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The Art of Shifting Gears

Show Notes

Things are going to change around here.

Said not in the tone my father used to say those words …

The topics of grief, loss and pet loss grief are heavy, and I understand that not every episode is easy to listen to, especially if you’re in grief.

It’s taken its toll on me too.

To care better care of myself, we’re rebranding from One Last Network to The Companions Collective and diversifying the content we’re going to offer.

Look forward to discussions on a broader range of pet-related topics, including the profound connection between human and companion animal and the incredible projects my professional pet photographer friends are using to change the world.

Let’s emBARK on this next stage of the journey!

Transcript

Angela Schneider

With every opening of the podcast, you’ve been listening to the dulcet tones of James Fell.

James is my friend from my wayback days in Calgary, Alberta. Otherwise known as the sweary historian who writes history books replete with F-bombs and mothertruckers, he is a dog lover who couldn’t have a dog due to his wife’s allergies.

I somehow just knew – even though I haven’t been in the same room as James for 10 years by the time I launched this podcast in 2022 – that he had the right voice to introduce a show about pets and maybe even grief.

And as much as I love the intro, it’s time for a change.

Compassion fatigue is a very real phenomenon for people who work in the grief industry. Compassion fatigue is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that affects those who care for others. It can lead to a gradual decline in their ability to empathize or feel compassion.

Its symptoms may include feelings of apathy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and a sense of detachment from others. It can lead to burnout and have an impact on personal well-being and professional performance.

Combine all that with the fact I’ve been trying to move forward with my grief over losing my mom in 2022 and things can really get tough.

I thought I could draw upon my experience as a newspaper journalist – the ability to shut my feelings off to get the job done – to consistently manage discussions around grief and pet loss grief and be just fine.

But I’m human.

And I’m not just fine.

I’ve been feeling a lot lately like I’m not moving through my grief well enough, a compounding of my mother’s death with latent or unresolved grief for Shep in 2014 and my dad in 1996. And now I get to add the death of my husband’s mother, supporting my two-legged beloved through this period of losing his mom.

It can all get a tad overwhelming, mustering the energy to offer support or care, finding the energy to give myself support and care, and turning to a podcast to talk about loss, grief and more loss and grief.

It’s brought me to a point where I just don’t want to do it anymore. The podcast, I mean. Supporting my husband and myself are not negotiable.

But the kind words of support for this podcast have not gone unnoticed. People have told me or dropped me messages that the podcast has helped them move through their grief.

That matters to me. I’ve long believed that I don’t have to change the entire world but if I can change the world for one person at a time, it makes a difference in creating a more compassionate, kinder world.

Listening to these episodes gives us a safe and supportive space to process our grief. Hearing other humans’ stories or advice can provide comfort and validation for a type of grief that isn’t always acknowledged in great society.

These episodes have maybe helped us all feel a little less isolated and alone on our grief journey.

Certainly interviewing my experts has served as a valuable tool for self-reflection for me, expanding my knowledge of grief and the process toward healing. I’ve gained insights into my own grief and found ways to honor the memory of Shep and my parents … and how to prepare and plan for the inevitable with Bella, which I hope doesn’t come anytime soon.

But others have told me, “I have to listen to your podcast strategically because the content is so heavy” or “I can’t bring myself to listen, I just don’t think I can get there yet.”

I get it. All you have to do – if you’re a regular listener – is to remember the episodes where I have full-on sobbed into the microphone.

So I don’t want to stop entirely.

Which means the podcast will go on, just with a different sound.

We’ll be diversifying the content beyond senior care and grief topics, offering a wider range of pet-related issues. While grief is an important aspect of pet guardianship, there are so many other subjects we can address and offer guidance and support on: therapy animals, service dogs, training, nutrition, supplements and so on.

It will help me, I hope, move forward in my grief better as I can take breaks from talking about for lengths of time, rather than being immersed in it every day, constantly thinking about the next guest and episode.

And then I can start bringing you the best of me again.

And I can start giving my photography clients the best of me again too.

Pet photography will be central to the subject matter, since it’s a subject about which I am so passionate.

I believe that our dogs – any pet – can be our greatest teachers if we let them. Shep showed me that being myself was A-OK, to shed the opinions of others and to trust the journey. Bella reminds me to be fierce, independent and stubborn about what’s important to me. They both have made me a more patient, more compassionate human.

And I strive to honor all they have taught me by creating a legacy of their lives with my cameras and artwork.

I strive to honor all your dog teaches you by creating a legacy of her life, your relationship, your love together with my cameras and my artwork.

And as I’ve said many times on this podcast, I believe that artwork, the images I create can serve as a source of comfort and solace when our companion animals leave us. The artwork serves as a reminder of the bond we shared and help us to navigate the difficult, overwhelming emotions that come with loss. They can remind us to be grateful for the time we spent together and reassure us that we gave them their best lives, rather than dwelling on the pain of their loss and their absence.

What’s funny is my Big White Dog Photography business in Spokane, Washington, is focused – haha, photography pun – on the lust for life I can only find in adventuring with my dog, the empowerment women feel because of and through their dogs. It has always felt a little incongruent with my other project about pet loss grief.

And so I’ll be bringing you stories about professional pet photographers who have undertaken personal projects that are changing the world, projects that have deep personal meaning to my photographer friends.

We’ll be advocating for pets in ways that support guardians of reactive dogs or finding ways to ease our pets’ anxiety. And we’ll be exploring more deeply this incredible, profound connection between human and pet.

We won’t be leaving the grief world behind entirely. End of life care and pet bereavement support are still going to be important topics to continue exploring. After all, I have two of the top experts in my pocket – Coleen Ellis and Beth Bigler. In fact, I still have one interview with each of them coming up for you.

So by expanding the content to encompass broader themes, I hope to create a more inclusive and comprehensive resource for pet guardians.

And as I embark on this journey of reshaping the podcast, I do so with a heart brimming with gratitude for the support and understanding from each and every listener.

Please feel free to let me know if you would like to share the story of your journey with your pet or if you know of someone who is doing incredible work in the pet realm.

I’ll soon be rebranding the website, which will continue to be a resource to find high quality, end of life pet photographers. And I’ll have a Be Our Guest form to fill out. Or you can drop me a line or two at angela@bigwhitedogphotography.com or slide into my DMs on the ‘Gram at The Companions Collective.

I’ll see you back here soon.

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