Pet memorials: a lasting tribute to your beloved pet
For many, pet loss is a devastating experience. In life, your pet was a constant source of fun and unconditional love. She was always glad to see you when you walked in the door, regardless of the stress of the day's events. You remember him as a playful puppy or kitten; healthy, vibrant, and completely trusting in your care for him.
You showed your love for your companion animal by providing good food, clean water, a comfortable place to sleep, and necessary care by a veterinarian. Your grief for the loss of your pet is just as "real" as your grief for a human loved one. The pain of pet loss is nothing to feel embarrassed about, nor is it "silly," regardless of what inconsiderate others may think. The only thing that matters is you and your family's grief at the death of a well-loved member of your family.
In life, they were always there with a wet nose in the palm of your hand, a cheerfully wagging tail, or a soft "meow" when dinnertime was near. In death, we can show our love and appreciation for the years that enriched our lives immeasurably with a pet memorial. These wonderful ways of celebrating the life of your pet range from hand-crafted memorials to commercial creations that are customized for your pet. Your options are many:
- Burial in a pet cemetery. Your veterinarian's office can provide you with the location of the nearest pet cemetery in your area. These are lovely grounds, well-kept and respectful of your love for your departed best friend. You can inter your pet in a variety of pretty caskets lined with soft material and a pillow for your pet's head. You will be shown the spot where your friend will be buried, and advised that you can visit anytime you wish. Some pet owners decorate the grave site by planting perennial flowers and ferns; each spring when the flowers bloom, it is a reminder that while our loved animals are lost, our love for them goes on.
- The cremation of your pet. Your veterinary staff will talk with you about pet cremation; where and how it is accomplished. If they have no licensed crematorium, they will inform you where the nearest one is located. You will be given a certificate of cremation; this ensures that your beloved pet was not simply tossed into the nearest land fill, a practice that is illegal in most states for public health reasons. After cremation, you can choose from a variety of beautiful pet urns as a depository of your friend's cremains. You can bury the urn in a pet cemetery or on your own property, or scatter your pet's ashes in a place where she loved to romp and play.
- In most states, it is illegal to bury the body of a pet on your property for public health reasons. This does not apply to cremated pets. However, you may choose to keep your pet's urn in your home, a tribute to his presence in your household.
- You can make or buy a memorial headstone for your pet. Again, this is a matter of personal choice. Your veterinary clinic can provide you with the names of several local craftsmen who will custom-make the pet memorial that seems right for your needs. Whether made of wood or stone, a pet memorial is an excellent way to mark the resting place of your beloved friend.
Keep pictures of your pet, and things to remember her by
There are many other ways to celebrate the life of your departed companion. Try making a scrapbook of your pet's life, from pictures of him as a tiny puppy or bright-eyed kitten to a mature pet that became a member of your household. You could include a poem about the wonderful years with your pet and your sadness at losing her.
Relevant landmarks in your pet's life can also be included: a picture of your dog winning a ribbon in a dog show, or your cat's first litter of kittens, for example. Pictures of her favorite toys, his collar, and his Canine Good Citizen certificate. The newspaper article about her success as a therapy animal. All these, and more, can help you build a scrapbook of memories.
Pet memorials of all kinds help you through the grief process and bring bittersweet smiles every time you look at the memorial. If your pet was truly a member of your household, to simply have her here one moment and vanish in the next can be traumatic. Though you cannot bring back your darling pet, you need never lose your memories of the life your pet spent loving you.
Further sources of information
You may find our other articles in the Pet loss section helpful too.
For biodegradable and more traditional cremation urns, including pet urns, we recommend Richard Lamb New Traditions Funerals.
Visit our Amazon store to find books to help you cope with pet loss.