If Dogs Celebrated April Fool’s Day

The post If Dogs Celebrated April Fool’s Day by Ellyce Rothrock appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

Sweaters, birthday parties, fake throws, dog shaming, pranks involving blankets and disappearing … the rigmarole we put our canine companions through is never ending. What if the tables could be turned and they could prank us? What if dogs could celebrate April Fool’s Day? I shudder at the thought. The payback would be harsh.

©Julia August | Getty Images

“I’ll trick my human into thinking I haven’t already been fed once.”

We certainly would be fools if we didn’t think that every single dog on this earth would go for this prank. In my household, we’ve given our dogs second dinner several times by accident — they didn’t even have to be involved! They wouldn’t waste talents on pretending to be starving, because we’re dumb enough to feed them more than once on our own! « Dog 1; human 0.

 “I’ll ignore her calls and make her think I’ve run away.”

Several times I’ve arrived home, only to be greeted by Mina and not Fritz. After many shout outs, I start to panic: “Ohmydog … did Fritz somehow get out and go a-wanderin’?!” Ever higher-pitched and frantic calls eventually culminate in me finding my “deaf” boy lounging in a tucked-away chair, looking at me like I’m a lunatic. “Huh. Maybe next time you’ll take me with you, woman.” « Dog 2; human 0.

“I’ll just blame this poop on my furry sibling.”

Despite our best efforts to ensure plenty of potty opportunities, sometimes poop happens. If our furry creatures participated in April Fool’s Day, you can bet your bottom dog they’d pull some kind of prank involving dookie. Carefully and strategically placed on a multicolor rug or flooring surface as to camouflage it. And wait for it to get cold. And then do a doggie laugh as human steps in it, sans socks. I know this from personal experience. « Dog 3; human 0; dog sibling shouldering blame 0.

©smrm1977 | Getty Images

“I’ll stare off into this dark corner of the house, lay back my ears and growl.”

Dogs know that humans are often weird and irrational creatures. If they knew that some of us were superstitious, believed in spirits and believed that looking between a dog’s ears could visibly reveal the presence of a ghost, they would be for sure 100% messing with us at every opportunity. Especially after watching a scary movie or while alone. My female shepherd, Mina, who is very sensitive to everything anyway, is a great one for this. If I didn’t have my male shepherd, Fritz, nearby to counteract Mina’s overwrought vigilance into open closets and scary hallways with his continual lazing and snoring, I’d be worried for sure. « Dog 4; human 0.

“Look, Ma! I found a friend!”

I don’t know about your dogs, but if mine ever got ahold of that squirrel who taunts them constantly, they’d bring it straight to me just for the entertainment value. They’d bring anything they thought would shock me straight onto my lap and jump and prance for joy, thinking my scream was in delight. « Dog 5; human 0.

“I’ll wait for Mom to leave the kitchen and then steal (insert food of choice here) and make her think she’s crazy.”

Not too long ago, I cut and prepared 2 pounds of salmon with salt, pepper and olive oil and left it on the counter on a cutting board, waiting for my family to return for the evening before I started to cook it. I poured myself a glass of wine and sat directly outside the kitchen to enjoy some afternoon sunshine and fresh air. After 10 minutes, I went back inside to check on a few other things, but something was wrong. Something I couldn’t put my finger on right away. Then it hit me: The salmon was gone. All 2 pounds of it. Disappeared into thin air. Utterly incredulous, I looked at both dogs. Fritz would never. Mina, always the opportunist and never guilty about things that bring her so much joy, looked at me with her angelic, soulful eyes and breathed on me with the heaviest of salmon breath. « Dog 6; human (and family) 0.

 “I’ll just roll in this dirt and mud after getting a bath. Joke’s on you, Mom!”

My dogs hate water. No amount of cooing and cajoling would ever cure them of their hatred of getting bathed. Can I share how many times I’ve bathed them, which is no small feat, as they’re both 85 pounds, only to turn around 20 minutes later to see they’ve rolled in something gross? As if to say, “I don’t like baths, and here’s what I think of them — and you!” « Dogs 7; human 0.

