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?