Pet Project

Have you ever grieved the loss of a pet? Here's a way to help keep their memory alive.

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- Posted on Jan 8, 2010

My husband, Steve, and I were inconsolable when we had to put down our cat Angie after 13 years.

A Maine coon with fluffy brown fur and enormous green eyes, she had been rescued from a storm drain during a torrential downpour.

“Remember how she used to lie on your architect table and follow your pencil with her paw?” I asked Steve.

“Remember how she’d race into the kitchen whenever you baked oatmeal cookies?” he said. “She knew you’d give her a bite.”

“Remember how I would lift her up and carry her over my head around the house like she was flying and she would purr as loud as an old prop plane?”

“Supercat!”

Soon we were reminiscing about the other animals that we had loved and lost. The dog Steve grew up with, a boxer named Moe who faithfully waited for him at the gate every day after school. The adoration was mutual…Steve, I knew, still had old photos of Moe and his leash and dog tags tucked away in a drawer all these years later.

And there was my beautiful show horse, Daylight Dude. Some of the trophies she and I had won together and albums full of pictures of her still graced my shelves. How deep the grief can go!

A month after we lost Angie, Steve and I were still hurting. Even that cure-all, thrift shopping, didn’t cheer me up.

One day I wandered into a store and did a double take: There in the corner behind an old tea set was a paint-by-numbers portrait of a boxer. That looked just like Moe! I snatched it up.

A couple of days later at the Goodwill I came across a ceramic cat that reminded me of Angie. I could almost imagine it purring as it flew around our house.

The thought hit me like my basset hound’s cold nose first thing in the morning. How I could use these things—Moe’s old leash and tags, snapshots of Daylight Dude, the paint-by-numbers portrait of a boxer, the ceramic cat. They could be a little memory shrine.

I’ve always believed that the Lord will allow us to see our pets again in the next life. I mean, what would heaven be if it didn’t include what made us happy?

Back home I lugged an old desk up from the basement, raided Steve’s drawer, attached Moe’s collar to the painting, dug out some candles, flowers and other ceramic animals. I arranged the little memorial in the living room, not far from the corner where Angie liked to nap.

The last thing I added to it was a picture of Francis of Assisi, the saint who gave his best sermons to birds and once talked a wolf out of terrorizing a medieval town. “Praise to thee, my Lord, for all thy creatures,” he wrote in his famous prayer.

Little by little, our grief over losing Angie subsided. I know that she has gone to a loving place. And with this little pet memorial that anyone can make, I can comfort myself with a bit of heaven on earth.

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