©fotyma | Getty Images

Yep, there’s no doubt. If dogs dug their paws into the April Fool’s tradition, we’d be toast. Good thing for us they’re much more interested in food, hikes, cuddles and love.

The post If Dogs Celebrated April Fool’s Day by Ellyce Rothrock appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

#TrendingInTraining: Giving Choices = Better Behavior

The post #TrendingInTraining: Giving Choices = Better Behavior by Rachel Brix appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

Dine in or carry out? Go to the gym or out for a run? We make lots of daily decisions without much thought. But what about our dogs? We decide what they eat, where they sleep, whether they have a yard and when they get walks. We decide when they play (and usually who with) and even where and when they do their business. All these restrictions can make for unhappy dogs. But by giving our dogs more choices we improve how they feel, and better behavior often follows.

Dogs are faced with the daily challenges of living in a human-centered world, so it’s up to us to help them get along. We can support our dogs by giving choices and opportunities.

Applied ethologist Kim Brophey says, “Few modern dogs were evolutionarily, naturally prepared for the life of a ‘pet’ dog. The autonomy and instincts, the choices and actions that dogs have been historically developed for are not only no longer valued in most cases but even considered ‘problem’ behaviors.”

Take, for example, the terrier’s need to hunt or the Border Collie’s need to herd. When the terrier digs up the garden or the Border Collie nips at children’s heels, it’s labeled problem behavior from a “bad” dog. But dogs need outlets for their energy and time to just be dogs.

Kim encourages us to “Let them destroy their own belongings for the thrill of it; let them chew sticks and pinecones without diving into their mouths. We can let them spend as many hours as they want to in the fenced backyard, enjoying the elements unsupervised; take them for long hikes in the woods on 30-foot leashes in the middle of nowhere and let them be in the moment away from human insanity long enough to remember who they are in their bones.”

Let your dog problem solve

Choice empowers our dogs, encourages resilience and autonomy and helps boost confidence and independence. It expands their ability to make good choices without direction; a practical skill that stops us from micromanaging their behavior. Dogs are good at problem solving on their own if we let them.

Certified dog behavior consultant Laura Donaldson advocates taking choice a step further by giving dogs agency, which is choice on steroids. Laura says, “I define agency as dogs learning that they can influence their environment by using their behavior. They are not just responding to human ‘commands’ about what to do and when to do it. First and foremost, give them the time and space to think, so that they can problem-solve and make good decisions.”

©damedeeso | Getty Images

Easy ways to give choice

Giving dogs choices means providing at least two good options that are healthy, safe and don’t reinforce unwanted behaviors. Here are some simple ways to get started:

  1. Let your dog follow his nose and choose the route on walks.
  2. Give him several comfy places to sleep instead of just one.
  3. Let him pick his own toys.
  4. If he’s not feeling a particular training session, stop for the day.
  5. Let your dog choose to be petted or not: If he walks away, don’t force it. If he wants more, you’ll know.
  6. Not all dogs want to be social butterflies. So instead of making him hang out with guests, let him go chill under the table if he wants or provide him a dedicated quiet space.
  7. Let him go the other way when a stranger or unfamiliar dog approaches on walks. Don’t force it.

By respecting dogs’ decisions, we help prevent problems like learned helplessness where our dogs feel like they have no control over their environment and flooding, which happens when a dog is forced to experience something they find scary. Both make for unhappy dogs.

Certified dog behavior consultant Allie Bender explains, “A number of maladaptive behaviors are exacerbated by or can even be caused by a lack of choice and/or control. When we give our dogs the opportunity and skills to make better choices, we open the door to work with them, instead of fighting against them, to solve behavior issues.” It’s a win-win: When dogs have more control over their lives we see fewer undesirable behaviors.

©alexei_tm | Getty Images

Check in with your dog

In any given situation, check your dog’s body language. If he doesn’t want to do something, give him the freedom to opt out. Never underestimate your dog’s attempts to communicate with you that he’s uncomfortable.

