Creating a Comforting Goodbye for Your Pet

Awaiting your beloved pet’s euthanasia appointment can bring both physical strain and emotional tension to your heart as you contemplate these painful moments ahead. How will you ever be able to say good-bye to your best friend, your family member, your very loyal companion? Although this time is very painful to imagine, we can still make every moment special and valuable for our pet by creating a soothing goodbye through careful planning and preparation.

Planning for your pet’s appointment involves three key elements: having a comforting environment, peaceful personal touches, and carrying on the serenity of your bond together with a heartfelt good-bye. We must always remember that this is not good-bye to our pet forever, for they are always with us in our heart, daily thoughts, words, and actions. While we are sadly saying good-bye to their physical presence, it is beneficial to remember the quality, care, and love that comes into these special appointments at home, along with the priceless gift of pure love we give our pets by taking away their pain. Having an at-home euthanasia carries the ability for private time alone without the stress of a busy veterinary hospital and most importantly, having your pet remain calm in their favorite place among their loved ones.

You are welcome to prepare a comforting place for your pet at home either inside (one’s bed, couch, or their favorite perch) or outside (among the grass, front porch, or simply sitting beneath the golden sun) and can embrace them the whole time. Doctors will always bring the supplies needed at your appointment, so you can focus more on creating a luxurious environment of warmth, soothing music, candles, and flowers near your loved one. Whether you choose to be alone or surrounded by supportive friends and family, keeping your pet cozy at home is such a special gift for them. Adding peaceful personal touches is very unique for your friendship together, such as their favorite toys, fun treats, or soothing blankets. Reading a special story or poem, lighting memory candles, and including your religious or cultural beliefs will create a blissful experience that you will always cherish together. These moments further establish the eternal bond you two will always share and will remain in your heart forever. Please know that our doctors here are very comfortable with these personal touches and will give you privacy as well.

Preparing for your appointment involves pure love, selfless care, and gut-wrenching emotions abound, but focusing on your special good-bye will help heal your heart and soul. Your pet is so lucky to have such a loving family to care for them this way, just as we are so thankful for their love and companionship. As we reflect on the hard decisions of when to schedule this appointment and how to understand our pet’s current quality of life, we must also consider our “ideal” good-bye to be (when, where, and how). Understanding and addressing your pet’s “quality of passing” (along with their quality of life) will further guide you along on when to plan euthanasia. Knowing the differences involved with your pet passing away peacefully at home or through a potentially urgent situation at a veterinary hospital will help you determine what kind of good-bye would be best for both of you. What you must remember is that your best friend will always love you and understand; animals do not reflect on death like we do and just want us to be happy and content- just like them.




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Grieving Through the Years After Pet Loss

No words can truly describe the broken pain and agony we feel when our beloved best friends pass away, whether just moments ago or even years later. We each share a special loving bond together with our pets unlike any other. We may accept that our pets are always in our hearts and memories but adjusting to the loss of their physical presence can be agonizing. How do we get through the days, months, and years after our pets pass away?

Sadly, it is still common to encounter diminished support from our friends and family over time and we may feel more limited to a certain “appropriate” timeline of grieving. However, our grief does not carry an expiration date. Our pets are our family and our bond is eternal. Adjusting to this new attachment of memory over physical presence takes time to understand and accept.

Grieving through the years may be a long painful process in which we take one step at a time, learning to cope on a daily basis. As we hold memories in our hearts, we still experience physical heartache and grief emotions while continuously reflecting on our relationship, care, and their last moments. Each day is different and unpredictable and can feel exhausting. Part of the grieving process is accepting that while grief lessens over time, it may always be a part of our lives. We learn to acknowledge how to live and grow around this grief, physically and mentally, and seek comfort through others who understand. We will always grieve and miss our pets greatly but may find comfort filling our hearts through the years.

I can personally understand and attest to this. This April will mark six years since my lovely 5 pound Poodle, Alfie, passed away unexpectedly in surgery with me by his side at 11 years old. In all honesty, this last day has been constantly replayed in my mind and feels both quite recent and decades ago. I cannot put into words the devastation and heartache this grieving journey has been over the last six years, while learning to find peace along the way.

