Almost three decades ago, a study published in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling revealed that 38 percent of respondents considered themselves emotionally closer to their dog than to anyone in their human family. This finding still rings true to many dog lovers. And while not everyone understands or accepts that it’s possible to grieve the death of a dog as much as (and sometimes, more than) the death of a member of our family, it is, nonetheless, a fact.
Our relationships with our dogs are often simpler than those with other people: straightforward interactions, clear expectations, no-strings-attached affection. We also tend to order our daily routine around our dogs’ needs. Not surprising, then, that a hole opens up in our lives when we lose them.
Creating a memorial is one way to begin moving through the grief. Fortunately, the spectrum of possibilities is wide. Among the options: garden stones, plaques, portraits, candles, photo books, paw-and noseprint–engraved charms, lockets holding fur or cremains. Or we can plant a tree, make a donation to a rescue or shelter, assemble a keepsake box or journal on social media. The way we choose to honor our dog’s life is personal, but the motivation is universal; commemorating the bond we shared is a positive step toward accepting their loss.