Reading a dog’s body language is a big picture kind of thing, but here are a few pointers on specific body parts:

Head should be upright and confident; turned away is avoidance or deferent, and a lowered head signals fear or submission.

Relaxed ears can either be forward or back; pinned back can mean submission or fearfulness while pricked forward indicates arousal (could be friendly or not).

Eyes should be soft and may even be squinty; averted eyes could mean fear or submission; and while eye contact is good, hard stares could be a sign of trouble.

The body should be loose, upright and confident; tense or lowered postures can mean a dog is feeling afraid, anxious or even aggressive.

Ideally the tail is carried low to medium, with a relaxed friendly wag; a tail carried high indicates arousal (could be play or aggressive) and tucked indicates fear or submission.

Observing our dogs’ decision-making processes gifts us with daily opportunities to learn about their preferences, personalities, wants and needs so we can help them live their best lives. A solid combination of training life skills, meeting their physical, emotional and mental needs and providing choices helps our dogs feel better. And when they feel better they behave better.

©Monica Click | Getty Images

Simple Toy Preference Test

This can be done often and is very helpful for creating a toy ladder (order of relevance to your dog) for reinforcing desired behaviors:

  1. Gather three to five new toys. Go for variety! Dogs see blue and yellow best, so choose those colors when possible.
  2. Where your dog can’t see you, lay the toys out on the floor a few feet apart.
  3. Invite your dog to explore the toys, taking mental note of which one he targets first, second and so on.
  4. Stay out of the way! This is a fun, independent activity, and you don’t want to skew the results by your proximity to him or certain toys with your body language or verbal cues.

Check That Body Language

Not exactly sure how your dog is feeling? Here are some great resources on canine body language:

Doggie Language: A Dog Lover’s Guide to Understanding Your Best Friend by Lili Chin | $11.99 | amazon.com
Dog Decoder App | $3.99 | download from Apple App Store or Google Play

For more reading, check out sister publication Whole Dog Journal’s articles on body language at: whole-dog-journal.com/category/behavior/body-language/.

The post #TrendingInTraining: Giving Choices = Better Behavior by Rachel Brix appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

So Devoted

The post So Devoted by Melissa L. Kauffman appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

Get ready to be impressed by passionate pet entrepreneurs Beau Singer and Branden Waltz. Their mission to create pet products that help dog shelters is something we at Dogster can fully get behind.

The duo have been friends since high school and have always felt the entrepreneurial mindset. Thus, Devoted Dog Bowl was born in Charleston, South Carolina, where they both attend college studying business.

“We sell customizable products based around mainly dogs and cats as well,” Branden explains. “We donate 10% of all sales and 100% of all donations to animal shelters. At the end of each month we gather up the total donation and vlog us hand delivering the money to these shelters.”

Devoted Dog Bowl creates custom premium bowls, which include a large stainless-steel bowl they describe as “very similar to Yeti’s bowl,” also a small ceramic bowl with a wooden stand and a small and large travel bowl.

“The way some animals get treated breaks our hearts,” explains Branden, “so we want to do whatever we can to help benefit the lives of pets. Devoted Dog Bowl will make a difference for pets no matter what it takes!” Beau and Branden have had pets all of their lives. Beau has two Redbone Coonhounds, Penny and Copper, and Branden has a Ragdoll cat named Monte.

The two have expanded the business into decorative license plates, decals, leashes and a mystery box with chew toys and other goodies in order to raise sales to have bigger donations. “The short-term goal is to donate as much money as possible and benefit as many dogs and shelters that we can. Our long-term goal is to help change every kill shelter to a no-kill shelter and help create an easier and a more inviting adoption process.”

Follow Beau, Branden and Devoted Dog Bowl @Devoted.Dog.Bowl and devoteddogbowl.com.          

The post So Devoted by Melissa L. Kauffman appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

Photo Perfect Dogs of Peru

The post Picture Perfect Dogs of Peru by Dr. Arnold Plotnick appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire posts infringes on copyright laws. You might not understand it, however all of these short articles were assigned, contracted and spent for, so they aren’t considered public domain. Nevertheless, we value that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of a short article, then connecting out to the remainder of the piece on Dogster.com.

