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A Memorial For A Dear Friend

We know we love our pets. What we often don’t realize is how deeply their loss can affect us, and that grief for a pet can feel as painful as grief for the loss of a human family member. However, when a human family member dies, there are many different ways to honor their memory through funeral services, cemetary plots and monuments, obituaries published in newspapers, charitable events in memory of special people who fought certain diseases, and many culturally accepted ways of memorializing the memory of a human loved one. When your pet dies, it can be very difficult to find meaningful ways of creating a memorial to a very important life.

One special memorial can be a clay pawprint made by your veterinary hospital when your pet passes away. This clay pawprint is usually created with the pet’s name lovingly imprinted and can be something to treasure forever. Many people may choose to receive their pet’s ashes in an urn to keep. Some may keep the pet’s leash or collar, or a small piece of the pet’s hair. Our animal hospital has a pet nametag memorial where tags with pets names are displayed in an outdoor garden. Some people may make a donation to their favorite animal welfare organization in memory of a beloved pet.

Recently, I lost a very special dog who chose to memorialize herself in a very unusual way. Four years ago, after sharing my life with Norwegian elkhounds for twenty six years, my last elkhound lost the battle to kidney disease. I began searching for a Norwegian elkhound in need of rescue, but found instead a beautiful husky with four kinds of cancer who had been returned to the shelter twice, no one wanted her and she needed a home. Although I had no experience with the husky breed, as I had only had elkhounds before, I brought her home and found in her the best friend I ever had. She was such a beautiful, loving dog who brought so much joy into my life. When she lost the battle to cancer I was devastated at how empty our home seemed without her. I returned to the shelter in the hopes of finding another husky, but there was no elkhound or husky available on that particular day. There was, however a very sweet mixed breed dog, not exactly sure what breed, a male, and I had only ever had female dogs before. I took him for a walk outside the shelter, and he looked back at me over his shoulder, the way my husky always did. In that instant, I understood the perfect way to honor my beloved husky angel was to give this unusual looking gentleman the same chance I gave her four years ago. She was different, she was not the breed I was looking for, but she needed me at that time. So now, I have adopted an interesting looking, unknown breed boy dog who needed me at just the time I needed him. He is my living memorial to a dog who taught me so much, how to open my mind to new opportunities, and I am so grateful to have him in my life!

If you have recently lost a pet, and have room in your heart and your home, take a visit to your local shelter or AWA and consider giving someone different a chance. You may be surprised at the joy a new friend can bring to even a deeply grieving heart.

Author: Dr. Rebecca Merrifield

4 thoughts on “A Memorial For A Dear Friend

  1. I lost my Golden Retriever to cancer a few months ago. I had always had Goldens or Labs for the past 30+ years. My heart broke when Leo died and I didn’t think I could ever have another dog in my life. Three months later I rescued a little 12 pound Manchester Min Pin mix. She is nothing like my calm, laid back Golden, but her happiness and energy was what I needed to lessen the grief of losing my best friend, Leo.

    1. We are so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is one of the most difficult moments we face. May you find comfort in all of the memories you’ve shared together.

  2. I have had many pets throughout my life and have suffered the losses of so many as we know they just do not live as long as we do. I continued to foster and rescue and adopt but until now I never realized that I was honoring the memory of my other beloved pets. I am about to lose another dog that started her life in a puppy mill, spent 8 spoiled and happy years with me and is now struggling with a brain tumor at the age of 14. While I do everything possible to make her happy and comfortable I already feel the pain of losing her. I was thinking this is it, I don’t want any more dogs. But your message has made me think differently. The best thing I could do would be to save another dog, the way I saved her, and give another dog a chance at a happy life. Thank you for your message. It is coming at the right time for me.

    1. Thank you so much for opening your heart and home to so many pets over the years, especially giving rescue pets a wonderful life that they deserve. We are glad you found comfort in our blog. Best of luck on your search for a new family member. If you are having a difficult time coping with pet loss, please join us for one of our grief support groups. You can find details on our upcoming events page.

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