You may remember that eight months ago I was told that my dog, Spudge, could die at any minute. In addition to sending me into a tailspin of grief, it also prompted me to look into ways I could hold on to his memory. I already knew about several options: making a paw print to put in a frame or hang as a decoration, keeping some fur, garden statues or grave markers, cremation urns, and donations in your pet’s name. Once, when I was in Vet School, I even researched taxidermy and freeze-drying a pet as options for a woman to whom I had spoken while staffing the Pet Loss Support Hotline.
While these are all fine memorials, none of them worked for me, so I did a Google search and came up with: having your pet’s ashes shot into space, turning the ashes into fireworks or gemstones, or storing them in Victorian Mourning Lockets or other jewelry. These were all new to me, but still, none of them struck me as a way to celebrate Spudge or ease my pain at his passing. So I went with my hobby of digital scrapbooking and made a page that included many of my memories of him from his whole life. It felt good just to write them down and know that many years from now I would remember these little parts of our relationship that otherwise might fade from my recollection.
I was satisfied with my scrapbook page and with my plans for what to do with Spudgy’s body when he did pass, at least until he actually died. Before, thoughts of what to do with his body were abstract and I could change my mind about what I preferred, but now I had one chance to make my choice and that decision would be permanent. We placed a “hold tag” on his body and kept him in the freezer at the hospital.
For me, the difficulty with getting his ashes returned is that you either have to keep the ashes on display or say goodbye all over again, and neither of these held much appeal. So after deciding that I didn’t want his ashes back, not even to be turned into a diamond or launched into space, we took the hold tag off his body, and I thought that was the end of the story. But my staff surprised me with a succulent garden with stones spelling out his name and I was truly touched with how thoughtful a gift that was. It sits on my front step and both remind me of Spudge and also of life since it is green and growing.
An even bigger surprise was a hand-drawn portrait of Spudge from our Lead Technician, Adrienne, who was able to put so much life into his eyes. I cried when I saw it because it is so amazing. I had never even considered a portrait of him, although that is an option I ran across on my Google search. I thought no one would be able to capture his essence. Adrienne did a fantastic job and she is willing to draw other people’s pets for memorials or otherwise. She can be contacted at our hospital if that is something in which you are interested.
I am looking forward to hanging his portrait when we get it back from being framed in the next week. In the meantime, I am left with what to do with Spudgy’s collar which still is hanging on the hook by the door, leash attached and ready to be used. No amount of searching on Google or Pinterest has turned up an option that appeals to me. I’m looking for an idea that is useful beyond a shadow box or just keeping it in a drawer somewhere. If you have any suggestions, please reply to this blog.