Animal Ministry Career – What Does a Pet Loss Chaplain Do?

Animal Chaplain, Sid Korpi

An animal ministry career is unique and fulfilling! Learn what a pet loss chaplain does in this job description. If you’re thinking about a career that involves pets – dog training, animal rescue, or veterinary jobs – you can’t miss this career profile.

“I offer in-person or online grief support, and post stories and pictures of pets who have passed away on my blog’s memorial page,” says pet loss or animal chaplain Sid Korpi. “Much of what I offer I do so free of charge.”

Korpi works with people to help them prepare for, cope with, and move on after pet loss. She says her work is more of an “avocation” than a “pet job” or ” animal career.”

Here’s how she describes working with people who loved and have lost animals…

Animal Ministry Career – What Does a Pet Loss Chaplain Do?

Since she often works for free, Korpi requests free-will offerings for services such as accompanying people and their pets to euthanasia appointments, doing group animal blessings, conducting pet loss support groups, speaking to groups about pet loss, and writing and delivering pet funeral or memorial services.

There is currently no standardized definition of animal chaplaincy. Some people bring different things to the table, such as animal communication and energy healing. Only a few websites claim to offer training these types of pet related careers.

Korpi researched and wrote  Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss — and in doing so learned more on her own than most organizations offer as training for this type of career. For instance, one website requires $300 for their “curriculum”, which requires people to read four books and write reports. Then, the website sends a piece of paper saying you completed their animal training course. Be careful of “training programs” like that!

Korpi adds that anyone who does grief counseling or other professional ministerial work can easily segue into animal chaplaincy.

The Best Parts of This Animal Career

“I truly enjoy hearing the heartfelt response of people who say what I’ve done or written has helped them navigate the darkest days of their lives,” Korpi says. “I want to help them view pet loss and death as a transition, not to be feared. It is an honor and privilege to be with their companion animals in this most poignant of life passages.”

Pet euthanasia can be a peaceful end to a pet’s suffering. It can help the owner take a first step toward healing his or her heart.

“I also enjoy hearing that I helped someone who was stuck in grief, who was too afraid to love again, to adopt another animal,” says Korpi.

The Downside of a Career in Animal Ministry

“Oddly enough, the very thing I love about this job, supporting someone through his/her pet’s passing, is also what I dislike the most,” says Korpi. “I cry my eyes out right along with the owner. In one case, I told the vet, referring to the pet owner who was a friend of mine, that I was there to ‘do his crying’ because he stuffs his emotions.”

Korpi says that the day she stops crying over other people’s pet loss is the day she should get out of the business. “I may not have known the animal or even the person for very long, but compassion spurts out of me unbidden sometimes,” she says. “I often cry because the moment is profoundly beautiful, even more than because it is sad. Either way, it is quite emotionally draining even as it is spiritually uplifting and life-after-death affirming”

She also struggles with the fact that there isn’t a set wage or salary in this pet job. “Working as an animal chaplain is unbelievably enriching in intangible ways, and I have to assume I’m amassing quite a number of karma points,” she says. “But at this point, I know of no one who can support him or herself doing animal chaplaincy alone.”

One of the veterinarians I interviewed had a similar perspective on holistic animal care. To learn about working in holistic animal care, read his  Veterinarian Job Description.

The Biggest Surprise About Helping People Cope With Pet Loss

“Anyone who knows me knows I am such a renowned ‘wuss’ because I can’t even watch a movie with an animal that’s in jeopardy without sobbing for weeks,” says Korpi. “And here I am volunteering to help euthanize animals! Writing my grief book was necessary, as I lost my mother, stepfather, uncle, three dogs, two cats, cockatiel and my 15-year marriage over just a few years’ time.”

Korpi’s experience with grief triggered a strength she never knew she had. It’s been an “amazing transition” for her.

Career Tips for Animal Lovers

“Work with pets because your heart and soul compels you to, not because you’re hoping to get rich,” she says. “If you’re interested in animal chaplaincy, you must love animals above almost everything else. You must be seeking to live your life on a slightly higher plane of existence. That means the earthly rewards may be few, but the spiritual ones abound.”

