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Losing a dog or cat that was sick or died suddenly can be one of the toughest moments in a human's life. They aren't just the animals of the house; they're our friends and family. So, when your furry friend is suddenly no longer around, his or her death leaves an absence in your life that can be difficult to replace. Memorializing a deceased pet is one way to move through your grief. Here are five options to help honor and remember a pet after they pass.
Plan a Memorial Service
Attending a funeral or memorial service is a major part of the grieving process in some cultures. Since your dogs and cats are a huge part of the family, there's no reason you can't plan your own remembrance ceremony in their honor. Invite immediate family members and close friends into your home and take turns sharing memories about your pet. Pass around photographs of happy occasions and enjoy your time with your human companions. Your dog or cat wants you to be happy and experience life.
Create an Outdoor Memorial
Did your dog love to spend time outside? There are many ways you can honor his memory in an outdoor memorial regardless of whether you rent or own, have a huge yard or teeny-tiny porch as your only means of outdoor space. If you own your own lot, plant a tree in your animal's honor. If space is an issue, purchase or create a garden stone. On it, engrave your pet's name and a quote that encompasses the love you shared and the time you spent together.
Embrace Daily or Seasonal Reminders
One of the simplest ways for memorializing a pet is framing a picture of your cat and dog and putting it on display in a prominent area of your home. If your pet wore any identification tags on his or her collar, those could easily be made into key chains that you can share with your family. For a seasonal reminder, clip a few strands from the end of your pup's favorite tug rope or a feather from your cat's feather toy. You can fill small glass ornaments with these snippets, so your pet will always be around during that special time of year.
Sharing with Other Animals
After losing a pet, there's no better way to honor him or her than to give to other animals, especially if they're in need. The ASPCA estimates, "Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats."
If you're not feeling too emotionally fragile, donating your time at a local animal shelter may help heal your heart after losing a pet. The animals will enjoy one-on-one interaction with a loving human, and you'll also benefit from the furry cuddles and undivided attention. You don't have to work directly with the animals if you're not ready. A gift of your time in your pet's memory may mean that you volunteer to clean or complete administrative tasks for the shelter.
If you have limited time, consider buying food and treats and dropping them off at a shelter. Donations of any kind are always welcome and needed. If the shelter is stocked well with food it might need something different, such as blankets, litter or toys. Because you always took such good care of your pet when he or she was alive, you can rest easy knowing you're keeping his or her memory alive by taking care of other animals in need.
Use Your Creative Talents
Are you a writer, artist or even a baker? Losing a pet is a difficult life process and grieving looks different on every person. There are many ways you can remember your pet — and share your love for him or her with others — for years to come. If you write or draw well, consider creating a children's book about your cat that passed. If you own a bakery, name a treat on the menu after your pup. Any talent can be an opportunity to remember your pet. Be creative and you'll think of many ways to honor your old friend.
During the grieving process, it is always great to get support from those closest to you. They can help you through the most difficult times to help you recover. Because of the help and support your friends and family offer you, you can pay it forward too. Because you have had to endure through trying times like this, think about offering your own support to other grieving pet parents. Sometimes the best way to memorialize your pet is to help others understand that just because they are gone physically, doesn't mean they are gone from your heart and thoughts. Sharing stories about your own pet can be a great way to help others cope with the loss of their pet.
If you recently had a pet pass, we wish to offer you our condolences. It is never easy losing a member of the family and we hope that we can offer you some support with these memorial ideas. If you have any other ways that you have memorialized your pet's life, please head over to the Hill's Pet Facebook page and share them with the community.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform — and even transform — its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.