When my dog (and animal Reiki teacher, and best canine companion) Dakota died a few years ago, I was absolutely devastated. He was old, and of course I knew he couldn’t live forever, but still, I didn’t want to face the inevitable. And when he finally passed, my world fell apart, and my heart broke into a million pieces. It was months (and maybe even years) before I started to find my way back and life began to feel “OK” again.
During those dark times, I wanted to find a way to cope but didn’t know how. I wanted to honor his memory but nothing felt right. Slowly, as days unfolded into weeks, I began to find solace in a few small things. And looking back now from a place of strength, I see that these three little steps, which seemed so inconsequential at the time, actually helped me on my journey toward peace and acceptance. Here’s what worked for me:
1. Create a lasting memory: One of the first things I did was go through all the hundreds of photos I’d taken of Dakota throughout his life, from his rescue from animal control as a puppy all the way up through my toddler daughter petting and hugging him. But most of these photos had ended up in a box gathering dust. Then I realized: I could use these photos and create a lasting memory of his life and share his amazing self with the world by making a tribute video thanking him for all the love and joy he brought me for so many years. After many hours and help from a video production company, I have this beautiful video that still brings me to tears when I watch it. I have to thank Natalie Merchant’s record label for allowing me the rights to use her song “Kind and Generous” as the background music. The lyrics perfectly fit my Dakota.
2. Make a dedication: I have always turned to meditation for help during difficult times, but after Dakota died, I felt lost and found I literally couldn’t meditate; he had always been by my side and now all I felt was emptiness. But then my Reiki teacher told me of the Buddhist monks who dedicate their meditations to their teacher after he passes. Something clicked within me and I thought, “I can do that, too!” And so I began to dedicate my meditations to Dakota and his memory, and I was able to meditate again. It doesn’t have to be a meditation; you can dedicate anything that is meaningful to you to your animal’s memory.
3. Statuary: There is something so peaceful and beautiful about statuary. After Dakota’s death, I found a statue of St. Francis petting a wolf, and it looked so much like Dakota. I placed it in my yard with a rock engraved with “Pups,” which was his nickname. And now, several years later, every time I look at it I think of Dakota. And when flowers grow around it, it looks so beautiful. My sister Charlotte tells me she also uses a beautiful Persian cat statue in her yard to honor her feline soul mate Sterling, who passed after several years fighting Polycystic Kidney Disease. It is a daily reminder of his beautiful life and a special place she can adorn with flowers in his honor.
As a side note, I want to mention there are a multitude of resources for pet owners coping with the loss of their animal. It’s important to remember you are not alone, and there are others going through the same thing as you. Petloss.com, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and the ASPCA all offer a multitude of resources.
I would love to hear: What ways have you honored your beloved animals after their passing?
9 thoughts on “How to honor a beloved animal that has passed”
Great share. Even in simple ways, we can honor our fur friends that crossed the rainbow bridge.
When my cat’s kidneys had given up, she did as well. She knew it was time, and sadly, so did we. The veterinary clinic was just up the road, and we walked that last walk with her. She didn’t fret in her carrier, which she usually panicked within for the first bit. She knew, and she welcomed it.
It was raining that day, as if the sky was weeping right along with us. 9 years ago – has it been so long? – and I’m tearing up just writing this. The veterinarian was gentle, and my beautiful black kitty seemed to be thankful for that little needle prick. She laid down, purred her last, and then she was gone.
On the way home, I passed by the little metaphysical shop, popped in, bought some candles, incense, and immediately spied something else that came home with me. I still have it, and I always will. I’m looking at it right now, in fact…a statuette of Bast. All black with gold highlights. I didn’t even look at the price – I wouldn’t have cared if it was $100.00 – I knew I had to get it.
A friend of mine’s pitbull passed – he honored him with having his paw-print tattooed on his arm. I may do the same with my two little bundles – one rescued a year after my “mini-panther” crossed over, and the other 3 months after my wife passed away (born on that same day, in fact). They hiss at each other, but they also play, run around like maniacs, and chase one another all over the place. I’ve even caught them grooming one another. (They deny it of course.)
Now, I just need to get an ink pad and some paper and hope they don’t freak out afterward and not let me clean their paw and leave little black paw-prints all over the place.
Thanks for sharing your story, wishing you blessings!
When my 16 year old Bichon passed, not only did we have a ” ceremony” in honor of his life with family members, we planted a white DOGwood in his name of course. I bought a tile plaque for it as well. Then, inimortiazed him forever, I got his face tattooed to my lower leg. I still,after 6 years after his passing, have his little altar in memory of my Booey in my bedroom. He pays me visitations once in a while and I swear my current dog( a rescue sees him and plays with him.
Thanks for sharing Christine, that is so beautiful! I do believe that we are never truly parted, love is the strongest force in the universe!
Just watched your video and it touched my heart. Such obvious love between you. It’s such a hard thing to come to terms with when you lose a companion/soulmate, be it human or otherwise but you have captured such wonderful memories. I will from now on take more photos and more videos of my beloved Sashka, she is my beautiful Malamute and 6 years old, my friend and my family. Thank you for sharing x
Hi Susan, thanks for your kind comments. That is a great idea to take more photos and videos! I wish I had more videos of Dakota – i have lots of photos but very few videos 🙂 Blessings!
This is lovely and very timely!
Two of my clients lost their beloved cats in the past 1-3 months and I’m at a loss what to offer them other than sympathy and ‘call if you want to chat’. Talking helps but they need to do something else for themselves to move forward. I love everything that you mentioned here and I will incorporate it in my practise, with your permission of course.
It’s a lovely sentiment and we are all so ‘tender’ and ‘volatile’ when something like this hits us that we just want to crawl away and mourn. I know that crying is a great release and I encourage it to them often but also to never, ever stop talking to them. They do hear us and will communicate to us.
Case in point. When I visited one of my clients who recently had to have her cat put down because of a large tumour (cat was misdiagnosed); we were in her kitchen and I needed to grab something in my purse which was down a few flights of stairs. As I came up the stairs, I loudly heard the clump, clump of paws running up the stairs beside me and anxiously asked my client if she’d heard that! She hadn’t but noticed it was his feeding time.
It was the same sound my Dutch makes when he races ahead of me up the stairs. Too wild!
Thank you for this and all you do! Keep up the great work! Loved this!!
Thanks for sharing Margaret, what a great story about the paws you heard running up the stairs 🙂 Yes I hope you can share some of these suggestions with your clients 🙂 Offering the people a Reiki treatment is another healing thing to do which doesn’t require any words, just a compassionate presence 🙂 Keep up the great work you are doing in your work! Blessings 🙂