Gardening in a pet's memory?

MarshaO(5)May 27, 2002

Please, I have a request... this especially effects children.

Pet loss continues to be a most misunderstood thing. People constantly apologize to me (as a grief counselor) when talking about their deceased pet, for the degree to which they believe they are over-reacting in their sorrow. We need to normalize this grief.

I am authoring a book that will be released by Fairview Press toward the end of this year. The subject is pet loss, but more specifically, how we honor our beloved departed friends through memorialization. I am putting out an invitation for you to share your story of your pet, including anything you did to commemorate his/her life after they passed. Pictures are most appreciated. Please don't think that this needs to be anything major, or complicated, or fancy - the best anecdotes and memorializations are the ones that come from your heart, and usually the end result is simple and uncomplicated. Photos and stories of outdoor memorials are especially wonderful.

In addition to knowing that you are helping others, you will receive a free copy of the book in gratitude for your contribution.

My first book was released last month. It is called "A Garden of Love and Healing: Living Tributes to Those We've Loved and Lost" - again, with Fairview Press. This book encourages folks to make a personal garden in memory of their loved one. (If you want to catch a glimpse, as well as an idea of what my work turns out like, it is on

With warmest wishes, Marsha Olson, MA

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Hi Marsha! I am a mom, but I happen to have a B.A. in Child care & development as well and I think your book is a great idea for parents and kids-a great tool for opening up discussions on grief/feelings. It just so happens that we recently lost my father to alzheimer's and after two and a half months my 6 yr. old regularly talks about missing Grandpa. We're working through it, but it takes time and memorial gardens are such a great idea whether it's for a human or beloved pet. So far we don't have pets for my son, but we are using the memorial garden idea for Grandpa-not only is it therapeutic for my son, but for me as well and I can't imagine it being any different when losing a pet.

Your thread brings me to my own experience of losing "Buttons" our wire-haired fox terrier who i simply adored. She was my first pet and we did everything together. From laying side-by-side in the sunshine that pored into the living room(she enjoyed many years of sunning herself on the living room rug!) to running after each other in our back yard, and countless games of tug-o-war...Buttons was simply my best friend! When something big or little was on my mind I would talk to her and she always seemed to know just what I was saying. The expression on her face was just so full of mutual admiration. Etched in my mind is the last day she spent alive(she had to be put to sleep just from being so old and she had kidney problems). I knew her time was coming to a close so I wanted to walk with her one last time along my dad's vegetable garden-an activity we'd do daily in the summer looking for signs of ripe tomatoes or peppers, etc.. As we walked I told her with tears in my eyes what a good dog she was and how I would always love her and remember her and the fun we've had together(wow even after more than 20-some yrs. that lump still forms in the base of my throat!)

I never actually made a memorial for her (but if I did, bachelor 'buttons' and a dogwood would definitely be included!), but when I eat garden vegetables I always think of that last walk together and the previous ones during her healthy years. To delve a little further, if I had done a memorial garden for my water turtle,'Gertrude' I'd do a water garden-that might be a suggestion for people with water pets...although, I'm sure you've already thought of that! best of luck to you. Babs

    Bookmark   May 30, 2002 at 4:59PM
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Marsha's first book is beatuful! If you have a story, do write it and send it to Marsha! I was in her first book and I am very honored to have been selected. I'm sure her new book on Pets and Loss and garden memorials will be just as lovely. It's part of healing too, so write about your experiences if you have any.
June Mucci

