Traveling Dog Lady: 5 Things You Can Do To Remember and Honor Your Pet

Monday, September 14, 2015

5 Things You Can Do To Remember and Honor Your Pet

After losing a beloved pet, for whatever reason, whether he or she was old and sick, or whether the pet ran away and you're still hoping for her safe return; or whether the little furry friend was killed in an accident; we can often feel so empty, sad and even guilty.  Grief can overtake us.  One grieving pet parent put it this way:  "There is a huge hole in my heart."

Losing a pet is a unique kind of loss.  Our relationship with a beloved pet can be a stronger bond than any we have known with a human.  Many people say that's because pets love us unconditionally, and while that is certainly true, I tend to think that my relationship with my pets is more like a kinship that transcends any kind of brain knowledge or explanation.  It is a more intuitive friendship, on a very spiritual and natural level -- communing with, and an actual kinship with, nature.  Humans can't emulate that because they are normally too busy with their own agendas.

In honor of my beloved pets, both past and current, I created this website.  I wrote about each pet (or, am in the process of doing so) and posted as many photos of them as possible here, and on my various social media accounts.  For the dogs and cats who are no longer with me, I remember their birthdates and the dates of their passing, and try to re-post an old photo, or maybe even go to a place where we used to hang out, and remember them on those meaningful (to me) dates.

We had a memorial "headstone" made for our garden, in memory of Hector.


Our "new" dog (at the time), Charlie, checking out the Hector memorial
Have you recently lost a pet, or are you continuing to grieve a pet you lost a while ago, and can't seem to get past the grief and sadness?  Please know that this is normal, and I speak from experience only.  I still mourn my dear, sweet Timba who died 14 years ago!  And her successor, Hector, who died in 2011. 




I can't say it enough:  there is no timeline for grief.  Your grief timeline is your own, and no one can or should dictate to you when you're supposed to "get over" it.  You may never (get over it), and that is okay!


Here are five free (or inexpensive) activities you can do to remember and honor your pet on an anniversary, on their birthday, on YOUR birthday, or just because:

Hobie's urn (left) and DogFather's urn (right).
I took them on a trip to Cape Cod!
  1. Bring your pet's ashes on a road trip.  After Hobie died, I brought his ashes in the car with me and Charlie and Cooper, every time we went to Cape Cod on weekends, for an entire summer.  I told a friend about it, and we chuckled.  A few months later, that same friend unfortunately had to put her dog to sleep due to a sudden and incurable illness.  On a family trip to Maine, she brought her dog's ashes along for the ride!  Don't have time for a vacation or trip?  Bring your pet's ashes in the car on errands.  I put the urn right next to me on the passenger seat, and look over at "him" and smile.   I also bought a small stuffed dog that has the same coloring as Hobie (tan with a black snout), I put a doggie necklace around its neck (really, it’s a keychain!) and now “the new Hobie” rides in the car with me at all times.  I may even tuck him into my suitcase the next time I have to travel by air! Now you try:  Come up with other creative ways to "bring your dog along". 
  2. Set up a web page, social media page, or other online tribute to your pet's memory. These days, there are too many of these online platforms to list.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Packdog.comDogChannel.com CatChannel.com, DogBook (which is part of Facebook), your own website, or blog, and more. There are tons of possibilities are out there. Find one and post a few words about your pet, with photos and their dates of birth and death.  Not interested in an online platform, or not computer savvy enough?  Grab a notebook or piece of paper, and write about your pet; find favorite photos and glue them into a scrapbook.  Share your similar ideas in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.
  3. Attend an afternoon pet festival.   Autumn is the time of year for pet-charity festivals in most areas of the U.S.  For example, if I want to, I can attend one every weekend between Labor Day and Halloween in my area of Massachusetts!  Admission to some of these events is free, while others charge a small fee ($12 - $15 or thereabouts for adults, kids usually free,  and well-behaved, leashed dogs are usually welcome -- make sure you have proof of vaccinations if your state requires pets to be vaccinated).  Ask local veterinarians or pet sitters if they know of any events in your city, or just hunt around online via search engines, you can usually find the various events easily. For those who don't know what a pet festival is:  generally these are events held at a public place where vendors (mostly non-profit) set up booths and you are expected to visit the booths and perhaps purchase goods or services from those booths (but are not obligated to do so).  There is usually food, beverages, entertainment by local musicians, and fun activities like costume contests, pet pageants, a photo booth, agility or police "k9" demos, doggie massage or reiki, etc.  Proceeds benefit the organization that is running the program, or the various non-profit pet charities involved. This is a great way to honor your pet, and get some "animal time" in with no strings attached.  Be forewarned:  there are pets for adoption at these events, so go slow, don't jump into anything hastily. "Just looking" is a good response, and then take the organization's business card if you want to visit them under less pressure at their facility.  If you want more info on pet festivals, send me an email at k2k9dogs@gmail.com, and mention your location and I'll try to find out if there are any events near you.  

    Charlie at the Sweetpea Howl-oween event 2015

    Charlie at a vendor's booth at Woofstock, 2015

    Charlie and me at PetRock, 2015
  4. Spend quality time with your existing pets.  Almost anyone I've ever talked to who has lost a pet has "The Regret List".  This can be anything from "I should have had her euthanized sooner, she suffered so much", to "I wish I had taken her on that trip to the mountains two years ago when I had that opportunity."  To (my personal regret) "I wish I had been able to stay home with him more often throughout his lifetime."  There is no time like the present.  Without getting yourself into trouble (spending too much money, or playing hooky from work!!) build in that time NOW with your existing pet or pets.  Bring Fido to that mountain retreat you wish you had brought Rover to "back in the day".  Now's your chance!  Cuddle with your cat, Fluffy, on your lap and a good book or movie, because you wish you had "one more day" with Pookie. You do have that "one more day", and it's today, with your current pet(s).
  5. Help out a friend or relative with their pet.  No pets at home, and you're not ready (maybe you will never be) to adopt a new companion?  If your parent, sibling, or other relative, a friend, or a neighbor has a pet you enjoy spending time with, offer to hang out with the pet to help out, or just because you need some "animal time".  This is a great way to resolve the "I need help getting through the loss of Max" problem without actually SAYING those words (because sometimes people do not understand). 
The finished product:  The Hector garden memorial!


Do you have other ideas or suggestions for ways to honor and remember your late pets?  Tell me about it in comments, or drop me a few lines at k2k9dogs@gmail.com -- I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!  
You are appreciated!  


Disclaimer:  The suggestions on this website are not intended to be a substitute for therapy or professional advice. The contents of this website are solely the opinion of the website owner, and are not a substitute for therapy, advice, diagnosis, treatment of any kind, whether spiritual, medical, mental health, or other.  If you are experiencing a mental health issue due to the loss of your pet (or for any other reason), please obtain the services of a professional.  The owner of this website assumes no responsibility or liability on behalf of any purchaser or reader of the materials herein.