Since retiring from veterinary medication in 2017, I’ve had more time to pursue my preferred activities: travel and photography. The pandemic has actually made travel more challenging however possible. In October of 2021, I lastly marked off a major item on my pail list: a trip to Peru.

My check out took me to Lima, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Paracas and Machu Picchu. I anticipated the mountainous vistas, vibrant clothing, wonderful food and cultural history. What I didn’t expect was numerous canines! In every city, on nearly every street, I saw dogs strolling, playing and napping.

In the Miraflores community of Lima, while walking along the Malecon, I saw a guy tending to his three valued Chihuahuas. I asked if I might take an image, and they obediently posed on the wall overlooking the Pacific.

© Arnold Plotnick, DVM In Aguas Caliente, where Machu Picchu is located, I spotted a beautiful Peruvian Inca Orchid, the nationwide pet dog of Peru. It’s a head turner because … it’s hairless! This woman was a genuine stunner. In Ollantaytambo, I went to a small clothing store. A young dog befriended me, following me inside the store. She wouldn’t leave my side. Was it a ploy to get me to stick around in the store longer? If so, it worked; I purchased a sweatshirt. I could not tear myself far from this sweetheart. I got my day-to-day canine fix, and the owner made a sale.

My preferred location was Cusco, a picturesque town with captivating cobblestone streets, whimsical stores and fantastic restaurants. While walking the Cusco streets as dusk approached, I identified a dog sleeping by a door, under a rack of handcrafted bags and tassels. The lighting was ideal, and I got my shot.

Doggies to the end

The trip ended in the lovely seaside beach town of Paracas. My hotel was right on the water, where I experienced spectacular sundowns, as pelicans and flamingos flew silhouetted against the orange sky. One afternoon, while strolling the beach, I spotted a yellow Labrador-type dog sleeping in the sand. The pet dog barely opened an eye as I bent to his level and snagged my image, with the vibrant dining establishment in the background.

Peru is a stunning, interesting nation that has something for everybody. If you’re a pet dog fan (you are, since you’re reading this publication!), you’ll be pleasantly shocked by the number of friendly dogs you’ll experience.

© Arnold Plotnick, DVM Want to assist the street dogs of Peru? Take a look at the nonprofit Allqo Llaqta Rescue Centre at allqollaqtarescuecentre.org.

The post Picture Perfect Dogs of Peru by Dr. Arnold Plotnick appeared initially on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not understand it, however all of these short articles were appointed, contracted and spent for, so they aren’t considered public domain. Nevertheless, we value that you like the short article and would like it if you continued sharing simply the first paragraph of a post, then linking out to the remainder of the piece on Dogster.com.

Remembering Fido

The post Remembering Fido by Elizabeth Anderson Lopez appeared first on Dogster. Copying over entire articles infringes on copyright laws. You may not be aware of it, but all of these articles were assigned, contracted and paid for, so they aren’t considered public domain. However, we appreciate that you like the article and would love it if you continued sharing just the first paragraph of an article, then linking out to the rest of the piece on Dogster.com.

Every dog owner will someday experience a time of sorrow that, hopefully, occurs after years of joy with our beloved dogs. While nothing can speed up the healing process — which, indeed, is a process, not something one magically “gets over” after a certain amount of time — many have found memorializing their dog to be comforting.

There is absolutely no single, right way to do this, reminds Reverend Kaleel Sakakeeny, an animal chaplain and credentialed pet loss and grief counselor in Boston. “Each of us mourns and memorializes in his or her own way depending on so many factors from faith, religion, intensity of the human-animal bond, stage of life the pet parent is in, how the pet passed, etc.”

Again, take your time and do what feels right to you. “And it definitely is a process — and not one that is always linear. It’s critical for the healing process to move from grief to mourning, which is externalizing/memorializing the pain and sadness so we can begin to move forward. NEVER to move on; to move forward,” adds Rev. Kaleel, who is also a professional life coach.

