Losing a pet is a difficult process to go through. Grief really is embracing the presence of a new absence, a missing space in our hearts. Helping your clients find options can be a meaningful experience for them, especially after a euthanasia or during a pre-planning appointment. Your clients may want to find ways to cope with the loss by looking for ways to honor and remember their pet. Memorialization can actually help a lot with the grieving process and having their companion, who has long been by their side, remain in their life symbolically can be very comforting.
Furthermore, honoring one’s pet can give way to the closure that is required to move on, no matter how difficult that seems when it happens. Everyone’s story is unique, and we’ve compiled a few original and innovative ways to commemorate pets that will hopefully inspire you, or provide you with ideas to help your clients through a tough time.
1. Nose Prints
This is a beautiful and simple way to commemorate a patient. We all know about the beautiful paw prints, but nose prints are another elegant and original way to memorialize the pet. Some families like to have a keepsake where they can safely display in the home or have somewhere they can keep it and bring it out during moments they need it the most. Tactile sensation can have a huge impact on allowing us to feel emotions and process memories. This is a beautiful way to have a pet memorialized. And the nose is often part of the essence of a pet's expression.
Most clinics or crematoriums offer the service of having a nose or paw print made, and it is important clients are made aware of this. Generally, they are done as a clay print, which families or the crematoriums can add decorations and personalization to. Another option is to have it as an ink-print on a special paper. If there is a limited budget, or you have artsy staff who enjoy making these for clients in clinic, visit the Euthabag resource center for tips on how to make the best paw and nose prints using an inkpad, bingo ink, or acrylic paint in your clinic and it’s nice to insert it in the sympathy card.
2. Plant a tree
There are a variety of companies, such as The Living Urn, that are able to recycle pet’s ashes and transform them into a soil system to create a rich environment to plant a tree! There are tree farms who work with them that can recommend a particular tree sapling depending on the zip code to better foster growth of the tree. Clients are able to plant them on their property or in a different area, and as time moves forward, they can always come back to the same place where their pet is and watch their growth into a new life form.
If this is too detailed, other available options that support the environment are donating money to plant a tree at a non-profit, in their pet’s name, such as the Arbor Tree Foundation. Whether you give $1 or hundreds, it’s a creative way to turn your loss into something positive. It’s beautifully symbolic, and respects our so cherished human-animal bond. It’s an uplifting option that allows clients to memorialize their companion while giving back to the environment.
3. Decorate a body bag
Proper containment of pets to protect them as they cross the rainbow bridge is becoming the standard of care since Euthabag was developed. Euthabag is a pet body bag designed by a veterinarian, available in 5 sizes at Patterson. It offers a respectful way to say goodbye, as well as being in alignment with the new AVMA Aftercare Policy. No more plastic bags!
Personalizing pet’s bags alone or as a family can be a soothing ritual before saying their final goodbye to their companion. For children, it can facilitate acceptance of their pet’s departure and initiate the mourning process. The bags are able to be personalized with markers, some choose to write poems, others choose to draw pictures. Either way, it’s theirs to create a special symbol between them and their pet. Closure is so important, and this is a great way to create it and help facilitate the grieving process.
4. Cuddle clones
Have you ever seen a pet version of a plush toy? It’s one of the cutest things we’ve ever seen, and given the technology available and the impeccable artists who create the Plushes, the accuracy and detail are beyond impressive. It’s not quite as involved as something like taxidermy, but if your clients are looking for a way to memorialize their pet by feeling like they are still present, this might be a good option. Generally, they are re-created based on photos or videos of their pet, down to the detail of which direction the whiskers are pointing. The similarities are uncanny.
For some, this is a way in which they feel their pet is still close to them, symbolically and in spirit. If an exact replica is not entirely their interest, there are companies that offer a variety of options other than plush toys such as: clothing and pajamas with their pet on them, pillows, coffee mugs, tumblers, phone cases, tote bags, blankets, even golf equipment! They can also have a pet portrait done, on canvas, they can display in their home. The options surrounding re-creation are endless, and many enjoy these works of art.
5. Turn pet ashes into diamonds
Diamonds last forever, what a symbolic way to memorialize a pet. The company Eterneva recreates a simulation to make a diamond. After cremation, ashes are generally made up of 0.5-4% carbon. They extract then purify this into a carbon graphite powder, which is the starting point for a diamond! They place the material into a chamber that recreates the environment necessary to create a diamond (high pressure and temperatures), assess the quality, then cut it into its final form. They can also help with setting if it’s intended for jewelry or pendants. The average cost is $2999 and takes approximately 7-10 months to complete.
There are a wide variety of ways clients may choose to honor their pet. Pursuing one or more of these tips, or looking further into the details of the services offered can, help them through the initial stages of grief. Often, it’s helpful to plan these things ahead of time if that’s an option, and having the details pre-planned can help relieve both you and your clients of the stresses involved in doing it at the last minute or feeling like they are rushed. That being said, sometimes we are in a position where we are unable to choose right away, so some families may decide on this later on. Either way, it’s important to let our clients know to give themselves space and time to explore their options and choose only when they feel ready. Grieving is an ongoing process, and memorialization is a great way to remember all the wonderful memories and joy pets bring to our lives, and honor their time spent with us. After all, they will leave paw prints on our hearts forever.
“The living close the eyes of the dead, the dead open the eyes of the living.”
About The Author
Alexandra Yaksich is an animal health technician and writer. She writes about her experiences both within the clinic as well as client relations. She studied in neuroscience and psychology and uses this background to help dispel myths in the animal health industry and create solutions for both clinic staff and pet owners. She joined the EuthaBAG family in 2020 and enjoys helping families and vet teams feel better about euthanasia.