Six years later, I still miss Alfie very much every day. He always carries a piece of my heart and is my best friend forever. I treasure our special moments and picture his happy smile and fluffy, wiggly dance numerous times a day, so very thankful for our shared times together. I still experience numerous unexpected pangs of grief that cling dearly to my heart and bring tears to my eyes, even as I love our other furry loved ones at home. I feel tremendous peace in my heart, knowing that Alfie was happy, loved, and treasured by us and he loved us back just as strongly. I still reflect often on his last moments and question aspects of his treatment plan and what more I could have done to help. I will always wish we could have had more time together living in the moment but am eternally grateful for our everlasting bond. I will forever cherish my sweet Alfie, and even as years go by, he will always be in my heart and daily thoughts.

It is always okay to acknowledge our grief, understand that unanticipated emotions may occur, and know that there is no timeline for our sorrow. What is so important and valuable for taking care of ourselves is accepting when to seek support and comfort, learning to live around our grief, and honoring our pet’s memories. We are so thankful for our pets who want us to be happy and at peace and have shown us this path through their lives and beyond. They will forever be with us and live in our hearts.

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MN Pets COVID-19 Plan & Precautions

Updated 10/15/22

To our MN Pets community,

We are continuing to monitor the COVID situation in Minnesota carefully. While we know that this is a stressful time for our entire global community, we also recognize the very personal heartbreak you are experiencing as you face this difficult decision for your pet. To be faced with a painful personal loss at a time when there is fear and uncertainty in the world around us can feel overwhelming and isolating.

Our goal during this time is to be here to support you through the loss of your pet and to help you say goodbye peacefully and gently at home where your pet is most comfortable. We recognize that when fear and heartbreak increase in the world, so does the need for compassion, empathy, and courage, and our goal is to continue to provide this important service while doing everything we can to minimize risk to you, our doctors, and our other clients.

To ensure that we are able to continue to help pet families in our community, we have developed a plan to keep our clients and staff safer:

  • For indoor visits, everyone is asked to wear a mask while the doctor is present. During the visit, you will be able to be with your pet and hold them, which means you and the doctor will be sitting closely for an extended period. When the doctor is not tending to your pet, they may step away so that you can lower your mask. Masks are optional for outdoor visits.
  • The doctor will call you when she is on the way. Please be ready to answer your phone
  • Please notify us if anyone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms so that we can discuss additional precautions or rescheduling.

As this situation unfolds, there may be additional recommendations handed down by the CDC or the MN Department of Health.  We will monitor these and make changes to this plan as necessary.  We promise to communicate transparently and clearly and do whatever we can to identify options and precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.


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Family Conflict Through Caretaking Decisions and How to Navigate: Part 2

Part 2: Mediating the Caretaking Conversation Among Family:

One of the most important first steps to help prevent familial conflict is to plan a set time for everyone to sit down and have a quiet discussion of respectful communication, active listening, and validating all thoughts, feelings, and ideas. This should ideally be a time where everyone can feel relaxed and not worried about other activities. It is also important to maintain respectful communication at all times (through either taking turns talking or having a “talking stick”); respect is the key to understanding and properly validating one another’s opinions and may even require professional help (licensed therapist) if needed to keep a smooth pace. It may be crucial to instigate a mediator ahead of time to help keep this conversation flowing at a peaceful, purposeful tone, provide active listening, take planned breaks, and always establish a few rules ahead for proper communication (having a “no judgement rule” and “setting a limit”- creating an agreed upon number of steps for when euthanasia may be necessary). This discussion may also be beneficial with the involvement of your veterinarian as well, especially if decisions need to be met more urgently or one may require a more detailed understanding of your pet’s current medical ailment or illness.

As it is so important to always include children and teenagers in caretaking decisions for your pet, it is your own choice if you would like them to be present for all of this caretaking conversation (or just a small portion).  People of all ages each carry a special loving bond with their family and should be able to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas for their pet, but may not fully understand their pet’s declining care or their parent’s emotional or financial stress. Involving them throughout euthanasia is always your own decision but helping them to create special ways to memorialize their pet will be very peaceful for both their memories and grieving process.

Throughout this conversation, it is always best to focus on each necessary topic: quality of life care, euthanasia, aftercare, and even memorialization and to circle back if the discussion strays away; it is so easy for all emotions to run high during this time, especially as we all love our pets so much and want them to be in peace with absolutely no pain or discomfort. One must always try to place their pet’s comfort level and quality of life above their own emotions and yearning to have them stay with us. No words can truly describe how heartbreaking it is to consider these choices and witness this pain through each family member, but it is up to us to have to make these choices for our best friend. No one should ever make these decisions impulsively and learning to share together in questions, concerns, and plans with one another can be very comforting to our heart and effective for our souls.

