Bean’s best friend crossed the rainbow bridge a couple weeks ago. Her humans knew it was the right decision after she was diagnosed with an inoperable bladder tumor of which the cancer associated with it was said to be incredibly aggressive. When the conversations with veterinary care professionals indicated that her quality of life would be limited and that she would be in pain, even with medication, they decided it was the right time to help her cross over.
The loss of a pet is devastating. Some studies have shown that the loss of a pet can have the same emotional effects as the loss of a close family member or friend. I’ve witnessed the suffering individuals have undergone as the result of a pet’s death, even when the decision to end their pet’s suffering was one they had made. The hole felt in the fiber of their everyday life was sometimes most noticeable with the simple things, like an empty food bowl on the floor, or in the case of my sister-in-law, not having to lock the trash container because Masie was no longer there to nose her way into the leftover food remnants.
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In my attempt to help honor the life of a pet, the legacy it has left behind, and its memory, I asked members of the pet blogging community what some of the most meaningful gifts they’ve received (or have given) in honor of a pet that has recently passed away. I hope this compilation of some of the ideas listed may help you when the time comes to pay tribute to a pet that has crossed the rainbow bridge.
A Donation in the Pet’s Name
Many individuals responded by saying they received notification that a donation had been made in memory of the pet that had passed. In some cases, the donation was made to the animal rescue organization where the dog, cat or other animal had been from originally. Sometimes, a donation was made to a breed specific rescue, particularly if the animal that had passed was known to be a specific breed. I also heard of donations that were made to the local rescue organization that the donor is most closely aligned with, since that individual may know how the money is going to be used. While I cannot speak on behalf of others, it would be my presumption that the gesture would be appreciated, regardless of the recipient organization and that no value is too small to make an impact for the organization and the family suffering the loss of a pet.
A Framed Photo of the Pet
It may seem simple, but having a visual reminder of a pet that has passed away, can help to keep the memory of the pet alive. A framed print or a canvas print of an image can be presented beautifully without being costly. A simple black frame and a color print from places like Walgreens can cost less than $20 but can still be priceless for the recipient.
This is Masie, a Rhodesian Ridgeback that was best friends with Bean.
If the individual has a Facebook or other social media account where you know they post a large number of images of the pet, scroll through to see if you can find an image you feel would be a good option for framing. You should be looking for an image that is well-lit, where the pet is the main focus of the shot, with little to distract the viewer in the surroundings. Ideally, the image would be depicting the animal at its “best,” so if it’s been sick for awhile, trying to find a photo of a time before it was sick would be preferable. There have been times that I’ve attempted to do this for a friend or family member, and I sadly, couldn’t find an image that was a high enough quality for the framed photo to be an option. You could always ask the intended recipient if they have higher quality photos in their collection that haven’t been posted on social media for one reason or another, or you can use a different idea from this list to honor the pet that has passed.
The title to this section is a bit of a misnomer, as some pet parents may elect to have their pet cremated and not bury its remains. What I really mean by this section is an item that is placed outdoors to commemorate the pet that has passed away. Some people mentioned a decorated stone with the pet’s name to be placed in a garden. Others talked about a decorative flag with the dog’s breed depicted, the pet’s photo, and even the image of a rainbow. A walkway stepping stone with the pet’s name was also listed as an option. The final item that was mentioned that I feel would fall into this category, was a tree that could be planted in an area where the pet enjoyed playing in the backyard.
You could hand make some of these items, if you are crafty. There are kits you can find online and in craft stores to make decorative stepping stones, for example. There are also companies online that will personalize outdoor flags for a reasonable cost. If you elect to go the route of a tree or plant, I might recommend providing a gift card for a local garden store or even a place like Lowe’s so the individual can pick out the type of tree or plant they would prefer and can also plant it on a schedule that’s convenient for them.
