montpelier.
“So we came up with the name PAWS,” he said of the support group they founded, which meets in a space donated by the VFW in Barre on Route 302.
The group met Wednesday, and will next meet Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 5:30 p.m. Green promotes PAWS both on the air, through an email blast, and in his “Beyond the Dog” column featured in The Times Argus/Rutland HeraldSunday Magazine to spread the word to anyone who may benefit from attending the support group. The group began in the late fall.
PAWS is not an acronym, it just is the group’s name, continued Green. “It doesn’t stand for anything. It’s mostly because my whole kind of theme for my dog has always been his pawprint. I’ve had professional photos taken of the underside of his paw, and it is the cover of a book I have been writing for a couple of years, a memoir of my life with my dog called ‘Beyond The Dog,’ so the whole paw thing has always been that they leave an impression on your heart … the print of a pawprint-type concept.”
Of the pet bereavement support group, Green said it has helped both him and Williams, and those they have brought together. “It’s had a profound effect,” he said. “We’ve had people come in who are just as bad as I was. … When you’re going through something like this at the time, you think, ‘No one could have possibly loved their dog as much as I did,’” he said. “This whole PAWS bereavement group has shown me that I was wrong. … People suffer just as much as I did, and grieved just as much as I did. When you don’t know that other people are going through it, you’re the only one. It was incredible for people to come through the door,” he said of the support that people found in one another.
“It’s like the death of a family member,” said Green. “We can’t really put to words how much we love our pets and the meaning that they have in our lives, and it’s had a fantastic effect on the people who have come through the doors, people have come in in really rough shape, and a few months later, they’re able to get another pet,” he said. Williams said the group has definitely helped people.
“We have witnessed the difference we have made in people’s losses and grief,” she said. “At first, people are naturally very shy, so we try to encourage them to tell us a story about their beloved pet and if they are still too uncomfortable, we usually start with our story. Once people see how we feel and felt about Buddy, they are like, ‘OK, I can do this; they do understand,’” she explained. “Then the floodgates open, and there are stories of happiness, sadness, there is laughter, anger, tears of joy and tears of pain, but everyone comes out of it feeling a little less alone.”
For more information, email JD Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.