With these helpful tips for respectful familial support and mediation, you can sit down with your family and focus on what is more important: making a caretaking decision together for your furry friend that will help them feel more comfortable and at peace. It is always okay to lean on others for professional guidance through these familial communications. Understanding the difference of when it is best to talk amongst yourselves respectfully or when to seek professional guidance is especially necessary for this time and your pet’s overall future.


MN Pets offers updated grief support resources on our website and can help with steps to start this familial communication. Our Support Specialists are also available to offer help with resources at (612) 354-8500 during our phone support hours of 6am-7pm Monday through Friday and 6am-5pm Saturday and Sunday.

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Family Conflict Through Caretaking Decisions and How to Navigate: Part 1

Part 1: Understanding Familial Conflict and Discussion Preparation:

There are many difficult decisions to consider when preparing for your beloved pet’s end-of-life care, such as palliative treatment, medical procedures, euthanasia, and aftercare. It can quickly become emotionally overwhelming and physically exhausting. However, nothing is more heartbreaking than if family or friends carry conflicting opinions about what may be “best” or “proper” to do and whether it must be done at a certain time. While this is a common conflict amidst these caretaking decisions, it places further stress and pressure onto us to make impulsive decisions that we may regret later.

In this two-part blog, we provide some helpful tools and tips for both preparing and interacting with conflicting family members about caretaking decisions that will help everyone “keep the peace” and maintain compassion toward one another.

It is important to remember all the reasons why people may differ in opinion about their pet’s end-of-life care, including: how some family members may participate more actively with medical treatment (and are feeling more burdened and noticing their pet’s physical distress/behavioral changes), financial resources (monetary stress in paying for continuous hospice care), and differing personal beliefs or feelings about their pet’s “quality of life” (what may be acceptable for one person is not acceptable for another). Further reasons involve whether children and teenagers should be included in this decision process (and during euthanasia). We consistently ask ourselves “How much is too much for my pet to handle?” and wish it were simple enough that everyone could immediately agree on the same caretaking decisions, but unfortunately, this is one of the most stressful choices we will all ever face when preparing for our pet’s future.

Preparing ahead for this conversation is so valuable and can include each member completing a “quality of life” assessment ahead of time, writing notes of physical/behavioral changes in their pet, providing past and present photographs to show visual changes, and even personal ideas for aftercare and memorialization of their best friend. It is additionally beneficial if all members monitor quality of life changes together too, such as on a calendar or in a shared journey or photo album.

There is no question that we encounter many difficult decisions when planning for our best friend’s end-of-life care and though nothing would be more soothing than to have familial support and love, unfortunately this is not always the case. Sadly, we may find ourselves having more distressing arguments than heartfelt discussions about what may be best for our pet’s future.

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Taking Care of our Physical Selves During Grief

Losing a pet can leave us with such emotional heartache and physical pain that a heavy weight starts to envelop our heart, spirit, and body. This can also deeply impact our daily routine and self-care. As we struggle to endure, understand, and share our conflicting feelings following the loss of our best friend, it is so easy to focus on our emotions while ignoring the toll this loss leaves on our physical body. Grief affects all parts of ourselves, including emotionally, spiritually, professionally, and relational, but can especially leave us physically exhausted and drained. According to a recent study by Amerispeak and WebMD, 65% of people in the US experience some form (or combination) of physical ailment after pet loss. Some common physical symptoms include headaches, nausea, constipation, anxiety, rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, bodily aches and pains, and numerous other symptoms. Many have expressed the deep hollow empty feeling in the pit of their abdomen of pain and loneliness, along with a complete lack of energy. Grieving after pet loss is unique from any other loss, as we form a special bond of unconditional love, continuous caretaking, and time with our pets that creates a painful desolation in our heart when they pass away.

While we often focus on maintaining proper emotional self-care through support and comfort from others, it is important to also continue daily physical care for ourselves as well. Understandably, nothing appears more comforting at this moment than hiding beneath a warm blanket at home alone away from others, but it is truly in our best interest to try to keep up a daily routine as best as we can. There are numerous options available for repairing our physical strength and it only takes just one step in the right direction to help ourselves feel better. While improving self-care is even possible to fathom in grief, learning to take these baby steps daily toward healing is very heartening to our soul.

