When You Lose Your Fur Baby– How to Keep Their Memory Alive

March 28, 2022
A woman kissing her dog gently

It’s not ever going to be easy to lose your best friend. It’s incredibly hard to know that the creature in the world that will give you all their love without cost or question has a significantly shorter life span than we do. Keeping their memory alive doesn’t have to just be through pictures or stories. They don’t have to survive alone in your heart or mind. Here are some ways to show your pet the love they deserve, even after they are no longer with us.

Before they’re gone

When you still have time with your pet, you should spend it the best way you can: with them, making them feel as happy and loved as you can.

Make them a bucket list and cross everything off

Some pet parents may have regrets when they can see the end coming for their pets and may want to make up for lost time. For some, the importance of their pet having the best last days is stronger than anything else. 

Making a bucket list for your pet may be the best way to know that you are spending plenty of high-quality time together before their time, unfortunately, runs out. A bucket list for your pet can include many things. You know your pet better than anyone, so anything you know your pet loves to do would be something you could add here.

If your dog likes car rides and new places, maybe a weekend trip to a pet-friendly hotel would be good for them. If your cat likes to be outside, maybe take them for a few walks in a stroller or a pet wagon so they can get some sun and new smells. If your dog likes meeting new people, maybe see if there’s a senior center nearby that would be willing to let your pooch come say hi. It’s a win-win.

See if you can find a place that offers pet massages near you, or find tutorials online to give your pet a nice relaxing afternoon of loving pets and rubs. The possibilities are endless, and all it takes is a bit of planning and knowing your pet’s likes and what will bring them the most joy on their last days.

Process your feelings

It’s not easy to lose a loved one, be they with fur or not. Even if you know when your pet’s end will be, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be emotionally prepared when it happens. 

Write a letter to your pet 

While we know that our pets can’t understand us aside from a few words we’ve taught them, that shouldn’t stop you from saying goodbye. 

It’s natural to feel like you weren’t able to say enough to your pet in their last days or hours or minutes. There’s always going to be something you wish they understood and hope came across to them. That feeling is easily something that you’ll carry with you, and for some, the weight of it may be too much.

If you feel like there’s anything you wish your pet knew or understood about you that you’d like to tell them, either before they’re gone or after, writing them a letter may be a cathartic way to manage that feeling. 

There’s nothing and no one to tell you officially that your pet can’t read your letter from the great dog park or cat tree in the sky. And there’s nothing that says that they can. So err on the side that you need. Some people may need to think their pet will get their letter and understand how much they meant to their owner, what their life meant to you. Others may need to take time to let go of some emotional weight they carry because of their pet. 

It depends on what you need the letter to offer you and what you feel your pet would have wanted to hear if they could understand you. 

Host a funeral or a celebration of life 

Our pets are a part of the family, there’s no reason that saying goodbye to a furry friend doesn’t deserve the same ceremony as their human counterparts. 

Funerals are for the living, not the dead. Taking the time to celebrate your pet’s life with people who knew and loved them is an excellent way to gain closure, the same way it is for when a person you love passes. Gather your friends and family and share stories about your pet’s life and how they impacted you all. 

Our pets are a part of our family. While ceremonies for our furry friends aren't as prominent as those for people, there is absolutely no reason why saying goodbye to your beloved pet wouldn't deserve the same ceremony as their human counterparts.

Having a funeral can also help share your grief with others and take some of the pressure off you by surrounding yourself with others who understand the pain you feel. 

Write an obituary

Writing an obituary can be a great way to say goodbye to your furry friend, as it combines the catharsis of writing a letter with the conclusion of a funeral. An obituary gives you the space to have memories of your pet in a more tangible way. Even if you write an obituary on the computer, you can still have a tangible memory to print out and hold when you feel the loss of your pet in your bones. 

Writing an obituary can be something you do on your own, or it can be a group effort among family and friends who knew your pet well. An obituary is meant to remember the one you lost, and no memory is too big or too small. 

Your pet’s obituary can include anything about them, from the way that they liked to squeak their toys, to their favorite place to nap, to what they mean to you and how their love helped you. 

There aren’t many newspapers that will post a pet’s obituary, but that shouldn’t stop you from writing one. In fact, it should give you more freedom to write whatever you want to about your pet, knowing no one but those who loved them as much as you did will read it. 

Writing an obituary for your pet can be one of the ways that you remember them and honor them. You can print it out and place it in a picture frame behind a photo of them, so even long after the exact memories have faded, you’ll always have who they were within reach. 

Make their memory tangible

Build them an outdoor memorial 

Whether you plan to bury your furry friend at home or elsewhere, you can dedicate a portion of your outdoor space in their honor. Planting flowers or other plants to celebrate your pet’s life may offer a place of active memory, or putting up a memorial stone with their name on it in their favorite part of the yard can help remember them and their quirks by.

Immortalize a part of them 

There are some things that are completely unique to every animal. The way that every human’s fingerprint is different, most furry animal’s nose prints are different, and every nose is unique both in shape and color. The size and shape of your pet’s paw print are also specific to them. 

Celebrating the unique parts of your dog may be a great way to remember them and have something tangible that will only ever belong to them. 

There are artists who make commissionable recreations of pet’s noses that can be used as decor or jewelry—several can be found online taking different approaches to this method of memorializing your pet. 

There are also many easy kits for taking your pet’s paw print and turning it into something long-lasting. Some vet’s offices even offer to make one for you on their last visit with them. 

Keep them with you 

One of the most lasting ways to keep your pet’s memory in your life is to get a tattoo in their honor. Whether that means that you get a tattoo of a photo of them or a tattoo of something that reminds you of them, it will permanently be a part of you the same way that you were a permanent fixture in their lives. 

If a tattoo’s permanence isn’t in the cards for your particular lifestyle, you can always get custom clothing or other necessary items made in their honor. There’s nothing to stop you from using a reusable grocery bag with your pet’s adorable face on the side. And having a T-shirt or sweatshirt made with a line art drawing of your pet is a great way to keep them close to your heart. 

There are lots of custom print companies that will let you upload a picture and have it placed on anything: clothes, bags, mugs or cups, stickers, notebooks, blankets, and more. Finding the right thing for you is the most crucial part. And of course, if you want something a bit more unique than just a picture you took printed on an item, there are also artists who will create a drawing in their style to put on the product of your choice. It may take a bit of research on your part, but whatever option you choose, you are bound to find someone who will make it happen.

Make them a constant fixture in your home again 

You may not expect to notice the lack of your furry friend as often as you will when they’re gone. Bringing them back into your home in some capacity may make smoothing out their absence a bit easier for you. 

There are so many different ways that you can bring your pet into your home even after they’re gone. Commissioning artwork, or even making some yourself, can be a great way to place your furry friend back into the home. You can also use a service to turn photos into coloring book pages if you aren’t the best artist on your own, but still want to have the experience of making art in your pet’s honor. 

If you have the space, you can gather your pet’s ashes and use them as fertilizer for a baby tree to plant in their honor. While it’s not the same as taking care of your pet, you will have the responsibility of taking care of the tree and watching it grow until it can take care of itself. By planting a tree, you give your pet’s memory a lifetime longer than your own. 

Process and remember in the way that makes the most sense to you 

Your grief is your own, so no one can tell you whether you’re handling the loss of your pet the right way or the wrong way. There is no correct way, so long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others through the process. There’s never any reason to feel like the loss of a pet is something you have to carry on your own and process by yourself; if you’re having a hard time don’t hesitate to seek help through your friends and family, or through a professional when necessary.

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