Losing a pet carries with it a particular kind of grief. We watch them progress through their life so quickly from puppyhood to senior dog or kitten to senior cat at the blink of an eye.
When they are potty training or clawing furniture, their toddler stage feels like it lasts forever – but when it’s time to say goodbye it’s hard to even remember what it was like when they were babies. We see our furry family members go through so many stages of life, and as a result it feels like things go by in a blink of an eye. We feel like we didn’t do enough, or that we didn’t have them for long enough, or that we will never have another animal like them. Unlike our other loved ones, we see their life from start to finish in many cases and our connections to them are strong and emotional.
Once they cross the rainbow bridge to the other side, there are many ways to honor them in order to cope with losing them.
Creating a Keepsake
The options for creating a keepsake for your pet are seemingly endless. The internet has come up with a slew of different ways to remember your fur baby. You can keep some of their fur in a locket, have a stuffed animal made to resemble them, have their ashes made into a necklace, make a shadow box, have castings of their paw or nose, personalized urns, necklace pendants to hold ashes, or have their bed or clothes made into a stuffed animal. Each item has its own perk and you are guaranteed to find the right idea for what works for you. Whether it’s something you wear every day, or an ornament that goes on the tree for Christmas, there are options to remember the pet that had such an impact on your life.
Another great way to honor your pet is to donate on their behalf. You might donate once, monthly, or yearly, but the key is to find the organization that means something to you and your animal. Maybe you donate to the shelter you adopted them from, to an organization that works with canine diabetes if your dog suffered from it, or a nonprofit that saves homeless cats, or to a national organization that combats animal abuse, or whatever issue is close to you and your pet. Many shelters and animal organizations offer donations to be made in a pet’s name and will even name a kennel after a pet, have memorial stones placed in their exercise yard for pets, or mention your pet and your donation in a newsletter.
Getting a tattoo for your pet is a way to keep their memory alive on your body forever. You are only limited by your imagination in terms of ideas for a piece of art to tattoo on your body forever. From a realistic portrait to a small paw print, you can get virtually any idea tattooed on your body. Another not-so-common idea for a memorial tattoo is to include your pet’s ashes within the ink itself. This is still a relatively new and controversial idea, and tattoo artists decide for themselves whether they choose to do this type of tattooing. The amount of ash used in the ink is microscopic and safety measures are taken throughout the process. It’s not for everyone, but it’s another option associated with a memorial tattoo for a pet.
Losing a pet is extremely difficult, but you can channel some of that grief into action by getting involved on your pet’s behalf. Collect blankets from loved ones to donate to an animal shelter, volunteer to walk dogs on the weekend, or spend a few hours cleaning cat boxes for a cat shelter. Not everything you do to honor your pet has to cost money or be a tangible object – you can honor your pet with your time by getting involved with other animals in your community. It’s such a great thing when people are so moved by the love of their pet that they want to make life better for other animals. It doesn’t have to be a ton of you time, but a few hours a week or a month are all it takes to make a difference in remembrance of your pet.
Some people can’t fathom having another pet right away, others find another fuzzy friend shortly after a pet’s death in order to help cope with the loss. Whichever type of person you are, consider adoption first when finding a new pet. When you adopt a pet you really are saving a life and there’s no better way to honor your pet than to adopt your next fuzzy family member instead of purchasing them from a breeder. Before adopting, you can help out your shelter by fostering an animal that has problems in a shelter environment – and maybe that’ll be your next adopted pet. If not, it’s another way to get involved with your shelter and help out in honor of your pet that’s passed.
Honoring a pet can mean something different to each animal lover. For some it helps to have a keepsake of their animal, some donate to an organization in memory of their pet, some memorialize them with a tattoo, some get involved with an animal charity, and some choose to adopt another pet and save a life. Others try a combination of things, and some do things completely different. Whichever way you choose to honor your pet, the idea is to find a way to show how important your pet was to you and while helping the grief process. That can be done with a donation or a memorial bracelet, but the important thing is that you changed the world for one animal and hopefully they changed your world as well.
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is passionate about animal rights, bad television, and white wine. She is a volunteer at Simply Cats in Boise.