How to Memorialize Your Pet Once They’ve Crossed the Rainbow Bridge
By Chelsy Ranard
My college roommate, Andrea, had this little Jack Russell Terrier named JT. He was a monster. He barked at everything, was a terror in the car, hated bicyclists, and had to be forced to go outside to pee if the ground was wet at all. I wasn’t the biggest fan of small, yappy dogs, but JT started to grow on me. He was a lover and always made us laugh. We gave him fun nicknames like “Tizzle,” dressed him up on Halloween, and laughed at all of his ridiculous antics with the other animals.
One day, a little over a year ago, Andrea called to tell me that JT had passed away. It was sudden; he was only 8 and should have had many more years to chase leaves, torment the squirrels, and have nap time with his family. I tried to talk Andrea through it while hiding my own tears so that I didn’t make her upset but it was near impossible. I couldn’t believe that she lost her pup so sudden and so early. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to get my greeting ever again when I went over to visit. And I couldn’t believe I didn’t get to say goodbye.
JT’s case was not the norm; many dogs live into their golden years and get plenty of time to be an old dog. For those that can anticipate their animals crossing the rainbow bridge a little earlier than we did with JT, the options for finding a way to memorialize your pet are greater and you have the opportunity to plan for them. Make sure you keep your home elder dog friendly while your pup is entering his senior years and cherish the time you have with him. In the meantime, take a ton of pictures and videos and get in all the hugs and licks.
With those photos, videos, and memories you can create amazing memorials for your animal. Losing JT was extremely hard on all of us and especially Andrea. Everyone who loved JT started finding ways to help my friend and commemorate JT using the photos, videos, and memories we had. I started to brainstorm ideas on how to memorialize this little pup that meant so much to all of us. Even when our pets are gone, whether we anticipate it or not, we can find ways to remember them and keep them around.
Andrea’s sister had her friend draw a portrait of JT based on a photo of him a few months after he passed that was extremely meaningful. Commissioning a portrait of your pet is a great way to keep their memory alive. There are many artists that specialize in this type of art and offer reasonable prices. The types of portraits available are varied and you can choose the type of art you’d like that you think would best portray your furry friend. Many artists online just require a photo of your animal and will send you the finished product if you can’t find a friend or local artist to take on the project. Be sure to choose a photo with high resolution so that the artist can include as many little details about your pet as they can. Some similar ideas include:
- Getting a memorial tattoo
- Painting a mural of them
In order to hold some keepsakes from your pet without stowing them in a drawer, a shadow box is the perfect way to commemorate your fur-baby. You can include a photo of them, their collar, name tag, favorite toy, or birth certificate in the shadow box as well. This ensures that your pet’s belongings can be displayed in a way that will commemorate your animal instead of getting thrown out, given away, or packed. You can display your pet in a way that will make you smile and remember the time you had with them along with the belongings that you are used to seeing them with like a tennis ball or bandanna. Some similar ideas include:
- Creating a memorial footprint in stone
- Buying a locket with their photo on one side and clipping of their hair on the other
When JT passed away, I gathered every video I had ever taken of him and compiled them together in a video for my friend. Compiling those images of this pup that I loved was an emotional moment for me, but I still watch it to this day and it makes me smile to remember all of his little quirks and to hear his bark again. I know that my friend enjoyed seeing her pup and that made all the difference. You can do the same thing for your pup. Compile videos or pictures and create a slideshow to share with those that loved your animal too. Ask others to send you their photos and see your pet from their eyes and add them to the slideshow as well. Some similar ideas include:
- Creating a photo album
- Starting a memorial website
One of my favorite ideas for commemorating pets that have passed away is to send a donation in their name. Many animal shelters have certain rooms, kennels, trees, or benches that are donated by owners in the name of their pet that passed. This is a great way to memorialize your animal and help other animals in the process. If you adopted your pet from a shelter, consider donating some money to them for a memorial for your pet. Many shelters already have these programs in effect so the process is very easy. Even if you didn’t adopt your animal from a shelter this is still a great option to commemorate your pet while helping others. Some similar ideas include:
- Starting a fundraiser in their name for your local shelter
- Sponsoring a shelter animal
Plant a Tree
Planting a tree for your pet is a great way to memorialize your pet with new life. You will get to see the tree grow and remember your pet every time you see it. The tree can act as a burial spot for your pet, hold a memorial stone at the base, or it can just symbolize your pet and be a reminder. Depending on the area that you’d like to plant the tree, you may need certain permissions to grow it in a public area, so do your research beforehand. The idea of commemorating your loved pet with new life is a beautiful way to remember your pet with the circular way that life is. Some similar ideas include:
- Ordering a gravestone for them
- Spreading their ashes at their favorite place
Losing a pet is extremely difficult for most of us. It’s important to remember that while their lives may be short, they are members of the family and deserve to be memorialized as such. There are many ways that pet owners deal with losing a pet and how to commemorate them and these ideas are just a start. Decide for yourself how you’d like to remember your pet and smile when you look back on your time with them. I still look back on our memorials of JT and smile at the sound of his bark and the way his ears perked up when I talked to him. Deciding to memorialize your pet is a healing experience and helps to keep the memories of your fur-children fresh in your heart.
Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is passionate about animal welfare and when she isn’t volunteering at her local cat shelter you can find her spending time with her animals or exploring Boise with her fiancé. Follow her on Twitter!