When a Pet Passes: How to Plan a Memorial Service and Grieve Your Loss

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Anyone who has experienced the unconditional love of a dog understands the devastation of losing that pet. After all, dogs truly are family… they love you despite your shortcomings. Your adoring dog often becomes your four-legged child, and in the wake of a loss, it’s important to follow the grieving process so you may eventually heal.

The Burial

The hours immediately following the death of your dog are highly emotional, yet there are several decisions that need to be made in planning the memorial. First, you’ll decide on burial versus cremation. If it doesn’t violate city/county ordinances, you may opt to bury your pet on your property. If not, you may opt for a nearby pet cemetery. Prices vary depending on where you live and the size of your dog; however, securing a pet cemetery plot can cost thousands, even for a small dog. Cremation is generally an affordable option, coming in at just a fraction of the cost of a burial plot at a specialized cemetery.

For a backyard burial, you may opt for your own container. For a small dog, a shoebox or lunchbox may work well; medium-sized or larger dogs may require such containers as a wicker basket, trunk or wooden crate. If your beloved dog enjoyed a particular blanket or toy, you may want to bury your pet with the item.

The Memorial Service

Make no mistake: Losing your dog IS losing a loved one, so create a special program that expresses what your dog meant to you. Pull together pictures, treats, sweaters, songs, videos and anything else you would normally display to remind you of happier times. Invite friends and family to attend the service; after all, they understand how much this dog meant to you and want to be there for you. Let them know it is okay to bring cards or sympathy gifts.

You will also want to purchase a nice plant or floral arrangement to set upon your dog’s grave site. Special mementos, pictures or a sweater your dog used to wear is also a nice touch (be sure to check the regulations first if you select a dog cemetery). Affordable personalized pet headstones are available at large pet supply stores or online.

In the Weeks Following

It’s normal to feel a great deal of grief after the loss of your dog. Don’t hesitate to contact local grief specialists who can help with pet bereavement. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement provides free, professional and specialized services to grieving pet owners from across the globe. Further, the site provides an online memorial page for your dog with a low-cost annual membership.

Beyond this, you may desire to plant a tree in your dog’s honor or plan animal-related volunteer service or another special event to keep the memory of your beloved dog alive.

Larissa is a vet tech who has three dogs of her own. She loves to write about animal care and environmental issues.

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