Get a tattoo in memory of your dog
This one, too, isn’t for everyone, but another way to memorialize a pet is perhaps the ultimate artwork — a tattoo. Tattoos of pets can include portraits, paw prints or your dog’s name.
Create a special plant, tree or keepsake box as a memorial for your dog
“I have had the honor of attending a number of special tree planting services honoring a pet or pets that serves as a way to allow our beloved pets to live on in a meaningful way,” says Maryglenn, who is also the founder and owner of Paws to Remember, a pet aftercare company that serves grieving pet owners in their time of need.
Still others create a section of their backyard to plant flowers and include a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, as a place to sit and reminisce about their dog. You can also get a pawprint mold and display that as part of the tribute.
While a garden is lovely, that special spot can also be indoors with something as simple as a keepsake box or memorial shelf. Rev. Kaleel suggests, “Creating a special memorial in the house with the dog’s leash, favorite toy, photographs, perhaps, and other objects that give the pet parent a place to go and be especially close to their departed, beloved animal companion.”
Make art to memorialize your dog
While few things capture a pet’s likeness as a clear, in-focus photograph, there are many media that go beyond that. An art director friend of mine, for example, did an Illustrator image of our Medusa (above) that we had printed on a canvas. It was based on a photo of her and we display it proudly in our home. You can also get pillows, watercolor portraits, a mug, etc. to keep a visual of your pet, along with the many memories you shared, close at hand.
Create a custom-created animal to memorialize your dog
Another form of remembrance is a custom-created animal made in your pet’s likeness. This is a very cool idea, which you may want to act on before your pet passes. I know for myself, I’d need to let some time pass before getting one after the fact; as I mentioned with those Facebook memories, sometimes things are just “too soon.” And, again, only you can determine what is right for you — there is no single correct approach!
Do a good deed in memory of your dog
A donation on behalf of your dog is a very special way to honor her while also helping other dogs in need. “I do this whenever a friend’s pet dies,” Jenna says. “It’s such a lovely legacy that allows them to live on while helping other animals.” Options could include the rescue organization where you got your dog, a group dedicated specifically to your dog’s breed or one just for senior pets, like Grey Muzzle, which has a special “in memory of” donation section.
How to grieve your dog when he passes
“No two people grieve the same; some grieving owners want community and ceremony, while others want to be left alone,” Maryglenn says. “I do think it is important to keep that in mind when honoring a loved one’s pet.”
Rev. Kaleel says he knows people who, 30 years after the death of their pet, still mourn and miss them.
“I want people to know tears are sacred. Grief is healthy. Many people I work with tell me they grieved more deeply for the death of their pet than when their parent or friend or relative died,” he says. “Yes, that’s true because the love between us and our pets is without betrayal, complexity, judgment — the stuff that complicates and corrodes human relationships. Yet, so often, the heartbreak we feel at the death of our pet leads directly back to un-mourned losses in a person’s life. I see it almost all the time. The tears never shed at Dad’s passing are shed at the dog’s passing.”
If you have a friend who is grieving for a pet, don’t worry too much about doing or saying the wrong thing. “As a friend, to acknowledge and honor the love someone shared with a pet is a wonderful way to say ‘I care,’ and ‘I, too, want to help you honor the life and love you shared,’” Coleen says. “When a pet parent is in grief with a shattered heart, having a friend be a caring voice with a helping hand is so heartwarming. And, if nothing else, ‘just be’ with the person who’s had the loss and listen to their stories. The gift of presence in that manner means the world!”
No matter how big or small your dog is, when he passes, he leaves behind a huge void. Grieving is a deeply personal process. Whenever you’re ready, some of these memorialization ideas can create a tangible form of the many memories in your heart.
Create a bucket list for your senior dog
Many of us are familiar with people creating a bucket list of things to do before they pass on. They might include go to Paris, drive a race car or meet Brad Pitt. As with everything else, our companions have far lower aspirations, which makes it even easier to create a bucket list to delight your dog.
Consider the following treats or experiences when you know you will have to say goodbye soon:
✤ Trip to the dog park – borrow a wagon if your senior dog isn’t so mobile
✤ Day at the beach
✤ Playdate with some of your dog’s besties
✤ Tasty table scraps
✤ Trips through the drive-through for a burger or other snack
✤ Chocolate, the ultimate forbidden delight. In fact, some veterinary clinics have a jar of “Goodbye Kisses” in the rooms where pet parents say their final goodbyes as a way to give their dogs something special at the very end.