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Saturday December 20th 2014

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How to Mourn Your Pet

By Jennifer Leigh

It’s a subject no one wants to talk about—that’s why Inweekly waited a few pet issues to even think about doing an article about losing an animal, which is perhaps one of the most difficult life experiences.

It’s a safe bet that anyone reading our annual Pet Issue treats their pets like any other member of the family, buying them goofy Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts (I bet some of you even wrap the presents), baking birthday cakes and taking too many pictures.

We go for walks, we take naps and share a blanket, we sit on the couch and watch chick flicks—maybe the last one is just me. Pets become so much a part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine life without them.

Whether it’s a sudden loss or a long battle against a disease, many people are often lost on how to properly mourn their pet. Sometimes they choose to do nothing. However, according to just about every article on pet loss, memorializing your pet is the healthiest way to cope with their death.

So, here’s a few ways to honor the life of your beloved.

Have a ceremony
No matter what sarcastic remarks you might get, it’s important to commemorate your pet’s life and have some closure. Invite family and friends over, share stories about your pet, sing a song or recite a poem. Celebrate the time you had with your good friend.

Talk about it
Don’t be afraid to cry on someone’s shoulders. Call a pet loss hotline or start a support group. Even writing about it in a journal can be beneficial. Either way, express your feelings. And if your friend has just lost a pet, be that shoulder to cry on. Remember, it’s 80 percent listening and 20 percent talking.

Donate your time or money
Make a donation in your pet’s name or volunteer your time to a local animal shelter. Spread the love you have to needy animals in your local area. Even if you aren’t ready to foster new animals, non-profits such as The Humane Society of Pensacola (pensacolahumane.org) or Hotel for Dogs and Cats (h4dc.org) are always in need of food, cleaning supplies or miscellaneous items.

Make a permanent statement
Maybe you’re an ink virgin or covered in tattoos, either way; you might want to save a spot for your pet. For inspiration you can check out Inweekly’s article on pet tattoos (How Deep is Your Pet Love? Aug. 2013) online. Just, please don’t pull a Miley Cyrus and have the word “fwends” on your body.

Pet portraits
Make your pet a part of your permanent art collection if you don’t want to make them a part of your skin permanently. Do you have a master painter for a friend? Ask them about making a painting based off of a favorite photo of your pet. No, it’s not crazy. Oprah does it. You can also find creative pet portrait artists on Etsy who create quirky, custom-made pet portraits.

Planting Peace
Whether or not you hold a memorial service of sorts, you can always pay respect to your pet by planting a rose bush or tree (or anything you wish) in their burial spot. Taking care of the plant ensures that you will regularly visit the resting place, since it’s important to confront your grief. Eventually, you’ll have something beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

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Grieving when your pet is alive
If your pet is battling an illness or reaching old age, it can be tough to watch. But remember to really cherish what time you have. Comfort your pet, let him or her indulge in their favorite foods, take them to the park, give them long belly rubs.

If your pet is suffering and you’re considering euthanasia, there is the option of saying goodbye in the comfort of your own home. Davis Animal Hospital (davispetvet.com) is a local veterinary office that offers it. It’s a personal decision and there’s no exact way to handle it. Talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia and if an in-home option is available.