A similar job is working as a funeral director, planning memorial services for people who have lost loved ones.

Sid Korpi, author of Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss: Personal and Professional Insights on the Animal Lover’s Unique Grieving Process, lives in Minneapolis, Minn., with her hubby and their menagerie consisting of eight rescued animal companions: four Westies (Blanche, Keely, Ambrose and Oliver), two cats (Giles and Xander) and two finches (Atticus and Scout). To learn more, visit Good Grief Pet Loss.

If you’re coping with pet loss, you might find Letting Go of an Animal You Love helpful.

Do you have any questions or thoughts on this animal chaplain job description, or working with animals? Please comment below…

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4 comments On Animal Ministry Career – What Does a Pet Loss Chaplain Do?

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    I am a seminary student getting my MDiv. degree. I want to become a chaplain and I have a love for animals. I have often wondered if there was an animal chaplain. Thank you for sharing your information. This is something I would love to pursue. I am interested in preventing animal abuse and I want to work with people who are grieving due to the loss of their pets.

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    What wonderful dialogue! I am always so encouraged when there is such robust conversation about animals and spirituality. If we can move hearts to a place where kindness and compassion for animals become core spiritual values, we will be better humans as a result! I am the co-chair of the department of Humane Religious Studies for Emerson Theological Institute. Like you, Sid, I become disenchanted with the offerings as they did not seem rigorous nor were they affiliated with an institution or offer a formal credential or option for ordination. I am pleased to let you know that Emerson does both. Our Animal Chaplain program is multidimensional and each graduate is fully credentialed as a member of the clergy and, with one year of verifiable animal ministry work (which may be retroactive) the candidate is presented for full ordination. We haven’t done any advertising so you may not have heard of us, but we were mentioned in the January issue of Dog Fancy and they were kind enough to follow up with an article in February. Bless you for your interest Kari and for your contribution, Sid, to this pioneering work.

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    Thank you for your response to my interview. I had looked over a great many sites that claimed to offer training for animal chaplaincy, too, but when I saw that the curriculum was often nothing more than having me read 4-5 books on the subject and write reports on them…and pay them $300 for a slip of paper that means nothing legally, I decided that I’d done more than enough on my own to do this work. Other animal chaplaincy sites are now defunct, so I have to wonder about their legitimacy, too. If you are already a minister of humans, you can simply expand this to include animals. It’s mostly a volunteer position anyway, as there are no churches that will put an animal chaplain on their payroll at this time. All you need is a deep love of animals, compassion for grieving humans, and the willingness to be of service to them both. Read as many books on the subject as you can to both broaden and deepen your perspective on the subject of pet loss. (Naturally, I recommend mine, but you can choose for yourself.)
    The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement offers rather pricey training, but I must pass along to you that I’ve heard from numerous unrelated sources that the founder, Wallace Sife, though very learned in his field, is perceived to be a bit egotistical, believing his organization to be the be all and end all. He’s as much as criticized other people for setting up pet loss support sites, seeing them as “competition” rather than another resource for grieving people. You may, of course, seek to complete coursework as a professional grief counselor if a diploma of some sort is important to you. Google Grief Counselor Training to find some sources. Please keep me posted on what you eventually choose to do. I can put you in touch with a neat lady who can make you pet-centric vestments if you decide to do blessing ceremonies.
    Best of luck and Happy New Year!

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    Where does one go to school for this? You are right there are so many different web sites offering animal ministry, how do you know they are for real. I read about this in dog fancy, but gave no information on where to go. We put our beautful mutt down in Feb this year, she was my soul mate, she had a beautiful death we were on the floor with her and she went peaceful. I held a paw and so did my husband. I am catholic and navtive american and have a love for all animals. I am a Eucharistic Minister, I would love to become a animal minister. Where can I go.
    Thank you for your time.

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