Memorializing Your Dog
October 23, 2006
By Sandy Robins
Losing a dog that that’s been your best friend and a beloved family member leaves a huge void in your life. The empty bed, food bowl and discarded toys are a constant reminder of the unconditional love you’ve lost.
It’s okay to grieve. Don’t fight the lump in your throat and uncontrollable tears; these are all normal signs of grief. And don’t be shy. Let your family members, friends, and co-workers know what you are going through. Other pet lovers will understand and will offer much needed support. You might even consider joining a pet loss support group. Your veterinarian or local animal shelter can help you locate one.
And there is one other thing you can do—memorialize your dog. Memorializing not only pays tribute to a pal that brought love and happiness into your life, it can also help with the healing process.
Pet Funerals and Memorial Stones
There are many pet cemeteries and crematoriums around the country that will help you plan a service for your pet. These sensitive professionals can take care of the casket or urn, the service, and even a floral tribute. The International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories (518-594-3000), a non-profit organization, can help you find a reputable place in your area.
When selecting a cemetery, be sure to pick a place that you can visit regularly. A good pet cemetery will keep your pet’s gravesite well maintained, which helps to make each visit a positive experience.
Another memorial is to have a stone or plaque made and positioned in your pet’s favorite spot in the garden. “Memorializing the life of a faithful friend has become increasingly important to pet lovers,” says Charles Wasson, spokesman for a leading manufacturer of cast stone products for pet memorials. Other options include placing a container with your dog’s collar, leash and favorite toy in a corner of the backyard or in your home.
A Simple Cremation
If you want a simple cremation without a memorial service, your veterinarian can make all the arrangements for you. Be sure to advise your vet that you want your pet cremated separately to ensure that the ashes returned to you are you pet’s personal remains. The advantage of cremation is that no matter where you may move in the world, you can take your pet’s ashes with you and keep her close forever.
A shadow box with photographs, your pet’s collar and tags, and a lock of hair is another poignant keepsake. Children often love to participate in this type of project–they may even want to draw a picture or write a personal remembrance to be included with all your special treasures.
A Special Place in the Dog Park
If you and your pal spent many memorable moments in your local dog park, consider enhancing the area by planting a tree in her honor or even purchasing a bench or doggy drinking fountain. That way, other dogs and their human companions can benefit in a very tangible way from your devotion to your departed friend.
Create a Scholarship or Fund
A truly wonderful way to remember a special friend is to offer a memorial scholarship to a veterinary school. Also, if you pet died of a particular disease or illness, think about creating a fund in her name so that you can be actively in involved in raising money to aid future medical research.
Pets Grieve Too
Please remember that other pets in the household could be grieving too. It’s not unusual for dogs to search the house looking for their missing friend. Some even stop eating, become listless and lethargic and show other unusual behaviors. You can comfort remaining doggy pals by spending lots of quality time together. Long walks will do you both good—physically and emotionally.
If your surviving dog is suffering the loss of a canine companion, don’t rush to introduce a new dog to your household too soon. You and she both know that one dog will never replace another.
However, when the time is right, consider adopting an older dog. If your remaining pals are seniors, they may bond better than with a rambunctious puppy. And, because puppies usually find homes more quickly than older dogs, you will be performing an extra good deed. Of course, it goes without saying that the love and affection you receive in return will be immeasurable.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears regularly on MSNBC.com and in various national and international publications. She is a member of the prestigious Dog Writers Association of America and a besotted pet parent.