Argus Institute Announces New Director and Assistant Director for Renamed Family Support Service at Colorado State

One of the nation’s first pet loss support programs, Changes: Support for People and Pets, has been renamed The Family Support Service. The Family Support Service offers both pet loss support and animal behavior management consultations to clients of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University Part of the Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State, the service also welcomes the return of one of the original founders, Tamina Toray, as director of the program. Teresa Nelsen was named assistant director, a new position.

Toray has strong ties to Colorado State and its Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s in human development and family studies, then went on to pursue a master’s in counseling from Truman State University in Missouri. She returned to Colorado State as an instructor in the department of family studies and co-founded the Changes: Support for People and Pets program in 1984 at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The Changes program was one of the first pet loss support programs established at a veterinary teaching hospital.

In 1992, Toray earned a doctorate in family studies at Oregon State University. Since then, she has taught in the psychology department at Western Oregon University and served as chair of that department.

"This has been a full-circle experience for Dr. Toray. It’s a real coming-home celebration to have her back at Colorado State to direct the program she helped bring to life," said Laurel Lagoni, director of the Argus Institute.

The service was founded to reach out to pet owners struggling with the emotions accompanying the terminal diagnosis or recent death of a pet. The program gained international recognition and respect for providing a much-needed service to an overlooked group.

The program has grown to offer the world’s most comprehensive, on-site family support service and professional education curriculum associated with a veterinary teaching hospital, teaching veterinary students important communication skills, crisis intervention, loss and grief counseling. "It’s very exciting to see how much the program has grown in the 15 years since I was involved," said Toray. ‘I look forward to being part of the dynamic team that comprises the Argus Institute."

Nelsen joined the Argus Institute staff as assistant director of the Family Support Service. Nelsen is completing her doctorate from Kansas State University in marriage and family therapy. She received a Master’s of Education from the University of Minnesota at St. Paul in 1993 and a Master’s of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy Kansas State in 1999.

Her position with KSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine gave her extensive experience in understanding the human animal bond, pet loss and grief.

"Teri brings many skills to her role with the Argus Institute." Lagoni said. "She will be coordinating the clinical support programs, teaching and helping us build a national mentoring program to help veterinarians make their practices more bond-centered."

The Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine is comprised of the Family Support Service and the Bond-Centered Practice Education and Resource Center.

Many of the "standards of care" techniques for providing emotional support for pet owners now used by veterinarians nationwide were developed by the team at the Argus Institute.

For more information about the Argus Institute, visit the Web at