Saying Goodbye: Memorializing Your Canine Companion
The human-animal bond is strong, sometimes as strong as any you may have with a person. When an animal companion dies, it can be just as heartbreaking as the death of a human loved one. Unfortunately, animal lovers are often met with insensitive comments, such as, "It was only a dog," or "Just get another one" when a dog companion dies. The dog's caregiver is left to mourn in private or get emotional support from strangers who might staff pet-loss support lines.
If the person experiencing the death of a dog is a child, finding ways to validate the pain of the loss is vital to helping the youngster through the mourning process and the feelings of grief.
Special Memorial Projects
Preserving and cherishing your dog's memory will help you find emotional support in your time of loss among those who love their pets as much as you. Everyone grieves in different ways, so finding an appropriate way to memorialize your pet is an individual decision.
Many people feel that writing about their canine companion helps to ease the pain of losing him or her. Creating a journal that includes stories about the things your dog did will help you focus on the good times you spent together. Collect writings by authors and poets that appeal to you and add them to your journal. Ask friends and relatives who knew your dog to make contributions. If you have a child who is mourning the loss of a dog, encourage the child to make a journal that includes drawings or photographs and obtain input from the whole family.
Photographs record those special moments and lock them forever in time. If you took photographs of your dog, select a favorite one and place it in a special frame. Keep the photo by your bedside. If your enjoy crafts, create a photo scrapbook of your dog. Visit the scrapbook section of a local craft store for special pet paper, stickers and other items to make the scrapbook pages special. Cover a binder to store your scrapbook pages with dog-print fabric.
If you are artistic, draw or paint a picture of your dog. If you like, have a professional portrait painted as a memorial to your dog companion. Some dog lovers have incorporated pictures of their dog into other craft projects such as quilts or decoupage. Having your dog's photo affixed to a T-shirt or other article of clothing is another way to keep his memory with you.
If you enjoy gardening, plant a tree, perennial, bush or shrub in memory of your dog. If you plant flowers that bloom every year in memory of your dog, you will have a constant reminder of the special place he had in your life.
Another meaningful way to pay tribute to your dog's memory is to donate to an animal organization in your dog's name. Not only will you be honoring the memory of your dog, but you also will be helping to save the life of another one. Shelters and animal groups have many opportunities for giving. Some print the name of the deceased dog in their newsletter. Others may compile names and put them on a special plaque or add a brick to their building or shelter walkways with a dog's name on it. State and national veterinary organizations accept donations in memory of deceased animals, and the money is used to help further the cause of veterinary science which will help save the lives of animals to come.
Dog owners can bury the body of their deceased pet or have him cremated. Burial may be in a plot in a pet cemetery associated with one for people. Some cemeteries allow pets to be buried in plots adjoining those of their caregivers, so check with a local facility to find out what options you have if burial is how you choose to inter your pet. Check with your local animal shelter as well to determine if they have a pet cemetery available to the public. Shelters may also sell markers with the pet's name and birth and death dates on them to place on a pet's grave if he is buried elsewhere.
Burial costs vary depending on the type of casket and the type of grave marker you select. Caskets can run from $75 to $400 depending on the material from which they are made and the decorations that adorn them. Markers can cost as little as $75 for a granite marker and go as high as $500. Placing a pet's likeness on the marker or inscribing it costs extra.
Cremation is the process that reduces the body to minerals called ashes through exposure to high heat. Cremation can be done through your veterinarian or by a private cremation facility. Such facilities may be a part of a pet boarding facility or a pet memorial park. Cremation is usually less costly than burial in a pet cemetery. Communal cremation
can cost as little as $50. Private cremation, which guarantees that the ashes returned belong to only your pet, can run as high as $200 depending on where you have your pet cremated.
Ashes are usually returned in a tin or small wooden urn. Brass urns for pet ashes run about $50. Fancier urns may cost as much as $250 depending on materials, lettering and decorations. If you are handy with tools, make a wooden urn yourself. You may want to scatter his ashes over places he liked to go.
Some pet lovers place a brick or stone with their pet's name painted on it in their gardens or they buy specially designed and inscribed grave markers if their pet is buried on their property. Check with your local municipality first to determine if any ordinances exist preventing pet burial on private property.
Placing a statue such as that of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, on your dog's grave will help remind you of his special gift of love to you. Or, find a suitable dog statue and mark his grave with it.
Although many people may feel uncomfortable doing so, having a ceremony similar to a funeral service or a wake for a person to pay tribute to a pet after he has died will help others recognize the importance of the bond the caregiver had with the animal. Ceremonies also give the caregiver an opportunity to openly express grief and obtain emotional support. Light candles and read from a favorite poem or share some personal stories about the pet.
Add your dog's name to the "Monday Night Candle Ceremony" held weekly at Petloss.com or in-memory-of-pets.com. These beautiful and touching sites allow visitors to add their own pets' names and, if they choose, write some special words about their pets. During each weekly ceremony on Petloss.com is a reading of The Rainbow Bridge, a poem about pets who have crossed over the rainbow and await the coming of those who have cared for them.
Your dog had a special place in your life, and you will find a way to memorialize him that best embodies that relationship.