Unbidden by anything seen, just standing in her kitchen one night, my sister had a sudden “knowing” that her beloved schnauzer mix, Chester, whom she had let outside for his nightly potty break, had died. Compelled by this same awareness, she tearfully carried his food and water bowls to her garbage can and threw them away before she crumpled to the floor and wept. Within the hour, she would discover upon searching the neighborhood that her sweet dog had been hit by a car two blocks away. This incident in my memory (and recounted in my book Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss) drew me to this article by the ever-compassionate, insightful Colleen Mihelich.—Sid
So, you’ve just struggled through the first painful months of having lost your beloved pet and adjusting to life without their friendship and presence. But now what do you do with the collar, the leash, the food and water bowls and the toys?
Some people have no problem throwing these things away or giving them to someone who needs them. This doesn’t mean that these pet owners aren’t grieving; they have simply determined this is the best course of action for them. Still others opt to keep their pet’s belongings as keepsakes, particularly if the pet was a part of their life for an extended period of time.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question of what to do with your pet’s belongings. This is a personal choice that is more about your comfort level and where you are in the grieving process than anything else. Pet loss is a life-changing event and people who have expended their time and love on their pet for long periods of time often have difficulty in letting go and reconciling their loss. This is where the issue of what do with the pet’s belongings becomes a loaded question.
One way of dealing with your pet loss is to give away some of your pet’s belongings to a local shelter or Humane Society, but in your own time. This can give you some peace of mind in knowing there are other animal’s out there benefiting from the items that once belonged to your pet. You can keep a few precious keepsakes, such as a special collar or favorite toys and display them or keep them in a special box.
A keepsake box can make a great pet memorial. Be creative and put a few items in a pet keepsake box and display it in a common area of your home. Keepsake boxes come in a variety of sizes and colors and are perfect for smaller mementos, such as collars or name tags and photos. You can also display these items in a shadow box that you can actually display on the wall of your home. You can also choose to display a shadow box in a common area, or if you want it to be a more personal expression of your love for your pet, in a bedroom area.
If you decide to donate your items to a pet-oriented charity or shelter, you might also be able to do in your pet’s memory, particularly if you also make a financial donation of sorts. Ask your local shelter or Humane Society about this option as this is a fantastic way to memorialize your pet and pay tribute to their life and the happiness which they brought to yours.
Remember, the decision on what to do with your pet belongings is in direct correlation to where you are in the grieving process. Only make decisions that you are ready to make and ensure that anything you decide to do with your pet’s belongings is something you are comfortable with and honors the life of your pet in some way.