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The rainbow bridge is such a nice thought and idea, but no one wants to see their beloved pet, their best friend, their furry friend stroll across it.
Our dogs see us through so many important parts of our lives.
And losing them is incredibly difficult. Friends and family express their pet sympathy, and most pet owners get their pet's ashes to take home. But for so many, this isn't enough.
Pet parents want something more to remember the love, the relationship, the amazing life that was.
Whether it’s a headstone, a pet urn, a picture frame, a keychain, a shadow box, here are some amazing stories of love that spawned pet memorial ideas that may just work for you, too.
He meant everything to his mommy and daddy. He was found running the streets, his coat representative of fending for himself for food and sleeping in filthy places. Even though that was what was seen physically, what was larger was what was felt: his undeniable spirit and energy.
Even though his beginning was less than stellar, his ending was fit for a king! His mommy and daddy said they could just tell how grateful he was for being given a chance. With everything, from the treats to meals to even veterinary and grooming visits, he was so thankful for the care and love. It showed in his eyes, they said.
Harry lived his life giving back, taking his exuberance and making up for all the time lost running on the lam.
It was clear he felt he was put here to think of others first, before himself. He gave, and he gave, and he gave.
He was one of those beings who just crawled into your heart, with such a pure and gentle essence of his being. He crawled into one’s heart, and he remained there to make a difference and evoke the purest of feelings of unconditional love and care.
When Harry died, honoring and paying tribute to every part of his life and being and the amazing work he did was so organic and easy to determine. We knew WHAT to do! He lived life to its fullest, and what he loved and was going to be remembered for was clear!
His mommy and daddy said what so many pet lovers say: “I know everyone says it about their pet… that they have the best one ever!”
Well, Harry was that! He WAS the best dog ever! (Yours is, too, right?!)
Loving a special animal always comes with the death of that love, too. It’s what we sign up for when we take one of these creatures into our home. It’s the inevitable part of being a loving, caring pet parent.
While we don’t have a choice in this matter, what we do have a choice in is how we memorialize and pay tribute to the life that was shared. THAT is the beautiful part of knowing we can literally choose to have the memories, the life lessons and the chapter shared live on forever.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you’ll see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. –– Kahlil Gibran
Quite some time ago, I had a family share with me why they felt it was important to remember and honor the life they shared with their special dog, Kyoto.
I loved what they said as to why they honored him with such color, such love, and such gusto.
“It reminds us it was real.”
I love that! Death is certainly a part of life. We can’t change the rules of life, we can only change what we do with the happenings. Therefore, let’s honor that it happened!
Furthermore, taking time to “do” something for a special life shared is the active version of grieving, known as mourning. Taking your internal feelings of grief, and moving them outside to “doing” something –– mourning –– is key to a healthy grief journey.
So, what can you do? Walk with me and let’s explore a variety of ways to honor a life shared with a special dog, or any animal for that matter!
Dogs are the most unique and interesting creatures.
For the most part, they are always happy, and so often just plain silly! They are expressive and can fully be referred to in the sense of anthropomorphism.
Not sure what that means? It’s the assigning of human characteristics to non-human things! Defines dogs so beautifully, doesn’t it?
If you want to understand the concept of anthropomorphism a bit more, I love asking families to think about what kind of career their dog would have had if they were a person. I’ll bet it’s at the tip of your tongue, too!
It’s so easy to think about our pups as if they are people, and what role they would serve if they were in the workforce! My house has a Social Director and a Warden! One’s all about play and being the instigator for starting the games, and the other one is all about making sure HIS rules are enforced. Sometimes that’s a moving target and no one knows the rules, except him. But he runs a tight ship, let me tell you! Some pups are even taking Instagram by storm!
Alright, let’s do our best dog interpretation and explore:
While diamonds can be said to be a girls’ best friend, they are way more than that! They are the perfect way to create a permanent memorialization piece that will elicit memories for generations.
In taking a walk down memory lane recently and looking at some old family photos, there seemed to be a constant. The family dog! What a fabulous way to connect with family members for generations to come by also talking about the animals who shared in the family’s journey.
Diamonds are the perfect way to showcase a dog’s unique make-up as the makeup of the diamond will pull those individual elements to create the one-of-a-kind piece. Imagine creating a ring with diamonds created from every animal a pet parent shares their world with?
The PERFECT family ring that allows each dog, each pet, to be remembered forever.
And, just one glance at a ring worn daily will certainly bring about a smile and a feeling of warmth, in remembering that it was all real.
Or possibly a gentle touch of the neck, to feel the diamond nestled right where it should be, next to one’s heart, to internally know that a loved one is close by, giving the daily strength in their death much like they did in life.
