Pets are members of our family, so when our precious animals pass away it hits us very hard. There are so many unique and creative ways to honor a beloved pet after he or she passes away. Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice has compiled a list of articles on this topic, along with other resources on healing after losing a pet. Dr. Dani McVety, founder of Lap of Love, shares her top 5 ways to honor deceased pets, which appeared in Veterinary Team Brief magazine.
Write a Gratitude List
A bucket list for a pet is a list of all the experiences an owner wants for his or her pet. After a pet has died, suggest the owner make a list of all the things she did with her pet—experiences they enjoyed together, things that made her smile, and memories she is thankful for. The list can be very simple; for example, the time her dog knocked over her cup of coffee, and when she was cleaning up the mess, she found a long-lost tennis ball under the sofa that she and her dog played with for the next hour. Writing down the memories will make them more tangible and help you with your pet loss.
Create a Memorial Table
Dedicating a space like a small table or bookshelf to display a pet’s favorite toy, food bowl, photos, and mementos can help keep the pet’s memory alive. This can be done with or without the pet’s ashes. For example, after a client’s dog, Jacob was peacefully euthanized, the client ceremonially washed Jacob’s food bowls and placed them next to his clay paw print, puppy photo, and collar. They added a special journey urn that looks like a book, called The Life We Shared later.
Craft a Memory
After a pet loss, you can keep your dog or cat close at all times in many ways.
- Turn pet ID tags into a bracelet, necklace, or tattoo
- Make a paw print or nose print into a pendant
- Create a keepsake (necklace, sweater, bracelet, belt) from your pet’s fur
- A DNA helix necklace
- Order a lifelike custom stuffed animal
- Incorporate ashes into an urn, jewelry, tattoo, or painting
- Clone him or her—yes, it can be done!
Pay It Forward
Not everyone who loses a pet is ready for another animal right away. However, paying it forward and helping other animals in need is another way to honor a deceased pet. Fostering another animal, donating to a cause in memory of your pet (a college of veterinary medicine, animal shelter, humane society) or starting a cancer walk can help owners give tribute to their pet and stay involved in the pet-loving community.
Attend a Ceremony
Support groups in which owners can gather with others feeling similar grief can be helpful. The local human hospice is perhaps the best place to look for a support group; even if they do not hold their own pet-loss groups, they likely will know of such groups. Support groups for those who have lost loved ones may be just as beneficial because grief is grief, regardless of its cause.