Many of us have dealt with the loss of a beloved animal companion at some point in our lives, and perhaps — not surprisingly — have had or wanted to have a pet memorial service for your departed friend because that’s simply how much they mean to us. I (JN) have experienced the loss of two beloved pets in my life: our little Olivia (pictured below)
— our green-eyed female feline princess with attitude(!) — who, when we moved from an apartment to a house, ventured out the new doggy door to explore a neighborhood she wasn’t familiar with, and sadly, never made it back. Although we believe sweet Olivia to be still alive and bringing joy to a new family (and will always hold out a tiny bit of hope for her safe return), the loss, her absence, is equally as profound and heartbreaking as the death of my dear dog Rusty. Rusty, for whom I unfortunately never had a proper pet memorial service. Rusty, my chocolate Lab who uniquely holds the title of “My Last Childhood Dog/Brother.”😊❤ I did A LOT of growing up with him, and he saw me through a lot! Rusty fell ill and passed away while I was in college, so I never had the chance to say my goodbyes or give him the send-off I would’ve wanted to give him.
With today being National Pet Memorial Day, this got me thinking… how would I honor my beloved, departed pets? Would I make it an event and hold a formal pet memorial service for them? With my Rusty’s death being so long ago and with our unyielding small sliver of hope that Olivia might one day return, I probably would not, myself, do a formal pet memorial service. The beauty of honoring your pets, though, is that there is no right or wrong way to do so, no manner too understated or overstated. Here are some ideas that came to mind:
1. Pet parents can honor their babies who’ve passed with a beautiful, traditional pet memorial service. Start by sending out memorial announcements to all who knew and loved the deceased pet, everyone whose lives the pet touched — animals included. Choose a nice, relaxed, and quiet setting such as a private home or backyard, a secluded park, or an open courtyard on a campus such as a church or university. This can be a large or small gathering of family and friends. The pet memorial service can include remembrance speeches, poetry tributes, and light refreshments for after the service. It is likely a somber and respectful occasion out of sensitivity for the grieving. Yet, it can still remain lighthearted and even entertaining with reminiscing on and anecdotes about the pet.
2. Pet parents can organize a less formal event such as a play date with all the deceased pet’s siblings, cousins, and friends! Choose a spacious and safe location such as the pet’s favorite park or a private backyard. Get festive with decorations, include special treats like pastries from a dog bakery, have plenty of dog toys and even a wading pool if it’s warm out. Entertain your human guests with human food — have a barbecue or a potluck or a barbecue potluck! 😁 Display large photos, a collage, or a slideshow of the pet you’re honoring. Make a memorial keepsake banner in his/her name and have all your guests sign it with their handprint or paw print. ❤ Although a traditional pet memorial service can be just as much a celebration of your pet’s life, this type of send-off for your deceased pet emphasizes the celebration part! Yet, it is still equally as meaningful and loving as a traditional service. If it sounds like the kind of afternoon your pet would’ve loved and that reflects his/her spirit, then that is what counts!
3. A pet memorial service can certainly involve just you and your pet, or the token you’ve kept that represents your pet’s physical body. It can include just the immediate family — you, your spouse, your kids, the deceased pet and surviving pets. It can be as simple as a moment of silence, reflection, and saying goodbyes either separately or with everyone present. Take a long walk on a trail or at a park that your pet loved; reflect on your time together. Write down your reflections and keep it with mementos of your pet to read back upon later.
4. I mentioned above a memento, or a token you keep that represents your pet’s physical body. This can be an urn containing your beloved pet’s ashes, a shadow box memorial, a clay paw print, or a piece of jewelry with the pet’s paw print and name that you can wear everywhere. Rather than a pet memorial service, the memento itself can be the way you honor your pet, and it is beautiful! Again, there is no right or wrong way to bless up your departed companion, no manner too understated or overstated.
5. Finally… Create something! It’s cathartic! ..Write a poem about your beloved pet, for your beloved pet. Make a collage that celebrates their uniqueness as well as your time together! Or do both like I did for a great friend of mine, Professor! (see below).
Paint a masterpiece inspired by them! Create an ofrenda (or offering) for them, a semi-permanent art installation, perhaps in your backyard. Incorporate their toys, beds, their house or crate, their gear, flowers, etc. Alternatively, make a temporary ofrenda to display during one of my favorite and most meaningful occasions, Día de Los Muertos. If you’ve never celebrated the ancient occasion and maybe you’ve had a loved one (pet or human) pass away recently, consider partaking this year (Oct 31 – Nov 2). It can be helpful in the grieving process and can help you stay feeling connected to departed loved ones. You may even decide to hold your pet memorial service during Día de Los Muertos, tapping into the sacred meaning and festive energy of the moment.
These have been my thoughts on how to give a pet memorial service and otherwise honor your best friend, and that is all for now, folks.
In closing, here’s to ALL the pets who have touched our lives over the years who have passed on or are otherwise no longer with us — thank you for spending the precious years of your life with us. We miss you. You will always be loved and never forgotten.❤ #NationalPetMemorialDay
Duck & Turtle 🐥🐢