Ben's Bells: Comforter of Grieving Pet Owners is Lauded
By Kimberly Matas
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.31.2009
The recipient of this week's Ben's Bell is Dorothy Murphy, who comforts grieving pet owners after the deaths of beloved animal companions.
Murphy was nominated by her friends Diana Leonard and Jamie Williams.
Wrote Leonard in her nomination: "Dorothy is the power of kindness."
Leonard also wrote: "Dorothy's business is helping people say goodbye to their beloved pets, day and night, seven days a week. It is an emotionally difficult business. She is there for people in their darkest hour. She arrives with flowers, a poem, a gentle touch; yet remains a respectful distance, allowing the grieving person time and space to say their goodbyes."
Leonard was on vacation when her dog Squirt was killed by a coyote that jumped the fence around the yard. Murphy, who runs Small Animal Services, went to the home to console the pet-sitter and make arrangements for Squirt, a poodle-terrier mix, while Leonard rushed home from her trip.
Williams met Murphy several years ago. Williams had long been caring for her elderly, diabetic cat, Tinkerbell. When the 20-year-old cat's condition deteriorated, Williams asked the vet to make a home visit to euthanize Tinkerbell, and she called Murphy to pick up the remains.
"When Dorothy came to my door, she had flowers and a poem and she gave me a big hug and she was very respectful and she made a horrible situation as bearable as possible. The way she wrapped up my little kitty's body and carried her out, she made me feel my kitty was properly respected. I was so impressed with the way Dorothy handled it and the way she gave me so much comfort at that time.
"She's one of the most giving, loving, generous people I've ever met in the world. She helps people and animals and she has a big, kind heart. She's a really incredible person."
The next week, when Murphy returned with Tinkerbell's cremains, Williams invited her in for coffee and the women struck up a friendship.
"She's one of those people I would trust with my life," Williams said. "It's hard to describe because you don't meet people like this every day that you know are good through-and-through. She's an angel with a huge heart and she deeply cares about people and animals."
Murphy, who volunteers her time to Sun Sounds of Arizona, Access Tucson, Equine Voices horse rescue and other organizations in Southern Arizona, has been operating what she calls "a heartfelt service" for more than 15 years, informing people of their options after the death of a pet.
"I've been around animals my entire life and I was taught respect for others and respect for animals from an early age," Murphy said. "I was probably 3 and my grandfather was laying on the floor talking to his 26-year-old cat." When she asked her grandfather why he didn't sit in a chair with the cat on his lap, "he told me that it was more comfortable for the cat on the floor."
It was her introduction to thinking about the world from the companion animal's perspective.
Murphy has her own furry, feathered and scaly family to care for that includes rescued dogs, cats, horses, birds, a rabbit, a tortoise and the most recent addition, a baby pygmy goat.
"What I do in my work, it's not about me. I just want to help somebody through a really difficult time. I had a difficult time when I lost my 14-year-old dog (Percy) back in 1977 and there wasn't anyone there to help me through it," said Murphy, who picks up deceased pets from veterinary offices and private homes.
"I couldn't do what I do without the support of my friends. I have a group of phenomenal people in my life to give me love and encouragement that allows me to do what I do," she said.
Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 520-573-4191.