Maisy in the background

I’m Russell Elleven (pronounced L a Ven) and, probably like you, animals have been a very important part of my life. My earliest memories are those of animals. In fact, there have only been a couple of years at different times when I have been without animal companionship.

To be honest, as I have aged and moved around a bit, the animals in my life have become even more important. With each new change of season and scenery, my animal companions have often been the most constant and loving part of life.

I’ve been fortunate to survive two bouts of cancer. I was 13 years old the first time and it was rough. Bone cancer in my left arm. Amputation necessary. And yes, I was left-handed. At 39 cancer struck again. This time it’s the colon. More radiation. More surgery. More chemo. My family and some special animals helped me immensely during both of these major interruptions of life.

I went to school for a long time, eventually becoming a university professor and administrator. In many ways it was the position I’d always wanted but after 17 years I felt another calling. I became a Unitarian Universalist minster and served a congregation in Texas for almost nine years. Then, out of the blue, my spouse was offered a position that would require us to leave Texas. We were excited but sad to leave all we’d known.

Photograph by Mary Alice Cretsinger

In each of these life transitions, animals played a huge role in my physical and mental wellbeing. Even when I was sick, the animals loved me. Even when I wanted to stay in bed, a dog would urge me to get outside and walk. Even when we were uprooted, having an animal companion made things better.

My guess is that if you find yourself here on this website you have had similar experiences with the animals you have shared life with.

But it is also true that when our animal companions die, we who are left behind suffer immensely. Because we have recognized the support these companions offered unconditionally we are also hard pressed to “get over it” as many of our human friends might say.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why this website exists. I’m here and this website is here to support those who recognize and value the animals in our lives.

Let’s get started. Seriously, Let’s Talk!

Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin


  • Doctor of Ministry (DMin) – Meadville Lombard Theological School – Pastoral Care & Counseling Emphasis
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) – University of North Texas – Education & Counseling
  • Master of Science (MS) – University of North Texas – Training & Development
  • Master of Theological Studies (MTS) – Vanderbilt University Divinity School – World Religions
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) – Texas Christian University (TCU) – History/Religious Studies


  • Fully ordained and fellowshipped minister (UUA)
    • Elected Minister Emeritus
  • Two Units of Clinical Pastoral Education – Harris Methodist Hospital
  • Pet Loss Grief Specialist – APLB
  • Registered Pet Chaplain – AVPE
  • Companion Animal End of Life Doula Certificate – University of Vermont Medical School
  • Compassion Fatigue Professional (IATP)
  • National Certified Counselor (NBCC)
    • Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor
    • Primary & Advanced Certificates in REBT – Albert Ellis Institute
  • Graduate Certificate in Humane Education – IHE
  • Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator – MSVA
  • Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition – CNS
  • Health & Wellness Coach – Mayo Clinic
  • Certificate in Non-Profit Management – University of Illinois @ Chicago
  • Cat Behavior & Retention Specialist (HSUS)


  • Association for Pet Loss & Bereavement
  • International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care
  • Unitarian Universalist Mental Health Network
  • Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association
  • Unitarian Universalist Society for Community Ministries
  • American Counseling Association
  • Association for Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling


  • Affiliated Minister – Church of the Larger Fellowship
  • Chief Administrative Officer – The Wholistic Education Consortium, LLC – 2019 to present 
  • Executive Director – The Genesis 1:29 Project – 2016 to 2018
  • Lived in Puerto Rico – 2014 to 2016
  • Minister – Westside UU Church – 2005 to 2013 – Elected Minister Emeritus
  • Assistant Professor – University of North Texas – 2002 to 2008
  • Associate Director for Residence Life – Texas Christian University (TCU) – 1998 to 2002
  • Residence Life Coordinator – University of North Texas – 1995 to 1998 
  • Residence Hall Director – University of North Texas – 1991 to 1995