Some important first steps for healthy physical care include:

  • Sleeping Well: Remaining well-rested is valuable for curing headaches, aches, and pains. It can also help to take additional naps, listen to soothing music, use soft sheets and pillows, and warm oil scents to preserve a peaceful environment.
  • Continuing Our Daily Hygiene: Taking showers/baths to help us feel refreshed and energized, even if we remain at home and are not ready to go out in public yet.
  • Keeping up with a Healthy Diet: Going to the grocery store once a week can us plan meals ahead with less stress, cook privately at home, and experiment with new flavors. Setting this routine will create a healthier diet plan and ensure that small snacks are readily available. You can also order a meal from your favorite restaurant for home delivery if you don’t want to cook.
  • Exercising (with some small adjustments if needed): Maintaining daily exercise can be very difficult to consider at first, especially if we had set our fitness routine with our dog or done cardio at home next to our cat. Changing up a fitness routine can help soothe these difficult moments and include taking a walk down a new natural pathway, biking, swimming, or starting a new activity. Walking among nature and breathing in the peaceful, serene environment is very healing and soothing to both our distressed hearts and bodies.
  • Self-Reflection: Taking time for self-reflection through hiking, road trips, taking an art class, or even volunteering at a shelter to help animals can help guide us toward healing in a variety of ways.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing exercises can be very healing to us physically in that these techniques lower our heart rate and blood pressure, improve our posture, help prevent headaches and asthma, and give us a more calming presence.
  • Mindfulness Techniques: These techniques can help us focus more on the present moment, gain self-understanding and reflection, and learn to better understand our emotions, thoughts, and five senses with small exercises; a helpful guide to starting mindfulness is at

Note: When conducting both deep breathing and mindfulness techniques, try each exercise carefully for about 10-15 minutes a day and learn to immerse this more into your daily routine.

Caring for ourselves physically through self-care after pet loss is just as crucial as recognizing our emotions through support and counseling. Just as everyone grieves differently for their best friend emotionally, each of us may also choose our own “to do list” for physical care and healing; there is never a set deadline or timeline for repairing our physical distress from grief. It takes courage to take these first steps towards focusing on ourselves; however, we must always remember that our lost loved ones will forever be with us in our hearts, minds, and actions and want us to be at peace.


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What to Expect at a Pet Loss Support Group

When someone experiences the deep heartache of pet loss, no words can properly express the physical pain, pure sorrow, and hollow emptiness felt after losing a beloved friend. Pet loss differs from other losses as we each form a special, unique bond with our pets. We share unconditional love and acceptance of one another, laugh through joyful moments, and always have a confidante to seek comfort and peace. Our pets are our family, so when the day comes when they pass away, we feel more alone than ever before.

Adding to our discomfort and emotional distress, we often experience pet loss as a form of “disenfranchised grief.” This type of grief occurs when our society doesn’t acknowledge or understand our loss and doesn’t provide proper support or care. It can be very difficult to find others who truly understand this deep loss and we sadly encounter many who will expect us to recover easily. No words are more heartbreaking for pet parents than hearing how our best friend was “just a pet.”

However, there are several options for help in feeling less alone. One resource many find helpful is a pet loss support group. Pet loss support groups consist of usually 8-10 people, often led by a licensed professional, who are experiencing pet loss and can share their stories, express their feelings, and discuss coping strategies in a non-judgmental environment. Whether one’s pet has passed away recently or long ago, they are welcome to attend a support group and can even share pictures and personal mementos of their lost friend. These groups now involve both virtual and in person sessions meeting at various frequencies, most commonly one to two times per month. They typically last for one to two hours at a time and are usually complimentary or have an affordable rate. They may take place at your local veterinary office, community center, or counselor’s facility.

The flow of the group meeting varies within each group, but generally participants have a chance to introduce themselves and share their story if they would like. Groups vary in anonymity, but the facilitator ensures that everyone present understands that what is shared remains confidential. It is common for group members to share stories about their goodbye, but also about their pet’s life and their memories. It’s also common for people to just be present and listen if they aren’t ready to share.

Pet loss Support Groups can be beneficial for people of all ages. They are a place to acknowledge the human-animal bond with utmost love and respect and lend a comforting shoulder in times of need. With the modern additions of pet loss support groups and personalized counseling, our society is on its way to better understanding the unique torment of pet loss and finding more ways to help. Some pet loss support groups also include important concepts of anticipatory grief (relating to illness or injury), quality of life discussions, and specialized forms of pet loss (complicated or traumatic).

