If you’re reading this, you’ve probably suffered the loss of a pet at some point in your pet-keeping lifetime, perhaps even recently. The trouble is, most of us aren’t thinking too rationally right around this time. Everything seems so awful and unreal that you’re not likely to know how to respond when asked to decide how you’ll handle the disquieting details related to any physical remains. So many possibilities – and so little emotional ability to process them.
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. Many find solace in having their beloved animals privately cremated. This way their remains (referred to as cremains) come back into the owner’s possession and they can decide what to do with them once they’ve started thinking more clearly.
Here are some wonderful options for you to consider when wondering how to best memorialize your pet:
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, bland urns. Plenty of options from elegant hand-blown glass to ceramic to wood are available with prices ranging from reasonable to extravagant. Something more than traditional is a touching way to store your best friend’s ashes.
Once regarded as “really out there,” jewelry containing cremains is considered not-too-kooky nowadays. Yes, wearable cremains are now commonplace among “normal” pet lovers. Eternity pendants, tiny lockets, and even cremains pressed into jewels for earrings, rings, and pendants are all the rage among those us who have lost beloved pets.
A quick Google search will tell you where to find artists who will hand make these beautiful pieces for you.
Did your pet require a metallic orthopedic implant at some point in their life? If so, and you’re having your pet privately cremated, you can always ask for your implant back. Ordinarily, crematoriums will discard these unburned items and include only the ashes with your cremains. However, if you ask nicely, most of these excellent services will happily set the implant aside, clean it for you, and include it separately (at no charge!).
While some people find this creepy, it truly is a part of your best friend you can keep with you. If nothing else, an orthopedic implant is a symbol of how much love you were willing and able to give your pet during his or her lifetime.
Nose and Paw Prints
More recently, veterinarians have started offering clients even more options at the time of death. Paw prints in clay and nose prints in ink. Both are sweet ways in which we can be reminded of our pets without having to pay for the bigger ticket item, such as cremation. You can always have them privately cremated as well, of course.
In the exam room, veterinarians will show them examples, tell them what they cost, and leave the room to let them process their choices.
Precious Metal Nose Prints
Want something that’s even more unique and infinitely more durable? Get a nose print cast in silver, gold, bronze, or stainless steel. Artists (also on Etsy) will send you a putty which you’ll mold around your pet’s nose to get a custom impression of your pet’s unique nose. You can have these made as a pendant or as a simple object d’art. Unique, beautiful, and classy.
Note: This option must be done before your pet passes. That is, unless you want to purchase the mold in advance and have your veterinarian undertake the impression.
Many grieving pet owners commission a portrait in order to memorialize their animal. You can 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. Nowadays, portraiture is more accessible and affordable than ever before. A great many artists will happily craft your pet’s portrait using your favorite photograph as a starting point. (Dozens are available on Etsy.) A few weeks later you’ll receive a gorgeous painting, sketch, or sculptural rendering to memorialize your pet forever. Some will even mix the ashes in with their medium (paints, clay, etc.) to make the art even more special.
Remembrance Through Nature
Some people have their fondest pet memories connected through adventures in nature, playing in their yard or lounging in the sun. If this reflects you and your pet’s bond more, there are plenty of options:
Plant A Tree in Your Own Yard or 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.
Purchase A Plaque or Garden Stepping Stone
These options allow you to use them 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. You can also find vendors who will let you design your own piece.
“Memorial Lane” can describe many side yards aptly. Many owners have interred a portion of ashes of their pets under shrubby trees they’ve planted. Some have headstones, even. The best part? Owners may still have more of their ashes left just in case they ever feel inclined to get more creative with their pets’ remains.
If you have a green thumb, you may want to consider this kind of project. Planters, containers, hanging plants, etc. all make great outlets.
Believe it or not some people actually pay thousands of dollars to have their pets freeze-dried and stuffed by a professional taxidermist. Others will pay $50,000 to have their pets cloned (Barbra Streisand proudly claims two clones). To each one’s own, right?
Another less expensive, less severe option would be Cuddle Clones®, plush renderings of your pet based on photographs you supply. These babies might set you back a couple hundred bucks, but they won’t break the bank like a real clone. And their cuteness is so irresistible there’s no room for creepiness.
Donate in Your Pet’s Name
Charity 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.
Plenty of ways exist to mark and memorialize your pet. It allows your connection to your pet to transform. 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.