Want more details on how to do just that? Here you go!
The final arrangements for a dog’s body will be personal decisions for everyone.
My pets will come with me on my final journey. Therefore, we have a beautiful family urn with everyone resting comfortably in the piece… as I’ve said, they all lived under my roof in life and I want them to all live under one roof in their death!
With that, there are some days I just need to stop for a minute by the urn on my shelf in my office and let them know how much I appreciated them. How much I miss them. And, how much they are still loved.
Every time I do that, a sense of peace just washes over me. Find that time in your day to remember them, to thank them. And, yes, to tell them how much you miss them. It is healing.
There are so many tattoo artists right now that are doing wonders with portraits of pets as the subject of the body art, or even a replica of the dog’s paw print or nose print! Fun fact… animal’s noses are like human’s thumb prints. There are no two nose prints alike!
How many times have you said that your special dog would leave paw prints on your heart? Make it permanent. Get their paw print, or their portrait, tattooed right there.
A few years ago, I helped a K9 officer with the death of his dog, K9 Bo. Bo took a bullet for Officer Eric, sparing his handler’s life. As Eric said to me when he looked at the clay paw print, I presented to him of Bo:
“Nothing has ever moved me to get a tattoo on my body. Bo’s actions have moved me, and this paw print will be forever on my arm, with the officer’s blue line through it, and ‘Always Remembered’ on the line.”
Technology today makes photos and visual reminders of our pets so easy and effortless. Here are some ideas of what to do with those photos:
Big Harry loved the garden pond. Never mind that just a few feet away was a sparkling clean swimming pool, he reveled in splashing through the murky garden pond, tossing mud and dirty water everywhere, including on himself!
He knew he wasn’t supposed to be in that pond, but it was his way of getting attention. He plowed through that pond, laughing the entire way, including when he was reprimanded to GET OUT.
Therefore, it seemed appropriate when he died that HIS pond was where a garden stone, complete with his own paw print engraved on it, would be placed.
Not a day goes by when I’m outside, puttering around, that I don’t see his stone, remember his antics, and smile. A crooked smile as I also remember the baths we’d have to give with the hose, and the mess. But, smile I do!
Plant a flower. Plant a tree. Or possibly even using a product like Let Your Love Grow to mix the cremated ashes with to create a very organic and nutrient rich product to use in all the special places throughout the yard, letting the colors of nature shine brightly.
Also consider taking your dog’s collar and wrapping it around a pot, letting the dog’s tags dangle down to create the perfect artsy touch to the piece. Planting a special flower or succulent to sit next to your bed at night, reminding you of all the nights together.
“If there comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.” –– Winnie The Pooh
There’s nothing like an eloquently written poem, sonnet, haiku, or story about the love shared with an animal.
The authors and artists who know how to do this from the rawness of the heart, and who understand the human-animal bond, certainly know how to crawl deep within the spirit of a being. They KNOW how to say the perfect words, evoke the perfect feelings and emotions. They. Just. Know.
Take some time to turn to the support of a pet loving community, whether it’s on a social site such as Facebook, or possibly it’s the countless beautiful quotes and pieces on Pinterest.
Let these speak to your heart and know that you aren’t alone. While no one else has shared in YOUR journey, there are so many people who can empathize with loving and losing a special dog. Find those safe communities, and give yourself permission to join them, be with them, and let their love wrap around your heart and walk with you in your grief journey.
Tara loved her tennis balls! She would do anything for one of them, whether it was a rousing game of “chase” or just having one in her doggie bed. She loved her tennis balls!
When Tara died, it seemed fitting to spread that love. Tara’s mommy took a bucket of balls to the local dog park and parked it right inside the entrance gate with a note to take one in Tara’s honor.
She had a basket full of the balls at her dog memorial service, also asking attendees to take one in her honor as keepsakes. She hid them along a path that she knew people frequented for their dog walks. All with a sign to take one in Tara’s honor.
Bull loved his daily trips to Starbucks to get HIS “doggie coffee.” When he died, Bull’s mommy parked herself outside of Starbucks and gave out “doggie coffee” to everyone coming in, in honor of Bull.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ––Dr. Seuss
You shared an amazing life, with an incredible dog. He or she was probably THE best dog ever, if I had to read your mind!
Therefore, honor that life, honor that love, and give yourself permission to do something to permanently remind yourself of the love you shared, and a beautiful spirit.
Remember them in a way that was just as unique as they were. And, above all, do what you can to remind yourself it was real.
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Written by Coleen Ellis. Coleen is a a pet loss pioneer and the founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center.
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