Memorializing and Remembering Your Pet
Tracy's dog, Miles
Having recently lost my 11-year-old Australian Shepherd—I understand the emotional toll losing a pet takes on our hearts. Miles' passing was unexpected, but I was given the gift of seven days between the cancer diagnosis and his last moments. I spent that week capturing his beautiful and zany spirit in photographs. I'm a writer and photographer. It's what I do. Thousands of dog photographs already clog my hard drive, but I knew losing him would hit me hard. It was my way of keeping him close when we ran out of time. My way of making sense of the impending loss. Photographs would become my way of celebrating what was, while moving forward through the task of grieving.
We all grieve differently, and oftentimes the emotional toll that comes from losing a beloved pet is as great—or even greater—than the loss of a relative. How we choose to grieve is personal. What makes sense to us often seems weird and crazy to others. Some find comfort by marking the loss of a pet through rituals, such as a memorial service, taxidermy, or knitting a sweater from the pet's fur. Others opt for a more traditional route, such as fostering a homeless pet. One friend intends to be buried with the ashes of her cremated pets. Another friend takes a pinch of ash when she travels and scatters them in her dog's favorite places— the ocean and mountains.
If you're looking to honor or celebrate your pet's memory, consider one or more of these options:
"Forever Touchstone" Soulburst
- Soulburts are a creative alternative to a traditional urn. Artist Michelle Kaptur creates beautiful, one-of-a-kind hand-blown glass keepsakes and pendants by encapsulating a small amount of your pet's cremated ashes. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors—Soulburts are a touching tribute, a wonderful way to keep your pet close at hand, and a daily reminder of how deeply your pet touched your life.
- Purchase or design a custom urn. Most cremated ashes are returned in respectful yet standard coffee-can type urns. Plenty of options from elegant hand-blown glass to ceramic to wood are available. Prices range from reasonable to extravagant. Something more than traditional is a touching way to store your four-legged friend's ashes.
- Plant a tree in your own yard or in a community garden. Tree planting is a touching tribute and a way your pet can continue to grow as a living legacy. Add a personal touch by planting a tree that represents your pet's spirit, such as an oak, willow, or apple tree.
- Donate in your pet's name. Charitable giving is a way of giving back to other animals in need. Consider donating to canine cancer research, your local animal shelter, or a rescue organization. The dollar amount isn't important. A few dollars will help feed a local dog or cat in need. In lieu of money, consider donating your time at a local shelter—in memory of your pet. A wonderful reminder that the love you shared lives on through service to others.
- Create a tribute website where you can share stories and photographs of your pet.
- Commission a portrait. Hire a professional painter who can work off one or more favorite photographs. Or, if you're talented, you can add a touch of the personal by painting it yourself. One painter incorporates a touch of cremated ash into the paint.
- Purchase a ready-made plaque, garden or stepping stone, or design your own that can be used as a grave marker or to mark your pet's favorite spot in the yard. A touching tribute for your friend's final resting place. Appropriate for any pet, these are especially nice for larger animals, such as horses, when burial is not always feasible.
Plenty of ways exist to mark and memorialize your pet. Perhaps you can think of touching ways to incorporate your special talent into remembering your pet, as I did with my photographs. I also have planted fruit trees and berry bushes, donated in my pets' names, and held a lovely SoulBurst in my hands. My connection to Miles is not gone but transformed. However you choose to pay tribute to your pet and to make sense of the loss—remember it is about taking the time to remember your cherished friend.
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