This year has been a difficult one for me in terms of loss. But it got me thinking: What are the best ways to honor the dead once we’ve said our final goodbyes? Not just our human loved ones, of course, but also the four-footed friends we hold near and dear to our hearts.
Sometimes children can be our best source of comfort. Recently, my daughter Indigo used her art skills to help our family cope with the loss of an animal we loved so very much during her short time on this planet. Indigo used natural elements to create a glittery shrine in her memory. Now we see this special remembrance every day and can even meditate by it if we choose.
Here are 14 additional ways we can honor our dearly departed animal …
Today I’m at one of my favorite places in the world: Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in Essex, England. My “Everything Animal Reiki” class starts today! (Looking forward to seeing you if you’ve signed up.) Situated on 40 beautiful pastoral acres in the English countryside, Remus was founded in 1983 by Sue Burton. Here are a few of the reasons why Sue is such an inspiring animal hero to me, including a closer look at what makes Remus so special:
1. What was once a post-war dairy farm is now home to more than 200 rescued farm animals—among them horses, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep and the resident cats and dogs.
2. Sue founded Remus partly because, as she states on her website, “I have always had a great belief in wrong and right and total respect for all living creatures—be they animals or humans. I could not believe that in this country [England] we could stand by and watch an animal suffer and die needlessly and that we would not all move mountains to ensure it never happened again.”
3. Sue makes sure that holistic remedies like Reiki take center stage at Remus, and for a variety of ailments—including tumors, cancer, colic, Cushing’s disease, chronic emotional problems and end of life. Sue says of the animals, “They’re all Reiki sponges up here.”
4. Thanks to Remus’ cutting-edge Elderly Horse Campaign, local horse people are educated about the various things they can do to help their horses thrive in their golden years.
The road to Remus
Some of Remus’ beautiful (and friendly) horses
A resident cat
Sheep in the mist
Me and Sue Burton
Remus volunteer Caroline Thomas, Sue Burton and I enjoyed lunch at a yummy pub nearby.
One of Remus’ Shetland ponies, now living the good life.
5. Sue and her staff of 10 (and more than 50 volunteers) take extra special care of the animals. “We want to actually make their life better,” she says. “Not just look after them, but give them something back.” In addition to food, water, veterinary care and love, these animals—who previously found themselves in abhorrent conditions—also get sugar-free feed; natural herbs; soft, sandy floors; and even a solarium.
6. An amazing 70 percent of the rescued horses at Remus are more than 20 years of age—including the adorable Orchid, who just celebrated her 49th birthday. In fact, Remus is currently petitioning Guinness World Records to recognize Orchid as the world’s oldest horse.
7. Remus has won many prestigious awards. In 2011, the sanctuary won Best Horse Rescue Center in the UK from The Wetnose Burgess Awards.
8. In 2014, Remus won £500 as runner up in the Heart of Essex Awards, which honor the most deserving unsung heroes in the community.
9. Remus is also a “Best Place to Visit With Your Dog,” according to The Kennel Club’s Open for Dogs UK awards.
10. Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, Sophie Rhys-Jones, is patron of Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary.
Who is your animal hero? Share with us in the comments below!
Photos copyright Charlotte Jensen and Kathleen Prasad.
When my dog (and animal Reiki teacher, and best canine companion) Dakota died a few years ago, I was absolutely devastated. He was old, and of course I knew he couldn’t live forever, but still, I didn’t want to face the inevitable. And when he finally passed, my world fell apart, and my heart broke into a million pieces. It was months (and maybe even years) before I started to find my way back and life began to feel “OK” again.
During those dark times, I wanted to find a way to cope but didn’t know how. I wanted to honor his memory but nothing felt right. Slowly, as days unfolded into weeks, I began to find solace in a few small things. And looking back now from a place of strength, I see that these three little steps, which seemed so inconsequential at the time, actually helped me on my journey toward peace and acceptance. Here’s what worked for me:
1. Create a lasting memory: One of the first things I did was go through all the hundreds of photos I’d taken of Dakota throughout his life, from his rescue from animal control as a puppy all the way up through my toddler daughter petting and hugging him. But most of these photos had ended up in a box gathering dust. Then I realized: I could use these photos and create a lasting memory of his life and share his amazing self with the world by making a tribute video thanking him for all the love and joy he brought me for so many years. After many hours and help from a video production company, I have this beautiful video that still brings me to tears when I watch it. I have to thank Natalie Merchant’s record label for allowing me the rights to use her song “Kind and Generous” as the background music. The lyrics perfectly fit my Dakota.