  1. Incorporate ashes

Over the years it has become more common to keep the ashes of a beloved pet, as well as using some of the ashes to create different memorial items.

“Urns and urn jewelry seem to be what most people think about,” says Coleen Ellis, a pet loss author, consultant and speaker who oversees Two Hearts Pet Loss Center in Texas, but options don’t end there. “Outside rock urns, mixing ashes with Let Your Love Grow to create a very nutrient-rich product for flowers and trees, portraits painted using the pet’s ashes or even shooting the pet’s ashes into space or turning the pet’s ashes into a coral reef for the ocean are some beautiful and creative ideas.”

Rev. Kaleel offers a caveat to consider. “I advise not to spread all the ashes because we move, change locations and don’t want all the pet’s ashes somewhere else. People have been grateful for this guidance. We need to keep the ashes with us, some of them anyway, and having spread ashes far and wide can leave us bereft.”

PetBar Pendant (hollowed pendant that holds cremains); remembarcollection.com
  1. Craft a jewel

There are many different ways jewelry can include part of your pet. Options can include turning the ashes into a diamond, creating jewelry with the pet’s nose or paw print on it or wearing a locket with your dog’s photo or a tuft of fur, perhaps even engraved with his name or initial.

Teeny Tiny Paw Necklace; pawsomecouture.com
  1. Picture a memory

Doubtless, you have lots of pictures of your dog. Many different companies print a photo book that you can fill with images, as well as stories about your dog — funny things he did, all his nicknames or who his favorite furry friends were. I created one of these for our dog Medusa through Costco’s photo site (above, left). You can find photo books at Shutterfly, Minted, Personalization Mall or shops on Etsy. You can also go smaller scale and get a personalized frame for your absolutely favorite photo.

As with any of the items on this list, don’t pressure yourself to take on a photo-based project. As I’ve experienced with those Facebook Memories, seeing images from years ago of either our beloved dogs Axel or Medusa sometimes makes me smile; sometimes they make my eyes sweaty. I created the Medusa photo book for my husband for Father’s Day, which was about six months after she passed. It took him a long time to actually be able to look through it; don’t be offended if the recipient of a photo, or any gift, is on a different bereavement timetable than you.

Create and print a book with images and stories about your dog.  Above created through Costco’s photo site; costcophotocenter.com
Without You Custom Photo Art by Sara Hicks Malone; minted.com
  1. Hold a memorial service

“With increasing frequency, I am finding that many grieving pet owners are open to the concept of hosting a memorial or a celebration of life for a pet,” says Maryglenn Warnock, a certified pet bereavement counselor and ordained pet funeral officiant/pet chaplain based in Nashville. “I have long questioned why we celebrate our human companions after death but typically don’t celebrate our furry companions. I know I am not alone in my belief that pets are family, too.”

Coleen concurs, also embracing the model many follow for humans. “Absolutely, rituals are one of the most powerful ways to honor not only a life and love shared but to bring people together who might have also loved the pet. I believe in the power of what we do for humans: a visitation or wake. Taking time during the service to remember the special moments, share photos, have a toast … whatever it was the family did together throughout the life of the animal is the perfect thing to do for a service or to share with the eulogy. Get the entire family involved.”

Jenna Blum, Boston-based bestselling author, found herself getting her entire neighborhood involved. “When my black Lab, Woodrow, passed at age 15, we had a memorial for him about a week after, on the bench across the street from our downtown Boston apartment where he and I spent much of his last seven months. We had Woodrow’s photo in a frame, LED candles, champagne to celebrate his life, bacon—because he loved it—and many beautiful ladies, just as Woodrow, the ‘George Clooney of Dogs’ would have wanted, singing Amazing Grace and reading poetry for him. Days later, the photo and candles were still there — and people left flowers, rocks and notes for him, like ‘Dear Woodrow and family, we will miss seeing you here at the bench!’ I saved them all.”

