Memorializing Your Pet
In Memory of Argus and Maya
Recently Argus, an English Bulldog passed away. It was sudden and over very quickly. He died at home of a massive heart attack. He was age 7. Maya, a 17-year-old Pitbull around the same time, made her final trip to the vet’s. The result was, in both cases, massive grief. It does not matter how long you have had your beloved companion. It does not matter how “prepared” you believe you are. The death of a pet dog (or cat, rabbit or any other companion animal) is traumatic.
Grieving Takes Over
Whether the pet dies at home or you take him or her to the Vet’s, there is guilt, pain and an incredible sense of loss. While time alone will alleviate the pain, you can help the process by memorializing the animal in one way or another. Pet memorials are one way to pay homage to what your friend has meant to you. It is a way of recognizing a valued family member.
While the best way to remember your pet is in your heart, there are more concrete ways. Vet clinics make it easier by giving you some choices. You can:
- Have their ashes in an urn – they come in an astounding number of types including gold and wood, in the shapes of cats, birds and dogs and with a space to place a photo
- Paw impression – usually made of clay - some people make their own using ink
- Mounted paw – may be painted or otherwise detailed
- Grave marker – again there are many different types available to suit tastes and types
The clay print can be placed in a memorial niche or tucked in a drawer. The ashes can be placed in a prominent place in your home. They can also be scattered in the companion’s favorite place.
Scattering the ashes can form part of a ritual. In designing it, you are honoring your pet and helping to allay your grief. You add meaning to the act and clearly express how much what some would call a “mere animal” has contributed to your life and that, perhaps, of family and friends. You can perform the rit on your own or include others. If you have opted for burial instead of cremation, hold it by the graveside.
Another way of remembering is to make a donation to a worthy cause. In Argus’ case, Bulldog Rescue comes to mind. There are always rescue groups and local humane societies in need of funds. Some vet clinics do pro bono work. They might need the money for spaying or providing low cost vaccinations. Even a small amount counts. Alternatively, you can donate your time and energy to fund raisers such as walkathons.
The planting of a tree – particularly if your pet was male, is another way of remembering. If possible, pick somewhere they liked to go (Pun intended). Select a tree that suited their character. If you want to and can, arrange for a plaque to mark the spot. This form of memorializing, like donations to pet causes, is a gift that truly acts to benefit the world for all animals.
A Day In The Life of…
When in doubt, there are always pictures. Gather up all the photos you have and place them in an album – virtual or actual. Place one in a frame where you can see it. Create video highlight reel. If you can afford it, you may have an artist render your favourite photo into a sketch or painting.
There are many different ways of celebrating the life and death of your companion animal. I plan to throw a party with friends. There will be the telling of Argus’ stories and much laughter mixed with tears. Choose a method that reflects you, your pet and your relationship. Wherever he or she has gone, I am certain the effort will be appreciated and understood.