By Jon Bastian
It’s a sad but unfortunate fact that dogs do not live as long as humans, so it’s also inevitable that every dog lover must say good-bye to their beloved pet at some point. However, gone does not mean forgotten. Recently, we asked Cesar’s fans how they have memorialized their pets.
The answers were numerous, but there were many similar themes. Here are some of the most common ways that you have kept your pets’ memories alive.
It’s quite common for people to have their deceased pets cremated, but there are a large variety of ways that people handle the ashes afterwards. For some, scattering them in their dog’s favorite place, like a special spot in the yard or a hiking trail, is the method of choice.
One family’s experience is typical and moving. They explained how they “hiked up to Vivian Creek with Vinnie’s ashes. We placed him on this rock outcropping facing the valley below, next to a waterfall.” After setting some flowers on the ashes, they “watched as the wind start(ed) to slowly carry him away. Now he is part of this place he loved. A beautiful final resting place for the best dog ever.”
Special urns and memory boxes are very common, with some unusual variations. Cesar fan Julie McMaster reports that, after their dog Heidi passed, they “had a small portion of her ashes sewn inside a custom teddy bear, for the sake of our two young children. It is embroidered with her details and a lovely quote, and whenever they miss her they can cuddle the teddy and feel close to her.” The rest of her ashes are in an urn that looks like a rock, in the back garden under her favorite tree.
Others prefer to create living memorials with the ashes. Linc Turner explained his ritual for his dogs. “They each get their own dogwood tree planted, with some of their ashes placed in the hole, white flowers for the boys, and pink flowers for the ladies.”
Planting trees is a rather common form of memorial, as well. Rafael Uribe reported to us, in Spanish, that he saves the hairs from the tip of the dog’s tail, and plants a sapling for each of them. Misty Selling Dueck planted a tree in honor of her dog Scout. She told us, “The kids sit by the pretty tree when they want to remember him.”
A number of people have used their pet’s passing as incentive to help others, through businesses, foundations and charities. Brian Arnold started the Cyrus Foundation, named after his Doberman. Their mission is to help people with final expenses, from vet bills to memorials.
Working mostly from veterinarian referrals, in addition to helping with those expenses, Brian explains, “I drop off teddy bear urns and small pendants the day of so that they don’t have to go home empty handed. My memorial to Cyrus is to continue to spread the “dog love” that he so selflessly and patiently taught me about.”
Sherry Anderson, of Parthenon PUPS Professional Pet Services, started the Pet Assistance Network after her dog Nikki died in 2009. She founded the organization in order to curb the growing number of homeless and abandoned pets by helping families to be able to keep their pets. In addition, in honor of her dog Rachel, who passed away earlier this month, she is working on a website designed to help reunite lost and found pets with their owners.
While not going quite so far as to start their own businesses or foundations, many of Cesar’s fans donate to no-kill rescues and shelters in honor of a lost pet. Remember, donations do not need to be financial, and many shelters have wish-lists of material items that are always necessary. To honor her deceased Chihuahua Bella, Deborah Belasco hand-made small blankets from flannel sheets and donated them to her local shelter under the name “Bella’s Blankets of Love.”
Nelli Designs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, created a line of candles called “Maggie’s Light Memorials.” Each candle is designed with a replica dog collar. You can get them with engraved tags or hang your own pet’s tags. They are also available in your pet’s favorite scents, like daffodil or “rolling in grass.”
In addition to already available memorials, including some mentioned above, a lot of Cesar’s fans create their own memorials to their dogs, including memory books, photo albums, jewelry, and portraits. Bits of fur, favorite blankets or toys often feature prominently in these memorials, along with lots of pictures.
Preserving a dog’s paw print in plaster or as jewelry is also a common form of memorial, and many veterinarians do assist pet lovers in the process. Sometimes, artistic creations also serve a practical purpose. Cathy Fenton explained, “We built a bench under our gorgeous crabapple tree. Our dog Mr. Mash loved to rest there in the shade. He watches over our house and us now.”
Memorials are not limited to visual arts, however. Kevin Sipes told us, “I wrote a song, complete with music, for my dog Samson.”
Memorial tattoos seem to be incredibly popular, ranging from a simple name and dates to complete portraits. And, as a high tech memorial, Anna Mayer reports that her ringtone is the friendly barking of her dogs, so that she will never forget them. “Unfortunately,” she wrote, “They all passed away, but this little recording remains with me all the time. I think I won’t be able to change my ringtone ever.”
Many people do have their dogs buried in pet cemeteries with many of the human traditions of service and headstones. It’s also common in some places to bury dogs in their own back yards. Niina Kola-Kettunen from Finland plans to bury her 17 year-old Teresa in her garden, and Lori Majors did the same for her 16 year old Jessie, who is buried in the rose garden where she liked to sleep.
Instagram user @amonamarth84 combined two memorials in one. “All of my deceased pets are buried in the garden. I have lots of photos and keep the collars! Soon I’ll got a tattoo with (all of the) names and dates.”
Of course, it’s not legal in every jurisdiction to bury a pet in the backyard, so before considering it check your local laws. If it is permitted, though, it’s a lovely way to create a permanent memorial that’s always close at hand.
Finally, a number of people reported that they memorialized their deceased dog by saving a new life, heading to the shelter to give another homeless pet their forever home. Susan Gordon summed it up as follows, “I memorialize my pets by adopting another and giving them the life of the pet that I lost and loved so dearly!”
While this is probably the most enduring option, it isn’t for everyone — if the family is still grieving and in a place of weak energy, then it’s not the best time to bring a new member into the pack. However, adopting a new dog can be a way to deal with the grieving by rejoicing in a new found friend. It’s important in such situations, though, to do some careful consideration first, and consult with every member of your human pack.
As Catherine A. Blatchford Mercer reminds us, there are support groups for people dealing with the loss of a pet, and it can turn into a memorial of its own. After she joined a pet loss grief support group, she wound up staying on to help others through their grief.
Whether memorials to our pets are simple or elaborate, they are a very natural part of the entire process of welcoming them into our families and eventually saying good-bye. But the places they had in our lives — and will always have in our hearts — are the greatest memorials of all.
How do you honor the memory of your dog? Tell us in the comments.