As part of her healing process, Jenna wrote Woodrow on the Bench, which includes many more stories about Woodrow’s last years and beyond.

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog by Jenna Blum. Hardcover; amazon.com
  1. Design a garden marker

A bench may not be practical for everyone, but a similar approach is a stone. You can get a stone in the shape of your dog to put under a favorite sunning spot. You can get a stepping stone, perhaps in the shape of a heart, with the names of pets who have crossed over.

Axel had a stretch in the backyard that he ran along often
enough to make a path, so we opted to create a row of pavers that showcased it. It’s just a section of pavers, there’s no start or end, which we view as our never-ending love for him.

Close to Her Heart Personalization Garden Stone; personalizationmall.com
  1. Ink a memory

This one, too, isn’t for everyone, but another way to memorialize a pet is perhaps the ultimate artwork — a tattoo. Tattoos of pets can include portraits, paw prints or your dog’s name.

Dogster editor’s husband, Scott Andresen, got this tattoo in memory of their dog Justice who passed away, based off of a favorite photo.
  1. Create a special Spot

“I have had the honor of attending a number of special tree planting services honoring a pet or pets that serves as a way to allow our beloved pets to live on in a meaningful way,” says Maryglenn, who is also the founder and owner of Paws to Remember, a pet aftercare company that serves grieving pet owners in their time of need.

Still others create a section of their backyard to plant flowers and include a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, as a place to sit and reminisce about their dog. You can also get a pawprint mold and display that as part of the tribute.

While a garden is lovely, that special spot can also be indoors with something as simple as a keepsake box or memorial shelf. Rev. Kaleel suggests, “Creating a special memorial in the house with the dog’s leash, favorite toy, photographs, perhaps, and other objects that give the pet parent a place to go and be especially close to their departed, beloved animal companion.”

The Vault Pet Keepsake Box; savor.us
  1. Make art from the heart

While few things capture a pet’s likeness as a clear, in-focus photograph, there are many media that go beyond that. An art director friend of mine, for example, did an Illustrator image of our Medusa (above) that we had printed on a canvas. It was based on a photo of her and we display it proudly in our home. You can also get pillows, watercolor portraits, a mug, etc. to keep a visual of your pet, along with the many memories you shared, close at hand.

Commission a piece of art from a local artist.
  1. Create a Mini Me

Another form of remembrance is a custom-created animal made in your pet’s likeness. This is a very cool idea, which you may want to act on before your pet passes. I know for myself, I’d need to let some time pass before getting one after the fact; as I mentioned with those Facebook memories, sometimes things are just “too soon.” And, again, only you can determine what is right for you — there is no single correct approach!

Needle Felted Custom Dogs; @faccidesigns and faccidesigns.com
  1. Do a good deed

A donation on behalf of your dog is a very special way to honor her while also helping other dogs in need. “I do this whenever a friend’s pet dies,” Jenna says. “It’s such a lovely legacy that allows them to live on while helping other animals.” Options could include the rescue organization where you got your dog, a group dedicated specifically to your dog’s breed or one just for senior pets, like Grey Muzzle, which has a special “in memory of” donation section.

©Getty Images
  1. Grieve without judgment

“No two people grieve the same; some grieving owners want community and ceremony, while others want to be left alone,” Maryglenn says. “I do think it is important to keep that in mind when honoring a loved one’s pet.”

Rev. Kaleel says he knows people who, 30 years after the death of their pet, still mourn and miss them.

“I want people to know tears are sacred. Grief is healthy. Many people I work with tell me they grieved more deeply for the death of their pet than when their parent or friend or relative died,” he says. “Yes, that’s true because the love between us and our pets is without betrayal, complexity, judgment — the stuff that complicates and corrodes human relationships. Yet, so often, the heartbreak we feel at the death of our pet leads directly back to un-mourned losses in a person’s life. I see it almost all the time. The tears never shed at Dad’s passing are shed at the dog’s passing.”

