“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” –Agnes Sligh Turnbull
Twelve to thirteen years. That’s what you get on average, a number many times over too short. Somehow, mercifully, though we are aware of the terrible discrepancy between our dogs’ lifespan and ours, we manage to cast aside this fact; that is, of course, until we’re facing the end.
Maybe, though, it’s divine grace; if the grief we experience at the passing of a dear canine friend after just a decade together is almost unbearable, perhaps the sorrow would be insurmountable had the relationship been longer.
These are the sorts of things I’ve contemplated since the passing of my Kaya girl. It’s now been over two years since she passed on and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. Thankfully, that deep, grief-filled void that consumed me in the months immediately following her passing, months in which I’d find myself in tears without having recognized I was crying, has gradually faded. Time has a way of healing even the deepest hurt and I’m now able to remember the best parts of my life with Kaya without sadness. I’ll never forget the feelings of warmth and happiness that would wash over me when stroking her soft-as-velvet ears and how that simple act would somehow center me, giving me a feeling of calm and peacefulness. I still shake my head and smile when recalling her crazy exasperating antics.
I’ve given a lot of thought to what makes a fitting tribute to such a dog. There are many ways of commemorating and honouring a dog’s life, so I’ve put together a few things I’ve done to keep my Kaya girl’s memory alive, things that helped me find solace and even joy—as well as a few things I wish I’d done. Some of these ideas are for the here and now, too, though they make wonderful keepsakes. If you’ve lost a dog, I hope that something here resonates with you and that your memories bring you happiness as mine have.
In my opinion, there’s no better way to commemorate your dog than commissioning a portrait. There are artists to fit every style, from modern to traditional, at just about every price point. I had artist Lisa Graziotto paint a portrait of Kaya in the woods. It hangs in my office so my dog can watch over me. thehowlingcanvas.com
Pacific Urns creates and designs sterling silver and jewelry pet urns. Each pendent holds a pencil eraser-sized amount of cremations and can be engraved with a personalized message. Jewelry urns can be selected from the catalogue, or customers can work with Pacific Urns to custom design an entire pendent. pacificurns.com
Robin’s Loving Touch creates sterling silver, chrome and 14 carat gold pendants from your dog’s nose print. Like a human fingerprint, the pattern of ridges and channels on the soft pad of every dog’s nose is unique. Robin’s jewelry can be inscribed and used as dog tags or worn on a chain as a necklace. robinslovingtouch.com
Luke Thornton’s custom wood urns are a thing of beauty, combining function, decoration, and art. Each handmade, one-of-a-kind urn is custom designed and made from naturally felled trees such as myrtle and maple to create a resting place worthy of a great dog. custom-wood-urns.com
Plant a tree in your dog’s memory. For a dog who loved the outdoors, I can think of no more fitting tribute. Arbor Day Foundation is a non-profit foundation to which dog owners can donate a tree in celebration or memory of their companion. By donating a minimum of $10, Arbor Day will plant a tree in a forest in need in honour of your best pal and send you a lovely certificate. arborday.org
DNA2Diamonds takes ashes and turns them into a sparkling man-made diamond in memory of your dog. Your new heirloom can be white, blue, red, yellow or cognac and cut to fit any setting. Start saving those pennies though—a one carat gem starts at $9,000. dna2diamonds.com
Nelli Designs’ memorial candles feature personalized, engraved tags, or add your pet’s old tags for safe-keeping. Candles are hand-poured with natural soy wax in your choice of scent. nellidesigns.com
Keep your dog’s image near and dear by personalizing your iPhone case with a photo of you and your pup. The one-piece Uncommon iPhone Deflector Case, available for iPhone 4 and 4S, allows you to upload an image for a completely custom, one-of-a-kind protective cover. getuncommon.com
Get your dog a pet driver’s license (yes, you read that correctly) from Chloe Cards. I still keep the one I got for Kaya years ago in my wallet and it always brings a smile to my face when I happen upon it. It even got me off a speeding ticket once when I mistakenly presented Kaya’s license instead of my own—thanks Kaya! chloecards.com
Remember your beloved pup with a beautiful dog pendant from Smiling Blue Skies Jewelry. Each piece is crafted from sterling silver and embellished with your choice of semi-precious stone. You can customize your pendant with your dog’s name and a personal message, and wear it however you like—as a pendant, on a key fob, as a charm. Best of all, proceeds from the sales of special Smiling Blue Skies collections benefit the Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund created in memory of Blues, a Golden who lost his battle to lymphoma. Every pendant is thoughtfully made by hand so each piece is truly one-of-a-kind, making it the perfect way to remember a special dog. smilingblueskies.com