For those who have experienced the deep devastation of pet loss and are currently trying to swim above the current of conflicting emotions, physical distress, and lonely heartache, know that you are not alone. There is absolutely no loss like that of our beloved furry or feathery family member. It is so important and valuable for bereaved people to seek comfort and support during this hard time; finding a pet loss support group can be a very beneficial first step toward understanding and facing the future ahead and knowing that you are never alone.

MN Pets offers updated grief support resources on our website Our Support Specialists are also available to offer help with resources at (612) 354-8500 during our phone support hours of 6am-7pm Monday through Friday and 6am-5pm Saturday and Sunday.

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Part 2: The Act of Dying: What to Expect

The process of dying is a natural one, much like the act of giving birth. The body prepares itself for the event, sometimes months in advance. In Part 2 of this blog series, I will share with you what I have learned to expect in the months, weeks, and hours approaching death.

One interesting thing I would like to note is that if you have experienced the passing of a human loved one like a parent or grandparent, the process may show some similarities in your pet.

Months prior to death

You may start seeing signs of change in your pet as far out as six months and sometimes it could be as late as a few weeks. It is difficult to predict when you’ll start seeing changes, but you may want to consider having the conversation about end of life decisions for your pet when:

  • They have received a terminal diagnosis
  • You notice them starting to withdraw or seek more affection
  • Sleeping more than normal through the day
  • Decreased appetite
  • Declining weight and muscle mass

It is always good to have a conversation early with family and your veterinarian to help you prepare for what is to come. This would also be a good time to look at all of your options for end of life, and how you would prefer to say goodbye. You can call your veterinarian or a mobile practice like MN Pets to talk about options, scheduling, and COVID protocols.

Weeks prior to death

As death approaches, you could expect to see a progression of the above symptoms and behaviors, but please note that not every pet will show these signs and symptoms, some may not show any at all up until the time of passing. You may also start to notice:

  • Self isolation in strange places
  • Increased disorientation/restlessness/agitation
  • Weakness/exhaustion
  • Changes in body temperature (hot or cold)/itching
  • Eyes may lose their luster (become dull)
  • Prolonged wound healing
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Fluid retention in the abdomen (pot-bellied appearance)

Days to hours prior to death

You may notice your pet having a sudden rebound, a moment of clarity, where they seem to be back to normal with a good appetite, and maybe enough energy for a walk. This is not unheard of, and in human hospice as well as veterinary hospice, it is usually referred to as “The Swan Song.” This point in the process could last from hours to a day or two, but is often followed by fatigue or collapse. There is not a lot of research as to what causes this sudden surge in energy, but it is believed that when the body undergoes the natural changes such as organ failure, it releases chemical compounds that can naturally give the body energy. (Matloff) This is a good time to spend with your pet, talk with them, share memories, and let them know it is ok to let go.

As our pets get closer to passing, you may see the following changes:

  • Delirium (this can often be misunderstood as pain or discomfort)
  • Drifting in/out of consciousness
  • Sudden calm
  • Non existent appetite, decreased to nonexistent water consumption
  • Difficulty/inability to swallow
  • Muscle spasms/twitching
  • Gum color changes to pale pink/gray/or white
  • Changes in breathing pattern (labored, periods of holding breath)

After going through my own experience of helping my pet pass at home, I was grateful to learn that this stage is a lot harder for us as observers than it is for our pets. When we start seeing changes in breathing for example, our pets are usually no longer conscious about what is going on around them.

Another thing I learned through the booklet “Soar, my Butterfly” by Gail Pope, is that when our pets stop eating and drinking, it’s their body telling them they no longer need to do these things to sustain life. The reason why the body goes into dehydration is because it helps the body regulate the existing fluids for the circulatory system as it continues to slow down. Lack of hydration and food also cause the brain to release endorphins that work as a natural analgesic to help take away any feeling of pain or discomfort. (Pope 9-10)

Time of death

The time of death can look different for each pet, but more often than not, it is a time of peace and gentle passing. Their final breath can come across as a gasp or sigh, you may see them take a final stretch, and become still. It is very normal for a pet to urinate or defecate as their body lets go, and they may pass with their eyes open as blinking is a voluntary reflex. They may wait until you step out of the room to take a shower, or fall asleep, this is very common for pets as well as humans.

Once your pet has passed, you can expect them to go into rigor mortis (the stiffening of the joints) anywhere from 3-4 hours after they pass.