If you have a friend who is grieving for a pet, don’t worry too much about doing or saying the wrong thing. “As a friend, to acknowledge and honor the love someone shared with a pet is a wonderful way to say ‘I care,’ and ‘I, too, want to help you honor the life and love you shared,’” Coleen says. “When a pet parent is in grief with a shattered heart, having a friend be a caring voice with a helping hand is so heartwarming. And, if nothing else, ‘just be’ with the person who’s had the loss and listen to their stories. The gift of presence in that manner means the world!”

No matter how big or small your dog is, when he passes, he leaves behind a huge void. Grieving is a deeply personal process. Whenever you’re ready, some of these memorialization ideas can create a tangible form of the many memories in your heart.

©stonena7 | Getty Images

Create a bucket list

Many of us are familiar with people creating a bucket list of things to do before they pass on. They might include go to Paris, drive a race car or meet Brad Pitt. As with everything else, our companions have far lower aspirations, which makes it even easier to create a bucket list to delight your dog.

Consider the following treats or experiences when you know you will have to say goodbye soon:

✤ Trip to the dog park – borrow a wagon if your senior dog isn’t so mobile

✤ Day at the beach

✤ Playdate with some of your dog’s besties

✤ Tasty table scraps

✤ Trips through the drive-through for a burger or other snack

✤ Chocolate, the ultimate forbidden delight. In fact, some veterinary clinics have a jar of “Goodbye Kisses” in the rooms where pet parents say their final goodbyes as a way to give their dogs something special at the very end.

©vejaaa | Getty Images

Celebrate a Life Event

“For many, a memorial service or celebration of a pet’s life can be an important, meaningful part of the grieving process,” says Maryglenn Warnock, a certified pet bereavement counselor and ordained pet funeral officiant/pet chaplain who currently serves on the advisory board of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, on the board of the Nashville Humane Association, and Pet Community Center.

Maryglenn experienced this firsthand when planning a celebration of life for her beloved Old English Sheepdog, Garcia. “Celebrating Garcia’s life with people who knew him and loved him meant the absolute world to me — and it is an honor and a privilege to be able to help others who are in that same position. Maryglenn offers the following tips for planning a memorial:

Pick a spot. Whether an outdoor space, a home or other location, honoring the memory of a beloved companion in a place that holds special significance can add a meaningful dimension to a service.

Create a guest list. Take some time to think of the many lives your pet touched — neighbors, friends, dog walkers, veterinarians and staff, co-workers, groomers, pet sitters, etc. There are plenty of well-intentioned people who don’t understand the significance of losing a pet (and there are also non-well-intentioned people who are quick to judge). When making the guest list, I recommend not inviting the people who fall into either category. Their presence at such an event can be hurtful. This event is a way to promote healing, and people who are not sympathetic to your mourning have no place there.

Give children a role. Letting children take part in a ceremony can be tremendously healing, as it allows them space to acknowledge their loss, and also allows them to learn how to grieve in a positive, healthy way.

Speak. Be prepared to say a few words if you are up to it. There is something incredibly moving about hearing an owner talk about memories of his or her beloved pet. I typically encourage owners to at least spend a portion of a service sharing their personal reflections.

Include an officiant. Just as there are officiants for human services, there are also people, such as myself, who serve as pet officiants. I think there is no greater honor than having a pet owner trust me with this important role. Delivering a meaningful, personalized eulogy for every pet is a role I absolutely cherish.

Do what resonates. Remember that it is OK to celebrate, or cry — or both. The word “funeral” strikes fear in the heart of many, as it conjures up images of discomfort, sadness, sorrow, etc. But a pet funeral, or a human funeral for that matter, doesn’t need to be somber. The event can be celebratory, joyful, touching, inspiring — whatever resonates with the owner.

Know that there are no rules. For human funerals, there is a trend toward celebrating a life in a unique way. Similarly, a memorial service for a pet can be structured in such a way that feels right to the owner. There is no rule that says the event has to take place immediately after a pet’s death. Additionally, there are no rules for the service itself. It can be somber or lighthearted. It can be religious or not religious. It can take place day or night, in a place that feels right to the owner.

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