Paw To Heart People

Medea Dawn Berkman - Founder and Facilitator

My life has been a litany of animal love.

A grammar school trip to the zoo found me moved to tears at the sight of majestic animals confined behind bars. The face of a Great Ape still haunts me, as I will never forget the hopelessness and despair within his pleading eyes. Even at that tender age I somehow knew that our fellow beings were suffering; and vowed then to become a voice for those who were voiceless.

It was back at that zoo so many years ago where my grief for all oppressed animals was born, and I've carried it in my heart ever since.

College found me pursuing a degree in animal science with the dream of becoming a veterinarian, when an opportunity to work with wildlife in Alaska diverted those plans. Many years later I returned to the East Coast and continued working as a veterinary technician and pet sitter, before entering my second career in the field of mental health.

I am presently a counselor with a background in Gestalt Therapy, HIV counseling, coping skills, and bereavement issues. I am skilled in the practice of guided imagery and often incorporate these exercises into my support group sessions.

I am President Of The Long Island Coalition for Animals (LICA), former Vice President and founding member of The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB), founding member, support group committee chairperson and chathost of The Animal Love & Loss Network (ALLN), and an active member of numerous grassroots animal rights organizations. I write an ongoing animal loss column for the LICA newsletter and presented a workshop on "Support Group Counseling Techniques' at the first National Conference on Pet Loss and Bereavement in NYC in June of 2001.

I am a strong proponent of support groups and have been running Paw to Heart for over two decades. The death of an animal family member in 1992, (my feline soul mate 'Shasta') provided the impetus for implementing my own support services.

I am a life long animal advocate and practice cruelty free living on a daily basis.

I believe in extending our grief and compassion to all animals who may be suffering.

Since this writing, felines Princess Kashmir (2004) and Lovely Luna-Star (2010) joined my other animal angels in Heaven.

Anne Marie Condron-Buonomo - Former Co Facilitator
Anne Marie walked into a Paw To Heart Support Group meeting in 1996 and never left! She came seeking solace for the loss of her canine sister Holly and stayed on to then help others.

Anne Marie is a professional educator and a strong voice for animals.

She lives in accordance with her principles of non-violence and respect for all life.

She was the Secretary of The Long Island Coalition for Animals and is an active member of various other animal rights groups. She was a founding member and former secretary of The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB).

Anne Marie, as co-facilitator, brought sincerity, compassion, and a gentle manner to the Paw To Heart Support Group sessions. She maintained e-mail contact with members between meetings and could be counted on to remember important dates with an e-card.

When Anne Marie lost another animal family member, her precious Westie 'Koko,' she stated that she was "so glad to be in the company of others who understood this pain."

Although now busy with her career and raising a family, Anne Marie remains a treasured friend and supporter of Paw To Heart

Paw To Heart Members

All of our members deserve mention here. There are some who attend two support group meetings and are on their way, still others who drop in and out as the need arises; and then we have our 'regulars' who have become like family. They are there each month to share their progress as well as to offer strength and insight to grieving newcomers.

Everyone who has passed through the door of our meeting room has given a part of themselves to all of us through their intimate stories of love and loss. We thank these special people for trusting us with these fragile feelings at this most vulnerable time in their lives.