Nothing prepares us for the loss of a pet, and when I lost my ten-year-old female pug Savi, the grief was far more profound than I’d anticipated. Of course, I’ve lost human companions over the years, but this felt just as intense.
People who have never owned or loved a pet don’t understand the magnitude of the loss, and there is very little societal support available, even though it’s one of the most valuable relationships we experience. Pets are trustworthy companions that know us instinctively, sometimes better than most humans. They become a central part of our lives, loving us unconditionally, and they never judge us no matter how many mistakes we make.
Since losing Savi, I’ve learned that no two people grieve the same way and that everyone processes the pain differently. Some people will get another pet shortly after the loss of the first one, believing that it helps channel their love from one to the other. I wasn’t ready to adopt another fur baby, but I also wanted to have more than just my memories of Savi after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Knowing that memorials help ease the pain, I opted for a cremation to have her ashes in a keepsake box and had a plaster paw print made.
After a bit of research, I found multiple ways online to honor a deceased pet—from DIY pet toy shadow boxes to elaborate urns, candles, plaques, porcelain plates, and Christmas ornaments.
1. Plant A Tree: A new tree is a living memorial of a pet that has passed on and, if properly cared for, will continue to grow for generations to come. Oaks are a popular choice since they’re a symbol of strength and longevity—plus, they’re easy to grow. Some people bury their pet’s ashes in the soil and plant the tree above them. Others prefer to plant a tree in their pet’s favorite sunny spot in the yard—a place where he napped or played. The beauty of planting the tree is that it’s a daily reminder of your beloved furry friend, and it’s also good for the environment!
2. Create Customized Jewelry: Dozens of companies create crystals from pets’ cremains or place a small portion of the ashes into urn jewelry, a small, hollowed-out container filled with ashes and used as a charm or necklace. Another idea is to have images of your four-legged friend (face, nose print, paw print) scanned and turned into a locket, bracelet, or ring. Even a pet leash with the animal’s name printed on it can be turned into an attractive bracelet. Some companies go so far as to use a deceased pet’s fur to make felted pet hair beads to wear as a memorial bracelet.
3. Photo Quilt: A photo collage of your fur baby turned into a warm, comforting blanket is an easy way to create a lasting tribute to your pet. It also makes a great sympathy gift for friends who are grieving the loss of an animal. Images are scanned onto the quilt, with captions, birth and death dates, etc. Many find that snuggling under a printed quilt of their pet is like being able to hug them once again.
4. Tattoo: What better way to memorialize your pet and keep them close to your heart than a tattoo? Pet-inspired tats are very popular today. They’re also great conversation starters and will allow you to talk about your pet. The ideas are endless— images of their paws, nose, face, or entire body can be turned into a tattoo. You can also add whatever captions or shapes you want alongside the image—your pet’s name, angel wings, hearts, etc. The possibilities are endless!
5. A Memorial Structure for The Yard: Whether you bury your pet’s body or ashes outside and want a marker over the grave or just a decorative reminder in your garden, there are dozens of options available for a beautiful memorial. Some people opt for sculptures of their pet, engraved headstones with photos or ceramic paw prints, crosses, angels, or even benches with the pet’s name etched across the top. These all make lovely tributes to a loving animal who is dearly missed by its owners.
6. Create A Photo Journal or Scrapbook: Older photos often get lost over time in the shuffle of newer photos added to our cell phones. The best way to keep pictures of your pet organized and at the ready is to place the images in a photo journal or scrapbook. You can fill the book in chronological order starting with the earliest snapshots—when you first brought your pet home–to the last pictures taken. If you’re making a scrapbook, you can add captions, dates, stickers, labels, and even small, flat items that can be glued to the page.
7. Pet Bowl Remembrance Planter: Another way to help pet owners through the grieving process is to turn a painful reminder such as their pet’s food bowl into a vibrant, living tribute. There are several DIY projects online with instructions on turning a food bowl into a remembrance planter by using the animal’s leash and name tag as a decoration on the outside and then filling it with colorful flowers or easy-to-care-for succulents.
8. Make A Donation to A Pet Charity: One of the best ways to honor your deceased pet is to donate to a non-profit organization in his name. Places like animal shelters, pet foster homes, and rescue centers are perfect or start a fund in your pet’s name for families who need financial assistance for their vet bills.
9. Turn Your Pet’s Ashes into Glass Art: Cremation crystals made from the ashes of a beloved pet can be made into colorful works of art, such as memorial glass orbs, hearts, paw prints, or even 3-D crystal engraved cubes with your pet’s face. Cremains are mixed with molten glass and made into various shapes and colors, depending on what you prefer, and make excellent memorial keepsakes.
10. Get A Custom Plush Made of Your Pet: Several companies are available online that design life-sized stuffed animals to look exactly like your pet. This is especially helpful to children with difficulty handling a family pet’s loss. Images are used to create a stuffed replica of a furry friend, which is very detailed and realistic. It’s a beautiful opportunity to hold onto and hug your pet long after he is gone.
11. Turn A Pet Photo into A Painting: If you want to capture the essence of your pet, turn his photo into a museum-quality portrait to express the love and appreciation you shared. Memorial pet paintings are comforting, timeless, and beneficial in keeping your fur baby’s memory alive.
12. Make A Pet Memorial Box: This is probably the easiest way to honor your pet. Find a beautiful box, have your pet’s name engraved on the outside, and then fill the container with keepsakes such as photos, favorite toys, ink paw prints, sympathy cards, leash, collar, tags, pedigree papers, etc. It may be too painful at first to look at the items, but once you’ve healed, you’ll be glad you saved a special part of your beloved four-legged friend to cherish forever.
If you want to read more about what it means to loose a pet read this article on The Stuff Nobody Tells You About a Dying Pet.
Author Bio: Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane and the voice behind the midlife blog, Menopausal Mother. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Independent, U.S.A. Today/Reviewed, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, and many others. You can find her at http://www. marciakesterdoyle.com.