Thursday, December 14, 2017

Paws to Remember- a tearful and joyful celebration

I was leafing through the local Advertiser newspaper when I saw this notice. The event was one I knew well, but there was something else:

This is an annual event held at Nassau Vet--a night to remember the pets lost that year. I'd been to this event before, sadly, a few too many times. But what caught my eye was the dog in the picture. Our Brooks. Our first senior rescue, the one who started us on the journey of adopting senior goldens, and changed our life. The angel ornament pictured was our ornament we'd hung on the tree five years ago to remember him. Seeing his angel wings again was like a gift from heaven.

And now it was time to make another ornament--two more, in fact.

We'd lost our senior golden Ike this past March, and then our 16 year old spaniel Kelly 5 days later. We think of them every day, but most people know, the holidays are always especially emotional. Having a special night to remember and honor them at this time of year is comforting. We decorated our new ornaments and hung them on the tree in the veterinarian's lobby.

Ornaments we made for Ike and Kelly this year.
As we walked in the door, we were each given a bell on a ribbon. The room was dark with candle light and a beautiful Christmas tree adorned with angel wing ornaments. Before long, the room filled to overflowing. So many others missing a pet, just like us.

 It began with a reading from Dr. Lisa Dietrich, called If he wakes in Your arms about when it's time for a much-loved pet to go to heaven. Then other veterinarians read poems and short essays about loving and losing a pet. I was already having trouble keeping back the tears.

Next, the names of the pets lost this year were announced, and when each pet's name was read the families rang their bell. At each soft jingle I felt the depth of someone else's loss.

Finally, pet parents and family members stood up and shared stories and fond memories of their pets. Mike shared about Kelly's dementia, and how Ike became like a therapy dog to her in her final months. Some people told funny stories, most shared about the end, and each and every story showed how much we are all connected to the cats and dogs in our lives.

I think of Kelly and Ike all the time, but the evening helped me share and connect with other pet parents. It felt comforting to observe such understanding from the veterinarians at Nassau Vet who knew and cared for our pets so well over the years, and in many cases helped us gently say goodbye.

As we left, we drove past beautiful luminaria lining the long winding driveway.


  1. What a sweet way to remember your pets who have gone on. People who don't have pets don't realize they become family and thus, how wrenching the loss can be. I cried for days when our Cezar had to go, even though it was time. This seems a nice way to remember in fellowship.

    1. Thank you for stopping by Elizabeth. It was clear that everyone there considered their pet a part of the family. I'm sorry for the loss of your dear Cezar.

  2. Oh, that’s really sweet. I always especially think of our angels at the holidays - partly because of the ornaments I have to remember them by.... and partly because Abby nibbled on many of my Christmas decorations... :)

  3. I was crying most of this article ...
    Buddy jumped up to 'comfort me' ...
    Furchildren are just that
    'children with fur' ...
    To those who have never been a Furarents they will never come close to understanding the bond ...
    To those who share our grief we pray for others hard pressed for reunion to come as we learn of them ...
    Prayers and Blessings anyone who reads this post and who knows this wound that never truly completely heals ...

  4. how wonderful and sweet. i went to my cancer vet's office today to pick up the Christmas ornament they had made for my gal, who passed away in aug from cancer. she was nominated by the staff to have an ornament on their tree. i had been putting off going to get it b/c it was so hard to walk in their office. i spent over 10 mos. sometimes going a few times a wk, at least 1-2 times a month. of course, i broke down and cried my eyes out. i love how they rang the bells. what a beautiful service to our 4 legged angels.


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!