By Susan Spisak
Did you know that there is a day for reflecting on your beloved pets who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge? Over forty years ago, National Pet Memorial Day was instituted and is still celebrated annually. It falls on the second Sunday in September – this year it’s on the 11th. The day is an opportunity to not only remember those pets who have left an impact on your heart but to find a distinct way to commemorate their lives. It's also a wonderful time to thank that four-legged bestie who is still faithfully by your side.
Having a portrait done of your pet is a wonderful keepsake that keeps its spirit alive. Meredith Reynells, artist and owner of Fuzzy Angel Portraits agreed because a treasured remembrance can aid with the grieving process. “The very first portrait I painted was of my former pet, ten-plus years ago. When he passed, I was devastated. His portrait helped me remember the joy and love that he gave to my life.”
She explained that the philosophy of her business is rooted in the thought that art heals. With a few uploaded images of your pet, she can create a stunning piece. “The feedback I have received after helping dozens of people with a memorial pet portrait over the past ten-plus years is that the painting truly helped in healing a little piece of their hearts.” (fuzzyangelportraits.com/)
Debra Bell, owner of Bell's Furry Friends Photography and Bangor's Best Pet Photographer for the ninth year running (by Market Surveys of America), offers a Tribute Session designed to capture beautiful images of the pet and its people for meaningful keepsakes. “Our pets are with us for such a short period of time that we don't always realize the power of these moments until the pets are gone.” Deb said this Tribute Session is perfect for pets that are starting to get into the golden years. “I had someone refer to this as her pups’ ‘senior portraits’ recently which I love.”
She admitted it can feel morbid on the surface, but there’s an upside. “The resulting images can have some of the strongest and most meaningful power of all the sessions I do. And that's because they show the heart that we have for our pets and that they have for us.” She shared that she did a session for a couple and their adorable pups, Chip and Dale. They knew that Chip had a heart condition, and they wanted to ensure they had beautiful images of the duo with themselves. “That is one of the reasons a lot of folks use a professional photographer—to be in the photos. Be there with your pet. Be present. They love you so much and that love will show through in the images.” (bffpetphotos.com/) Featured Photo by Bell's Furry Friends Photography
Gina Soule, MSPA, PA-C, Internationally Award-Winning Fine Art photographer and owner of Gina Soule Photo, believes in capturing the essence of your pets while they’re still with you. “Don't wait until it is too late. Your pets are family, and you want to capture and remember the good times with them while they're at their very best.”
She knows that capturing the bond between owner and pet creates priceless and timeless art through photography. It can not only be enjoyed in the here and now but be a vital part of the healing process. “Anytime I have ever done an ‘End of Life’ session and provided a client with images of their sick and/or elderly pet, words cannot describe the emotions that you can see them go through when they see the final pieces. The most common comment I receive is, 'I am so thankful that I did this.'” (ginasoulephoto.com/)
Another interesting option is Ashes to Ashes Pet Memorial Prints, a division of Harbor View Studio. Dale Joyce, CPP, a successful commercial and fine art photographer, along with his business partner and fiancé, Jennifer Helman, have a unique business. Dale has perfected the process of making gorgeous carbon prints for those who want to memorialize their pets and people, too. Simply send in a favorite photo of a loved one you've lost along with a small sample of their cremated remains; he will create a memorial print that is touching, one-of-a-kind, and three-dimensional. “We think it's pretty special,” said Jennifer. (ashestoashesprints.com/)
Not interested in having a painting or customized photo done of your pet but still want to honor your dog, either one who has passed or is still with you? A digital book is easy to make these days, and not pricey. Upload your fav pictures, add some pertinent backdrops and captions, and you’ll have a nice memento. If you’re making this for a sibling or friend, enlist the help of someone who has access to their pet pics. (Snapfish.com/ or type in ‘digital photo books’ in search engines for options.)
A small $12.95 hardcover book that can heal is For Every Dog an Angel by Christine Davis. The book celebrates the connection between people and their “forever dogs.” The book is available on Amazon, and the review explains, “From the moment a puppy is born, the book tells us, a guardian angel is there to welcome the puppy into the world and to help the pup understand what makes it so very special.” The enchanting book is filled with colorful illustrations and can bring comfort. I was gifted this book when I lost my Golden, Camden, and years later keep it on my coffee table to read.
Donate to a rescue group or animal nonprofit in your animal’s name. It’s a nice feeling to give back. If this is a present to a friend, notate the gesture in a card. Your friend will appreciate that you took the time to think about the pet.
Since many people choose to cremate their pets, a customized wood box or urn for the pet’s ashes is nice to have. It can be placed in an important spot in the home. All my dogs who have crossed the Bridge are in a pretty box on the mantle—I often say ‘hello’ when I’m dusting. (Check out https://www.ashestoashespetcrematory.com/products)
If you have a family member who has lost a pet or still has a current adored pet, a few of these ideas make good holiday gifts—they will sneak up sooner than you think. Gina agreed, “Gifting a special someone a holiday gift is one of the most thoughtful things one can do. These days, our pets aren't just pets, they're family. They hold an invaluable and indescribable place in our lives. They impact us for the better, and what more special way to honor this place they hold in our lives than with a gift [such as a photo session] to commemorate this.” Deb added, “The fall is a great time to start creating these memories or to start holiday shopping. I offer gift certificates, can do custom album and art commissions and am always happy to chat about their specific needs and ideas.”