Books to Help with Grieving
There are a lot of beautifully written books that can help to share information about the grieving process and the loss of a pet. If the person who has recently lost their pet is looking for resources to help process their loss, or even find confirmation that their thoughts and feelings aren’t isolated to them, a book like Surviving the Loss of your Heart Dog by Roxanne Hawn may be an appreciated token.
If there are children in the family that are experiencing this type of loss for the first time, there are additional children’s books that can help family members grieve together as they read together. Examples of such books include: Sally Goes to Heaven and Even Bad Dogs Go to Heaven by Stephen Huneck. Both books are from the Dog Chapel, which is located in Vermont and is a lovely place to visit and pay tribute to a pet that has passed away. Take a look at a post written by dear friend, Carol Bryant of Fidose of Reality, which chronicles her visit.
If the intended gift recipient is an avid writer, a Pet Loss Journal may be a great way for that person to pay tribute to their pet in their own words. It can help provide prompts to assist the writer with remembering special events in the lives they shared together, which can be re-read and cherished for years to come. There are also pet loss journals which allow for people to insert photos, which can help prompt a person to print photos instead of having them saved online.
If I received a necklace or bracelet that helped to pay tribute to a pet that has passed away, I’d probably wear it every day. There are a lot of pieces of jewelry that can be personalized to honor a pet that has passed, such as hand stamped bracelets or pendants that you can find on Etsy. Other pieces are not personalized, but they are just as lovely.
There are rainbow bridge bracelets, charm bracelets with quotes, heart pendant necklaces with rainbow glitter, pendants of specific breeds of dog, and pretty much anything else you could imagine. I typed Rainbow Bridge Jewelry into Amazon’s search and found hundreds of options to choose from in a variety of price ranges.
Personalized Home Items
It’s not uncommon for pet parents to have a space in their home dedicated to paying tribute to their pet that has passed away. Many times, if the pet has been cremated, their remains may be included in this area in a decorative container. In addition to the framed photo idea that was listed earlier, there are other items you can provide that could help a pet parent pay tribute to their loved one.
If the gift recipient has a green thumb, you can provide them with a potted plant, such as an orchid, which can live and flower for years after it’s been received. Fair warning, if the pet parent still has pets (especially cats) make sure that the gift you provide is non-toxic for pets and that the item will be situated in a spot where the pet can’t knock it off its surface.
Other examples of items that can be personalized for the home include: decorative photo frames, Furry Angel Pet Memorial Candles, a shadow box where personal items like collars, tags and other pet accessories can be displayed, keepsake boxes with quotes or images like one of an angel holding a dog, are all great ways to help a pet parent decorate the space where they’ve chosen to pay tribute to their dog or cat.
End of Life Photo Shoot
This section is aligned with the post, but obviously would only be feasible if the pet parent knew of their pet’s terminal diagnoses with enough time to allow for a photo shoot prior to its passing. This was not a realistic option for Masie, as her diagnosis, and passing happened within a couple days of each other. Sometimes, though, pet parents are informed that their pet has a longer window of time before it crosses over. In that case, if you can help to fund an end of life photo shoot with the pet and its family members, I’m sure the images captured would be cherished. If you are a strong photographer, perhaps you could donate your talent and time to helping make a photo shoot like this become a reality. If you are not comfortable taking photos, but you find the cost of a professional photo shoot is beyond your means, perhaps you can pool funds together with other friends and family so the group effort can help to fray the cost.
The knowledge of a pet’s mortality, while possibly an odd way to phrase it, has forced me to cherish each sliver of time we are able to spend with each other. It’s not a coincidence, in my opinion, that our pets live in the moment, not fretting about what has happened in the past or what may come in the future. They are the embodiment of mindfulness.
Knowing that the passing of a pet will happen sooner than we wish, doesn’t take away from the sucker punch in the gut feelings of grief and loss. I hope this post has helped you find some ways that you can help keep the memory of a pet alive long after they have left earth and have crossed over the rainbow bridge. If you have received or have given gifts that were not listed, I’d love for you to comment so readers can see other possible ideas, too.