Five Tips for Preparing for the Death of a Pet

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The following was originally published on the Petfinder Blog.

Colleen Mihelich, is the founder and creative director of Peternity.com, which sells pet memorials, grave markers, urns and other items.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

We all love our pets madly. They are a constant source of unconditional love, friendship, affection and often of great entertainment. But unfortunately, their life spans are usually much shorter than our own.

As the owner of a pet memorials company, I talk daily with people who have just lost their beloved animal companions, and one of the things I hear most is, “I wish I had prepared for this.”

Here are some things you can think about in advance to make it easier when the inevitable occurs:

  1. Do you believe in cremation or burial? The answer determines how you will handle your pet’s remains, but it’s a very heavy question to deal with when your grief is fresh, so be clear about it ahead of time.
  1. If cremation feels right to you, do you want to preserve the ashes in a pet urn, bury them, spread them somewhere meaningful — or would you prefer that your veterinarian dispose of your pet’s remains? There is no right or wrong answer. Whatever feels right to you is okay.
  1. If you want to bury your pet, can you do so in your yard or a family member’s yard, or would you prefer a pet cemetery? If you’re going to bury your pet in your yard, what type of vessel will you use? (Be sure to contact your local health or animal control department to make sure home burial is legal where you live.)
  1. If you would prefer a pet cemetery, find some that are close to you and will be convenient to visit. Compare prices and tour the facilities. Although this is not a fun task, it will be easier to choose a cemetery when you’re not mourning. Once you find a cemetery you feel comfortable with, find out what types of grave markers they allow and if the plot number needs to be engraved on the stone.
  1. Whether you keep your pet’s remains or not, you can create a beautiful and peaceful spot in your yard where your pet often napped or hung out and where you can go to reflect and remember. You can mark this spot with a pet grave marker whether your pet is buried there or not. The marker can simply be a tribute to your friend.

We prepare for the loss of our human loved ones, so why not prepare for the loss of our animal companions? If it’s too hard to think about now, at least ask a close family member or friend in advance to help you to make these difficult decisions when the time comes.

The one thing all pet owners have in common when they lose their pet is the need to honor their friend’s memory with dignity. There are many options available, so choose the one that feels best for you and that you feel is most appropriate for the memory of your animal companion.

Further reading:

Caring for Your Aging Pet

Providing for Your Pet After You’re Gone

The Death of a Pet

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