The History of the APLB: A Legacy from a Dog

In 1987 Wallace Sife, Ph.D. suddenly lost his beloved seven-year-old miniature dachshund, Edel Meister, to congestive heart failure. His own extensive training as a psychologist did not offer any immediate insights, and he suffered greatly. So he turned to the only three books that were then in print on this subject. But he felt disappointed they did not adequately address the emotional issues that really needed to be considered. At that time the recognition of pet bereavement was a newly emerging social phenomenon. Those few early publications seemed to be mostly defensive treatises, trying to prove to the world that this subject was indeed a valid one. Unfortunately, those books did not seem to be designed to help the individual bereaver, searching for immediate help. So as a loving and healing memorial he then wrote The Loss of a Pet, and dedicated it to Edel and “all his soul mates who were beloved, and the good people who mourn our common loss”. Dr. Sife remarks, “This is the book I would have wanted for myself. And my unanticipated new orientation in life was part of his legacy to me.”

The Loss of a Pet won many awards and rave reviews, and required three printings. Then in 1998 Dr. Sife decided to broadly revise and expand it, while also increasing its convenience as a less expensive paperback edition. Numerous thankful letters and calls were received from readers everywhere, appreciating and commending him for this book. And in response to the continuing urging of many local readers, in October, 1997 he founded the APLB. Our first few meetings were held in private homes, and then in a library basement on Long Island, NY. Later, in June, 1998, he created our website. And now there are several hundred loyal members, all across the world. Because our membership and Board of Directors now extend all over the world, those bimonthly sessions are conducted online and via teleconference calls. By popular request we have been holding regional picnics and brunch gatherings, where members can meet, in person. These have been very popular, and will be planned more extensively. As the word gets out about our camaraderie, dedication and effectiveness, more people are joining, every week.

Dr. Sife started our first three-hour chat rooms on Friday nights (New York time). And for the inaugural first few weeks he was frequently alone, playing computer games to keep himself engaged. But a good thing doesn’t remain unnoticed for long, and after six months he had to create a second chat room, on Wednesday nights. And soon after that, a third one – on Sunday afternoons. Now, we have a fourth chatroom, and because of the increasing crowds coming in we are already planning and training hosts for more. Our Sunday chat was also intended to accommodate APLB’s European friends. The Friday chats are convenient to Pacific and Asian countries – as it is Saturday midday, for them. There is a universal need for help and supportiveness, and the APLB was created to serve it. In addition to the thousands who benefited from our chats, Dr. Sife has counseled even more bereavers, individually. This is done as an APLB service at no charge, via Email and telephone calls. He constantly reminds us, “We are all in the same lifeboat, together. And now we are all here for each other.”

After our first year the APLB became incorporated, and later was certified by the US Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, philanthropic corporation. This now allows all dues and donations to be declared as tax-deductible. All work is done by volunteers – with the sole exception of our professional webmaster. APLB membership is very diversified, and it integrates individuals in bereavement, counselors, veterinarians and their technicians, and many others from all backgrounds and professions, who are keenly interested in what we are doing.

We publish an exceptional quarterly newsletter on pet loss and bereavement. Every new edition introduces important issues and fresh viewpoints, which are helpful to anyone involved in this subject. Most of these ideas and perspectives have never before been in print, and represent the latest expertise in pet loss and bereavement. These highly acclaimed newsletters are a benefit that is available only to members of the APLB. And all previous issues are also downloadable to them, online.

Dr. Sife enjoys reminding members that what we have achieved together is a proud monument to all our beloved pets – living, as well as deceased. “We are better people, individually and collectively, because of them.” The APLB offers all possible kinds of help and assistance to individuals in bereavement – as well as professionals in this newly emerging field. Our training program for counselors has been given a few times at our conferences. We now have developed this seminar into a specially designed online class. Members are now able to take this unique training, regardless of their geographical location.

We also send specially prepared guidance material to anyone desiring to organize and manage a pet loss support group. New concepts and issues are constantly developing, and we are determined and eager to rise to every one – actively embodying the collective experience and wisdom of all our members. The APLB welcomes new friends to come join with us. This is the only such organization in the world. The only limitation we recognize is financial. At present our member dues and an occasional tax-deductible donation are our sole means of support. But with IRS certification as a nonprofit philanthropic corporation we hope to find more economic assistance to continue our usefulness and rapid global growth.

We are becoming better people, because of our beloved deceased pets. Individually, as well as an association, they have bequeathed us a new sense of dedication and personal incentive. Here, we honor them and ourselves, as well. The APLB’s flourishing camaraderie and groundbreaking achievements are our finest living memorial to them all.