Ways to Celebrate or Memorialize Your Pet
First, know that there is no "right" way to memorialize your pet - only you know what feels right. Sometimes, what feels right for one of your pets may not be the same thing that felt appropriate for another pet you lost in the past. That's okay.
We have listed some of the things we have seen over the years that you may like to consider or modify to fit your own needs.
In the Days Leading Up to the Loss of Your Pet
If you have some indication that your pet's passing is imminent, you may consider some of these ideas. You may or may not be ready to take such steps - everyone is different.
- Take your dog (or cat) for a special outing - something they have enjoyed - a walk on the beach, a stroll around the neighborhood. Each member of your family may like to do something like this with your pet privately.
- Take some beautiful photos of your pets and various people with whom they are bonded. You might even consider having a professional photographer take some portraits of you and your dog or cat.
- Make a few (or many!) short videos of your pet - you will treasure them always.
- Consider writing a poem or a song or a letter about or to your pet. We have seen children tuck special letters or artwork with their pet after they have passed, to "take with them".
- Although we can definitely make ink or clay paw prints after your pet has passed away, if your dog or cat is particularly easy-going, they may not mind you doing something like that ahead of time. Sometimes these paw prints can be incorporated into a memorial display later, or into a collage or shadow box with a collar, tags or other mementos.
- Think about whether there are any other things that you might want to have available at the time of your pet's euthanasia - we have seen candles, incense, special food, special shrouds, favorite pet toys, flowers to decorate the body, special music etc. Sometimes there will be an elaborate affair or ceremony, sometimes a very quiet and private event.
- Talk to friends or professionals who have been through a similar situation - feel free to call us personally to talk to one of us about ideas or thoughts you may have. We have seen a wide variety of rituals and ceremonies - be assured that we will support you however we can.
- Depending on your religious or spiritual believes, you may choose to have your pet's body "lie in state" at your home for a day or two - we are happy to talk about the logistics of this with you if you'd like more information. Recognize that you may or may not be ready for us to take your pet's body with us when we leave - you may need more time, and you can have it. Talk to us about what your preferences are.
In the Difficult Time After your Pet Has Passed Away
We don't always have time or the desire to prepare ahead of time, but there are many things you can do in the days, weeks or years after pet loss to memorialize your pet.
- Plant a tree or flowering shrub in memory of your dog or cat - possibly over where they have been buried or near a commemorative stone or marker.
- Make a donation in honor of your pet's memory to any one of the many deserving animal-related nonprofits locally or elsewhere. The donation can go towards helping other animals, towards research pertaining to a specific disease condition or to endow a fund in your pet's name. Some good options are listed on our Grief Resources page.
- Set up a memorial "table" or area in your home where you display photographs, flowers or other mementos that remind you of your pet. Your bond with your beloved pet was - and is - important and it is okay to treat it as such.
- Seek the comfort of others if you need it or want it. We have listed some local resources to help you. Sometimes that can be in the form of a pet loss group, other times it will involve art therapy, or just spending time with close friends or family who understand how important your pet was to you.
- You can commission art or jewelry to be made to memorialize your pet. Check out the many options on Etsy.com.
- You can purchase a special urn or have one made to hold your pet's ashes. Your pet's ashes can also be incorporated into blown or fused glass keepsakes or jewelry that you keep with you.
- Create an annual tradition - maybe around a special holiday - to celebrate your bond.
- Send out announcements of your pet's passing to those who you were close to you and your pet.
- Have photos that you have collected over the course of your pet's life with you made into a book.
- Write a letter to your pet or keep a journal expressing your feelings. Write down special memories.
- Write a blog about it, or post a memorial or obituary on-line.
- Volunteer your time at an animal shelter or to help find homes for homeless pets. This will likely be therapeutic for you and helpful to them as well.
- Recognize that the "perfect" thing to do to memorialize your pet may not come to you right away - it may be months or even years before you settle on that special thing. Sometimes, you may not need or want to do anything concrete, and prefer to hold the special memories privately inside. That is okay too. This is not another "obligation"....it should feel natural, and you should want to do it. Take your time, reflect, do not feel any need to complete or create. Closure will come in it's own time.