It's devastating to think of losing your beloved fur-baby, but there will come a time when you'll wonder about the most fulfilling ways to memorialize a pet. September 13 is National Pet Memorial Day, but grief never restricts itself to a single day. My family’s dog, Katie, a black Australian kelpie and greyhound mix, passed away in April. Every time I go to my parents’ home, I feel like I can hear the jangle of her tags and wish she could sleep with me for one more night. We had so many good memories that I decided it was time to commemorate her and acknowledge the loss that we had.
What prompted this thinking was a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. This was a long way to travel for a wake-up call that taught me how to memorialize a pet! When in Scotland, I visited the Edinburgh Castle where they have a dog cemetery that is built into the remains of a medieval tower and has been used as a burial ground for officer’s dogs and regimental mascots since the 1840’s. It’s an exceptional way to show appreciation for the dogs in Scotland’s military. It got me thinking about how to memorialize a pet, like my Katie, in a way that would showcase the love they bring out in us.
1) Mini Me Statue
This may seem like an odd way to memorialize a pet, but at my house, we have little ceramic statues of the four pets that we have lost, three cats and Katie. When we get a new pet we look around for a small statue that looks like them to have at the house. Right now Katie’s collar is placed around her mini me. The statues symbolize their place in our hearts, and your pet gets to put the stamp of approval on it if you get a statue while they are still alive.
2) Clay Paw Print
We see our pets’ dirty paws over every surface, so why not get something to remember their exact print? When I was young, my dad extended our concrete patio in the backyard. The only reason I remember this is because my brothers and I were able to create handprints in the wet concrete. I wish I could go see it now, since my brothers and I are all grown up. This made me realize what a nice keepsake it would be to have a clay paw print from your pet. It is a small keepsake, but it could easily move with you, unlike a section of concrete patio. Instead of wading through your grief to figure out how to memorialize your pet after a loss, this is something you can do with your dog beforehand, on purpose. Most veterinary offices are thoughtful enough to provide the service in times of sadness as well.
We all have a favorite picture of our beloved companion, so why not have an artist take that picture and turn it into a painting? You can get a pet portrait, slate or acrylic, full painting, or even something funny! It all depends on how you want to remember your furry friend. Shhhh, nobody tell my mum though! I just decided this is what I am getting her for Christmas, so I will have to keep her away from this post. Personalized gifts like these are a lovely way to memorialize a pet.
4) Photo Book
When you have a pet, sometimes you take more pictures of them than anyone else! Why not take all of those photos and create a photo book? My mum does this every year for me and my brothers, and it is really cool to have that physical representation of a year gone. Next to the photos, you can also write about what you loved about your pet. Activities like this can help to get sad feelings off your chest when you lose a beloved pet. Rather than struggle with how to memorialize your pet or mourn your loss, you can flip through memories of your dog's happy life.
5) Shadow Box
Once your pet is gone, you still have all of their leftover belongings like toys and collars. A cute project to do with your family would be to grab all of their favorite things and put them into a shadow box. You can also insert pictures, a clay paw print, your writings about them, and many other things. The options are limitless. It is a good exercise for you and your family to do together that can really focus on the positive memories of your pet.
What do you do with your pet once they are gone? We decided to bury Katie since there is a pet cemetery that we used to run by with her every day. I would take her on walks there too and thought it was the perfect place. You can find a pet cemetery near you or bury your pet in the backyard to keep them close. Once you do bury them, a good way to remember the spot and their lives is to plant a bush, flower patch, or tree to represent their life with you. It's one of the most therapeutic ways to memorialize a pet, but it can be hard if you ever move away from the area.
7) Decorate an Urn
Another option for how to memorialize a pet is to cremate them and put them in an urn. Decorating an urn with pictures is another activity that can be cathartic. This helps us let go and grab the most unforgettable memories we have. You can either choose to then bury the urn or keep it with you as a remembrance of their love.
8) Contribute to a Charitable Organization
This is a great way to memorialize a pet and to give back at the same time. When you have lost a loved one, helping other pets in need can help get you through your grief. We rescued Katie, and now I am fostering dogs while they wait for their forever homes. It’s very rewarding and helps me when I am missing her. You can’t help but love the pets that come through shelters, and the experience of helping them is healing.
Have you lost a treasured pet? Do you know of any other ways to memorialize a pet? Tell us in the comments below.