2. Make a dedication: I have always turned to meditation for help during difficult times, but after Dakota died, I felt lost and found I literally couldn’t meditate; he had always been by my side and now all I felt was emptiness. But then my Reiki teacher told me of the Buddhist monks who dedicate their meditations to their teacher after he passes. Something clicked within me and I thought, “I can do that, too!” And so I began to dedicate my meditations to Dakota and his memory, and I was able to meditate again. It doesn’t have to be a meditation; you can dedicate anything that is meaningful to you to your animal’s memory.
3. Statuary: There is something so peaceful and beautiful about statuary. After Dakota’s death, I found a statue of St. Francis petting a wolf, and it looked so much like Dakota. I placed it in my yard with a rock engraved with “Pups,” which was his nickname. And now, several years later, every time I look at it I think of Dakota. And when flowers grow around it, it looks so beautiful. My sister Charlotte tells me she also uses a beautiful Persian cat statue in her yard to honor her feline soul mate Sterling, who passed after several years fighting Polycystic Kidney Disease. It is a daily reminder of his beautiful life and a special place she can adorn with flowers in his honor.
As a side note, I want to mention there are a multitude of resources for pet owners coping with the loss of their animal. It’s important to remember you are not alone, and there are others going through the same thing as you. Petloss.com, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and the ASPCA all offer a multitude of resources.
I would love to hear: What ways have you honored your beloved animals after their passing?
This stat kind of surprised me: Did you know that the market for high-tech wearables for pets is going to explode over the next 10 years? According to a recent report by market research firm IDTechEX in Cambridge, England, the market for wearable tech for pets is expected to hit a staggering $2.6 billion by 2025.
My dog is pretty low-tech at the moment, but perhaps that will change in the future. Especially after discovering these amazing new high-tech products! Though not all of the techy products below qualify as “wearables,” one thing’s for sure: Companies are finding smart ways to keep us better connected to our animals, whether we’re at work or traveling. And some are even going that extra mile to help us keep a watchful eye on their health and wellness.
Binatone Scout 500 dog tracker: This product is so much more than your average pet collar; it’s more like a smartphone for your dog. The Scout 500, available this summer for $199, provides GPS tracking, a microphone for voice commands so you can talk to your dog no matter where they are, and video streaming so you can see what they’re up to.
FitBark : This dog activity monitor syncs to your smartphone and tracks your dog’s activity levels (rest, active and play time) 24/7. The FitBark, available in a variety of colors, attaches to your dog’s existing collar and lets you set health goals, compare your dog’s activity levels to other dogs, and notice important changes in your dog’s behavior. Cost: $99.95; available in March 2015.
Petcube Camera: Video chat with your pet? Yes! When you’re at work or out of town, you can use the wireless Petcube Camera to stay in touch with your favorite furry friends (and even play laser games with them!). Features an HD camera, two-way audio and smartphone compatibility. Cost: $199.
Petnet SmartFeeder: This high-tech food dispenser lets you manage your pet’s meals from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can adjust feeding times, manage portion sizes and even the speed at which you want food dispensed; you’ll also get notifications with meal confirmations, info about food inventory and more. Cost: $249 (for sale in Q4), or pre-order for $199.
Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker: This techy pet tracker, which attaches to your dog’s existing collar, aims to prevent your animal from getting lost. Once you create a “safe zone” around your home, the product offers 24/7 animal monitoring, real-time notifications if your dog runs away, nationwide GPS pet tracking and a temperature sensor. Cost: $99.95.
Voyce: This waterproof “smart collar” is basically a wearable computer for your dog. The Voyce monitors your animal’s health, sharing vital signs like resting heart rate, respiratory rate, activity levels, calories burned and so much more. All that info grabbing lets you see wellness trends over time, which can then be shared with your vet. Cost: $299 plus $9.95/month membership plan; available in March 2015.
What do you think? Are you ready to fit your animal with high-tech gadgets?
When I’m working, I’m usually up to my eyeballs in dog, cat and horse hair. I like to dress up as much as the next girl, but day in and day out, being comfortable is important to me.
I find myself reaching again and again for the same comfy pieces when working with animals. The following has truly become my animal Reiki uniform. If you’ve taken one of my classes, yep, you’ve seen me wear the following:
SARA T-shirt: I “paw” Reiki is my favorite, but I wear them all!