    Bookmark   May 31, 2002 at 4:31PM
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THANKS......MISS JUNE..... !!!
We need to catch up one of these days soon.
Don't know about you - but life has been one wild ride lately!
love ya!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2002 at 10:52PM
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Gardening has always been a special way to honor a loved one that has passed away - the same with pets. As a Mother of three (now teenagers) we have a special garden in the front side yard for deceased pets. We did a full funeral for them with prayer then buried them. We have both periannuals and annuals in that garden. The kids made a cross out of twigs. A few years ago - sadly my daughter's cat was killed in front of her - hit by a truck. He had crept outside - it was our annual hanging of Christmas lights which we alway turn on for my daughter's birthday. McGoo got a special garden - he wasn't buried with the bunny or hamsters but in the corner backyard with a stone and lots of holiday lights. My daughter at the time was around 13 but she put some thing on his grave every day to remember him. Happy flowers adorn this part of the yard - daiseys, daylilies, iris, etc.
Children need to grieve and to honor their pets just as they do people. We still have a bunch of pets - one in particular if he passed away I think I would greive forever - our dog Cody is very much loved and has been with us since '93.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2002 at 9:27PM
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3 years ago when my Irish Setter died, we held a funeral goodbye for her in our backyard. I placed an interesting looking chunk of log on top of her grave and fastened a copper plate to it on which I had painted her name, birth & death dates and "May the Shamrocks fall Gently." A few months later, I planted daylilies on her grave and in Fall, daffodils. Every year (3 now), I add a few more daffodils.

My 7-year old daughter has turned Betsey's gravesite into an animal graveyard. Last summer, I found someone's cat which had been killed by a car & buried it. This Spring, my daughter put toys on the graves--a ball for Betsey, dog food in plastic Easter eggs, even a fingerpuppet for the kitty. Since then she buried a bird and a moth! She decorated the graves with flower petals. Last week she buried a little mouse that her kitty had almost killed.
My daughter "rescued it". She put it outside in her ski hat, propped the hat up with a stick - like a tent, put in cheese and a saucer of water nearby and checked on it every couple of hours. Well, "Whiskers" died and he joins the rest of the animals in this site, under the big Sugar Maple tree.

I could foresee adding different spring bulbs and will probably do that. Making a gravesite look beautiful adds to the sense of relief and peace you can get by saying goodbye with love.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2002 at 3:57PM
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My grandmother was an avid gardener. For years she took me around her garden and I helped her water her flowers and plants. After she died my uncle got her house and of course the gardens. He "cleaned" them out of all her prized Bearded Iris bulbs. Not prized by anyone but her of course. She was on a very limited income for years before her death and I remember her saving pennies so she could send for a different color iris.
When I stopped by that day to see what he was doing, he had put them in a bucket and had 3 other 5 gallon buckets he had dug up and was fixing to burn them. I thought I was going to die right there on the spot. I took them home and planted them. There is no order or labels to know what they are. We call them "Granny's Iris's". That is all that matters. When people stop by my house to admire them I always give them some of whatever color they want. She was like that. She would have wanted it that way.

I have bought more iris since then but they are planted seperately. I have tried to keep them labeled but my DH has a way with a lawnmower that just does in the plant labels. So... like the others alot of the names are lost. But names don't make them any less beautiful.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2002 at 11:41PM
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EMS_Marie(NE PA)

We are faced now with the decision of ending our 13 yr old dogs pain. She has a cancer that is untreatable. If she passes away here at home I plan to bury her under our dogwood tree. I don't think the vet will allow us to bring her home for burial. Knowing that she will not be with us much longer we are working on getting a puppy. From past experience I know that a puppy helps a lot to ease the grief. Our family has always done this and even though it may sound cruel it really is a help. How can you stay sad with a comical puppy around? I've found that most pets know when their families are sad and often will try to find ways to make you smile. And they say animals are dumb!

The previous owners of our home had buried a cat on the grounds. They even had a headstone. They offered to remove the headstone. We agreed and offered to plant a pussy willow there in memory of hte cat. They were thrilled that we would do that for them. So far the pussy willow is doing well even with our drought.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2002 at 12:23PM
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ShellsBells(Z5 MI)

