Summer of 2019 my family’s beloved Chocolate Lab underwent her second intestinal obstruction surgery due to her literally consuming ANYTHING that could be swallowed. The first surgery they removed garbage from her intestines. We didn’t know what she had eaten the second time, we just knew that she was sick and getting sicker. I worked in the Veterinary Industry and had 8 incredible doctors at my disposal. I was confident, (yet a little bit frustrated to be going through this again) that she would be perfectly fine, I’d take her home that evening after work and focus on getting her comfortable. By the way, they removed a piece of corncob from her intestines.
It was a normal night, my daughter had friends over, my pup was content and resting. She was groggy but that was to be expected.
I woke up the next morning, she walked with me to the yard, went potty, wagged her tail at me. She didn’t look right though, and I knew I needed to get her to the clinic. I put her in the front seat because she always sat there when we went places. She wouldn’t hold herself up. So, I laid her in the back seat of my Jeep and flew to the clinic.
She passed away two turns away from work. I saw it and I knew the exact last breath. This was by far the worst moment I’d ever experienced. Even working in the veterinary industry, guiding clients though similar scenarios almost every day couldn’t prepare me for the flood of emotions and feelings of helplessness I had.
Fast-forward a week later, I went on a trip that had been planned for 9 months and I had my mom house sit to take care of my other pets and my daughter. The trip was a much-needed respite and I felt rejuvenated and whole after all we had just experienced 2 weeks prior.
We had French doors that opened to the back yard and when the dogs wanted to come back in they would look through the door while imprinting their sweet noses on my glass. When I returned home my house was pristine! Thanks mom! But, my nose prints were wiped clean too. I didn’t realize how much they meant to me, it’s still something that I think about. I wish that I had taken pictures of the nose prints.
These “little things” are precious and here are some ideas on how to memorialize your pet in “little” ways. Starting from the beginning of their life with you. Some of these little things may seem silly at first, but you will cherish the memories you collected with them after you’ve expressed farewell.
Think of this as a pet scrap book or “Baby Book” in the works.
Nose prints: Windows are the best place to find nose prints. Take pictures of them!
· Our pets are like our children, and I’ve been known to make Christmas Ornaments of their paws using clay or salt dough. Puppies and their sweet, chubby and oh-so-soft pads are seriously THE best! It’s fun to compare the “puppy” prints with prints from a year later when they are big strong adult dogs.
Here is a link to a salt dough recipe to play with!
· Take pictures of their paw prints in the mud, dirt, snow, or sand.
· Muddy prints on your vehicle? Take a picture.
· Pet artwork! Place some old towels, a tarp, cardboard or newspapers down and paint your pet’s paws, or let them step in paint or ink. Treats work really well for coaxing them to walk across a canvas board or multi medium paper. Avoid stretched canvases for medium/large sized dogs because their nails can puncture the canvas. I love painting a dark background, letting it dry completely and using metallic paint on the paws. Yep, this is going to be messy! Stick to water-based paints like acrylic or tempera as they are also nontoxic and easy to clean up.
The First Collar:
· Keep and cherish their first collar, bandanas, or other forms of clothing. The difference in growth within the first year is fun to see. Especially when you have the tiniest pup or kitten grow to be a majestic beast! Did you adopt your pet? If they already have a collar when you bring them home, keep it safe somewhere and replace it with a new one.
My Lab had multiple bandanas, but we had a specific one that was everyone’s favorite, it had tears and stains, she wore it for miles and miles. After she died, I painted her portrait and hung her bandana on the corner of the portrait.
· Many people keep their pets’ tags throughout their lives and will frame them or keep them in a Keepsakes box with other precious memories.
Take pictures of everything! Especially the “firsts”
The best way to take pictures of your pets is to get on their level! Having someone assist during action shots will help tremendously. One person taking the pictures and the other person playing with them. Our pets love us just as much as we love them and usually, they will approach you when you lower yourself to ground level. Cute yes! But it can get frustrating without help when you’re aiming to get good shots!
· All the first Experiences.
· Coming home in the car.
· Taking them to the beach? Take all the pictures of them running like crazy and get pictures of their prints in the sand.
· Snow is interesting, cold, and suspicious. Also, fun to play in! Be sure to have your phone with the camera open to capture their first reactions. If your dog is a fiend for the ball, snowballs are brilliant things to catch in midair because they usually crumble instantly when chomped on, leaving them with a confused expression that is priceless. Dog reactions are the best, and when you capture them on camera memories are created.
· Collect a tuft of Puppy “Fluff” and before/after pictures from the first grooming appointment.
· Hire a professional photographer to have a family portrait session with pets included! With Cats, you may need to get creative as a lot of kitties live indoors and fear car rides. However, many photographers will come to your home and know how to stage the perfect set to get pictures.
No one has a pet like yours! No one has the special bond that you two share. The best time to start collecting the memories of their legacy is now. You’ll be able to look back and feel nostalgia with all the little moments that you may otherwise forget.
What ways do you create memories and capture them?