It is the horrible reality that the life spans of our cherished animals are too short. Losing a pet can be a difficult and traumatic experience for pet owners. To cope, seek support from pet bereavement groups or create a memorial. At some point, all dog owners will experience the heartache of losing a pet.
This year, World Pet Memorial Day is held on Tuesday 13th June. This day is an opportunity to discuss pet loss and commemorate the lives of beloved dogs. Pet owners can use this day to share memories and celebrate the life of their departed pet.
Pet bereavement support
Dog loss is always difficult and can often be traumatic for owners. This can be especially hard if they do not have the support of friends and family.
Pet death affects everyone differently and it is important that when a dog dies, an owner allows themselves time to grieve. The process of grieving the loss of a pet is not fixed in terms of duration. It may take some time for dog owners to come to terms with their pet's absence.
If you are struggling to cope following the death of a pet, it is vital that you reach out. There are support groups and organisations that offer grief support, and they share their personal experience too. A bereaved owner could start to feel ashamed, or experience denial or anger when dealing with the loss of a pet. This is a very normal reaction and you may find comfort in pet loss support groups.
Blue Cross runs the Pet Bereavement Support Service. This is a free and confidential way for dog owners to talk to specially-trained volunteers. This team is available to answer calls, emails, and webchats from 8.30am to 8.30pm, every day of the week. You can find out how to access this valuable resource by visiting www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss.
Ways to remember your pet
Coping with the loss of a pet can be helped by remembering the good times. To keep your dog’s memory alive, creating a memorial may help you deal with grief. There are lots of different ways that you can honour the life of your pet – here are just a few ideas:
- Favourite photographs: Compile all your favourite dog pictures into a photo album, a collage or a folder on your phone. If you had your dog from a puppy, include some of those first photos too. This will allow you to have a selection taken over the years, as well as more recent pictures. This way you will have a good spread of images giving an overview of your pet’s life. If you have a favourite photograph, you could get that image enlarged and framed. Place your pet's belongings in the area of the home where they spent the majority of their time. This will be a reminder of them and may help the grief.
- Get arty: Some owners find that the grieving process can be eased by creating artwork inspired by their pet. For a visual reminder, you could draw or paint a portrait of your cat from a photo or memory. Or, you could write a poem or sculpt their likeness using some air-drying clay.
- Memory boxes: Using a decorated shoebox or similar, gather your dog’s belongings to keep them safe. Some owners find that returning to their dog’s belongings from time to time brings them comfort. A memory box can be used to store a variety of items. These can include a collar with tag, a favourite toy, a coat, a blanket and could also include photos.
- Garden memorial: If your dog had a favourite spot in the garden, you could create a little memorial area in their memory. This could also be the area in which you bury their body or ashes. Plant a special shrub or choose a fitting garden ornament to act as a focal point for the memorial. Some people find that when their pet dies, an engraved plaque with the dog’s name brings happy memories.
- Make a donation: You might like to leave a financial gift in your dog’s name to an animal rescue charity. Donating to a rescue organisation can be a meaningful idea. If your pet came from one, it is a great way to pay tribute. The money will be used to help other dogs live happy and healthy lives.
- Something more unusual: Some dog owners have chosen to show their unconditional love for their pet in more unusual ways. Such ideas include getting a tattoo, or jewellery made - like you would with a late family member.
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