“Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.”
Inscription on the monument to Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, at Newstead Abbey.
The great animal writer James Herriot advised those who lose a pet to get a new one as soon as possible. It’s supposed to help deal with the pain, but Herriot was sadly silent on how to honor our pets’ memory. He was lucky because his pets live on in the minds of millions of readers all across the world. We are not all best-selling authors, however. So we have to turn to more achievable methods build a suitable memorial to our pets.
A cautionary word: Not everybody will understand what you’re going through. You will have friends, family and co-workers who can’t figure out why you’d go to such lengths for a pet. These people have probably never experienced the close bond that can develop between guardian and pet, and frankly, it’s their loss. They don’t understand that losing a pet causes comparable grief to losing a family member. It’s a well-documented phenomenon and certainly nothing for which YOU should apologize.
Animals are remarkable for their unselfishness, and there are several ways to ensure that your pet’s memory lives on by rendering help to others.
The first and most obvious way is to donate to an animal welfare society in your pet’s name.
Plant a memorial tree
This is another giving act that dogs in particular would appreciate. Contact your local pet-friendly park, common or municipal garden and find out if they allow memorial planting. If that’s too public, you can simply plant a tree on your own property.
An alternative is an eco-urn. It’s a burial option which combines your pet’s ashes with fertilizer and either a sapling or tree seeds, so that your pet can give the community a tree to enjoy. Many companies offer similar products (you can find them online).
Other traditional and not-so-traditional memorial options
If you’re looking for a more personal memorial, there’s always the option of a gravestone or memorial plaque in a pet cemetery or crematorium. A good way to find one is to go to Google Maps and search for either pet cemeteries or crematoria. They should produce a list of several nearby facilities.
One option for the home is a love shrine. Set aside an area, like a corner shelf or bookshelf, and store your pet’s ashes, their collar and/or their favorite ball or toy and one or two pictures of them on it. It can be a source of comfort and fond memories when things just seem a bit much.
A more public option is an online memorial. You can set up a webpage, Facebook group or free blog where you can share pictures, videos and stories of your life with your pet. These offer the advantage of being easily sharable with friends and family.
If you want to carry a reminder of them with you, you can simply enclose a lock of their fur in objects such as a locket or small pendant, or even a hollow key chain.
If money is no object, you can create a diamond from your pet’s ashes. It’s an expensive option and several companies that offer this service online.
You could also commission a painting of your pet, or even have a little statue made in their likeness. You could place the statue (or even a simple urn with their ashes) in their favorite spot in the garden and plant your own memorial garden.
Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that it’s for you and your pet. Don’t feel pressured into anything you don’t feel like doing. And remember: Animals are practical and not particularly sentimental. They wouldn’t want you pouring resources and time into them when they’re gone; they’d much rather you have some fun in their memory and pass on the love to another animal in need. And, if at all possible, remember Herriot’s advice and get another pet if you have the resources to support one. There are always more pets looking for homes than homes for them to go to. It may be the most fitting memorial to your pet to give another animal, particularly a shelter animal, the chance at the happy life they were able to spend with you.