Grieving turns to giving as a family loses a pet

Tricia, Mike, and Molly

Q/A with Mike and Tricia Smith, hosts of Thursday Night Suppers.

What is Thursday Night Suppers?
After Molly died, Mike and I were devastated. We thought we’d never get through our grief. Coming home to an empty apartment was unbearable. One night we were talking about Molly and the things she loved most: food, parties and people. We knew we wanted to keep Molly’s memory alive, but in a way that would bring us joy. Thursday Night Suppers is a way for Mike and me to honor Molly’s memory, bring people together over a home-cooked meal, and bring some excitement and joy into our life.

Why host a meal at your home (as opposed to volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, etc.)?

What a great question. Actually, we’re going to do both. We just filled out volunteer applications to participate in the Red Cross’ Mobile Meals for the Homeless. Originally, we thought it would be enough to bring people together in our home, but we realized we wanted to do more. Molly’s death made us realize that we’d been talking about “doing” things for others or volunteering, but that we never made the commitment.

Have these suppers been as cathartic as you’d hoped?

More so. So far everyone that’s come to a dinner has known Molly. So we’ve been able to talk about her, our memories and our feelings with people who actually knew her. It’s been very therapeutic. The more we talk about her and our feelings, the less overwhelming and consuming the pain feels.

You’ve had three suppers so far. What sort of people have attended?
For our first dinner it was just Mike and me and somehow it was fitting that it was just the two of us remembering Molly. Since then it’s been mostly friends and family. We did have a couple that we would see at the park now and then come to dinner. Molly and their Pug, Stanley, use to play together so we asked them to bring him too. A very nice friendship is developing between the four of us. We’re e-mailing and we’ve gone out for ice-cream.

Tell me about Molly.

Oh where do I begin? How do I do Molly justice in a short amount of space? Let me begin by telling you her nickname – Miss Molly Perfect. She was funny, ornery, sweet, hard-headed, intelligent. She loved hot dogs, cats, walks, and men who “worked” for a living (farmers, repairmen, construction guys, etc.). She was the great grasshopper hunter. She could spot a grasshopper at 20 paces.

One of my favorite stories about Molly takes place at my parent’s house around Christmas. One night the doorbell rings. It’s a woman from the church up the street and they have a van full of people and their going around the neighborhood caroling. Mike and I follow my parents outside and of course Molly comes too. I swear every person that got out of the van said, “Hi Molly.” I looked at my mom and asked her how they knew Molly and my mom smiled and said, “Everyone knows Miss Perfect.” They sang carol after carol. Molly howled and shook her butt from side to side.

Is there a new pup in your life?

We’d love for there to be a new dog in our life, but we are not ready, no matter how much we want to be. We still miss Molly so much and having a new dog in our life right now would be overwhelming and not fair to the new dog or us.

On your website, you feature available dogs from shelters around the area. How do you choose the dogs and the shelters?

About six weeks ago I thought I might be ready to adopt another dog, but I wasn’t sure. I thought the best way to find out if I was ready was to go to the local shelter, Wayside Waifs and see how I reacted. The first couple of times we went I was a big bundle of emotions, but we kept going. One day I fell in love with one of the shelter dogs. He was a Husky. Smart, sweet and beautiful, but he was way over our apartment’s weight limit. I was crushed. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what. Then I thought I could put him on our Thursday Night Suppers website. I know we don’t have a massive following, but it would only take one person to see his story and decide to adopt him. The next week we called the shelter and they told us he had been adopted. I have no idea if it was because of our website, but I thought what if it was, maybe I could help other dogs get adopted. So far the dogs that we’ve picked have come from shelters or rescue groups we contacted about a dog we were interested in and the dogs are ones that we made a connection with, but couldn’t adopt for one reason or another.

What are the Holiday Suppers all about?

Again, Holiday Suppers is one of those things we talked about doing but never did. During the holidays were going to host dinners, one on Thanksgiving Day and one on Christmas Day, for seniors who are 60 or older and alone. My parents are in their late seventies and because of that Mike and I have a special place in our hearts for seniors. My dad is also the pastor at the Christian Church in Camden Point. He’s always telling me stories of how community members look after the elderly in the area. One of the things they do is take weekly meals to people who can’t get out of their homes and don’t have anyone to help them. They also make sure that these seniors get a home-cooked meal for the holidays. I’ve always that was wonderful. Since Molly’s death, Mike and I have decided it’s time to stop talking and start doing.

Do you see yourselves hosting these indefinitely?
I hope so. The hardest part about hosting these dinners has been getting people to attend. We’re trying our best to get the word out about Thursday Night Suppers hoping that attendance will pick up.

What advice do you have for someone grieving the loss of a beloved pet?

The best advice I can give someone is to tell them to feel their emotions. Of course you’re going to be sad, depressed and angry and that’s perfectly okay. The other thing I would tell them is to surround themselves with people who knew how much they loved their pet and who they shared their life with while their pet was alive. My mom has been wonderful over the past few months. My mom and Molly were very close and it’s been great to hear my mom talk about Molly and tell me stories about Molly. The last thing I would tell them is to take their time. Don’t rush into getting another pet. You have to mourn your pet and the life you had with your pet before you can move on.