Hi, I am a mother of two small children who are 4 and 6 now. They were 3 and 4 at the time. I got my kids two puppies to grow up with. They were 6 weeks old at the time. One day when they were about 7 months old. I had to leave, left them outside. I have one of those underground fences and they were trained by it. When I got home, it was dark. I got the kids in the house and went outside to call the dogs. I called and I called and no dogs came running. Finally after about 30 minutes of calling, I heard a rustling in the property next to me. I came in and got a flash light, went running over there, found them both, barely breathing, barely able to move. I brought them in the house and spent an hour on the phone with my vet explaining how they were acting. Finally after not getting an improvement, I loaded up my kids and the dogs and headed for the vets office. We get there and they ran tests for Parvo, sure enough, Parvo, I had to have them put down. My kids were both crying as well as me. We were all VERY attached to them. My vet asked me if I wanted them cremated or if I wanted to take them home and bury them for the kids. I decided to take them home and bury them for the kids. This was decided after talking with my children for 20 minutes. Now its like 4 in the morning. The vet and I loaded their lifeless bodies into the trunk. The drive home was 45 minutes of answerng questions about where puppies go when they die. Got home around 5am. Tucked the kids into bed and told them we would take care of the puppies later. When we got up, I let the kids pick out a place in the back yard. All three of us together dug a hole big enough to place them both in because my kids didnt want to seperate them. After the hole was dug, I pulled my car around and unloaded them into the hole. The three of us covered them back up with the dirt. I let my kids find some rather large rocks to place around the grave. I still have plans to make a little "graveyard" in that area. You will see why when you read the next part. My daughter received a cat for a 5th birthday present. The cat was an outdoor cat so I left it that way. A couple months went by and she ended up having 4 kittens. My kids were exstatic. We fed the kitties daily, went out and played with them and watched them grow for about 5 months. My neighbors dog got out on accident and my daughter watched as the dog grabbed up one of the kittens and literally shook it to death. The kitten it happened to grab was her favorite. So, I took her and calmed her down and explained to her that her kitty is now in kitty heaven with her puppies and that her puppies were watching over her kitty and they were all playing together. This time, her and I dug a hole together. She wanted her right next to the pups. We placed her kitty in the hole and covered her. Again my daughter went to the rock pile and picked out rocks to place around the grave. To this day she goes out and "talks" to her animals and tells them she loves them and misses them and hopes they are ok. I just started doing landscape work in my yard and am in the progress of designing something to have a "memorial" affect to it. I will post again when finished and pics are available.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2002 at 12:48AM
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daisiensam(z4 ont)

My sincere sympaty to the loving pet owners. We have always had 3or 4 dogs and 4 cats. Last fall we lost annabelle, she was a family member for 14 yrs. I realized their was nothing else to be done for her but I just couldn't have her put down. She got so much extra love and attention in her final days, it was heart rendering. DH dug a large hole in the corner of the back yard in a very undisturbed area with cedar trees and pernnials. My friend had bought me a beautiful heavy copper patio stone with a dragon fly on it. I used that for a grave marker, whenever I'm out in the back corner I have many fond memories of our Annabelle.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2003 at 11:35PM
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samanthaz(9 N. CA)

These stories are so touching - and it really shows how pets do become a part of the family! Even in a short amount of time! My cat, Blackstar, passed away when I was a teenager,and it didn't take me long to figure out a memorial. The cat was a smartie - hiding under our tibouchina until the garage door was open, then - ran inside like lightning! Or would 'share' his daily catch at the front door. Being an outdoor person even as a teenager, I decided to make a living memorial over his grave. S-for salvia, one of my favorites. T-for Tibouchina, or course! A-alyssum, carefree like the cat, and self-sowing. And R-a beautiful 'nearly Black' rose. Everything planted stood for one letter of his name. Although we don't live in the same house anymore, these flowers are special for another reason.

Great idea for a book-

    Bookmark   June 6, 2003 at 7:04PM
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You have all been too awesome - - in your enthusiasm and in your sharing.

The book is out! Just last week. The publisher titled it "Dogwood and Catnip: Living Tributes To The Pets We Have Loved and Lost". It has a chapter for kids - and gardening in memory of their pet, with sweet contributions from children who have been through it - and made a memorial in the garden.

I so appreciate hearing from all of you... children...pets and gardens ...glimpses of heaven...right here on earth...what beats that? Drop me a line if you'd like a book. :)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2003 at 10:52PM
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