There are several options available to help with the aftercare of your pet. MN Pets offers cremation pick-up services, but you can also bring them to their regular clinic or directly to a local crematory as well. Home burial is also an option, but we recommend you check in with your county ordinances before doing so.

If your pet passes in the middle of the night, when these services are not readily available, we recommend keeping them in a cool, dark space.

When our Tex passed, we scheduled to have an Aftercare Specialist, from MN Pets, come to pick him up the next morning. We put a comfy blanket over him, lit a candle, and sat with him for hours. Our cat came in every now and then to check on us, which was very sweet, because she was never a huge fan of him. With our extra time with him, we decided to try and make our own paw print out of drywall mud, which I DO NOT recommend. We made a mess and I’m still finding spots to scrape off the floor, but I value that memory nonetheless, it gave us an excuse to laugh in between our tears.

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, I had never experienced a natural death before, and when I was faced with it last year, I had no idea what to expect or what was happening at the time. As I reflect back on that day, after my research, I can pinpoint each event and I know now that he did exactly what he was supposed to do, and that he didn’t feel any pain.

This is a tough subject, taboo, and a conversation no one wants to have about a loved one. My hopes for this article is to bring peace to those who have gone through this experience, or to help prepare a family who may have to go through this in the future.



Matloff, J. “The Mystery of End-of Life Rallies.” The New York Times, 26 July 2018,

Pope, Gail. Soar, My Butterfly: The Animal Dying Experience. 1 ed., CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2015.

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Part 1: When Euthanasia is Not an Option

What does the ideal scenario look like for you when it comes time to say goodbye to your pet? Does it involve one last trip to the vet that has been there for you since their first puppy visit? Or maybe having a mobile veterinarian come out to your home so your cat can pass in a more familiar environment without the stress of a last car ride? I’ve always been one to say that planning ahead is the best possible thing to do when it comes to the end of life for our pets, but what happens when things don’t go according to plan?

Euthanasia is a unique and compassionate gift we can give our animals when signs of old age have progressed greatly, or when they begin suffering from a terminal illness. Unfortunately, euthanasia may not always be an option for everyone.

The opportunity to consider euthanasia may be impacted by factors such as:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Financial constraints
  • An unexpected and quick turn in your pet’s health
  • Family members not seeing eye-to-eye on deciding when it is time to make that call

I found myself in one of these scenarios just last year with our 5 year old rescue dog, Tex. We had adopted him in February, just before the world shut down due to COVID. At the end of April, he was diagnosed with a severe form of kidney disease that had already progressed so far, we thought we just had months left with him. Our hearts were broken, but we decided to do what we could to help keep him comfortable until it came time to say goodbye. Just three weeks after he was diagnosed, he took a sudden turn for the worse.

I was forced to make a quick decision; either I take him to an emergency clinic where I would have to hand him over, and not be with him due to COVID protocols, or stay with him at home until I could get a doctor out to us to help with euthanasia which would be the next morning. I wasn’t sure how much time he had, but I KNEW I wanted to be with him to say goodbye, so I chose the latter. I am so grateful that I did.

He passed a lot quicker than any of us had anticipated, it was just hours. With the help of our veterinarian over the phone, I saw him through the dying process by myself and he was able to die in the comfort of his own home, and on his own terms.

This experience has opened my eyes in so many ways, but most importantly it has taught me that euthanasia is a luxury, but not always an option or necessity. Death is a natural process, and something the body prepares for, sometimes months in advance, other times just prior to passing.

During this time of COVID, I’ve spoken with several families finding themselves in similar situations. Their regular clinic/emergency clinic is full or cannot allow them inside, and the mobile end-of-life practice is booked days in advance. It is important for everyone to know that deciding to sit with their pet as they pass at home IS an option.

I admit that I would have found much more comfort if I knew what to expect during the dying process. Being a veterinary technician, I’ve only ever been a part of the euthanasia process. I recently read a booklet that explains what to expect from months, days, and hours leading up to death. I can now look back to that day and put together what was happening. This has helped my healing journey immensely.

I hope to share what I have learned with others, whether it’s a conversation walking them through the process, or sending them resources and tips to prepare for the possibility that they may have to comfort their pet as they pass at home.

The booklet I referred to previously is called “Soar, My Butterfly” by Gail Pope. In Part Two of this blog series, I will walk through this booklet and summarize what to expect during the dying process.

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Ways to Memorialize a Loved One

Determining how to memorialize someone we have lost, whether human or furry family member, is a very personal decision. Like many aspects of grief, there is no right or wrong here – just what feels right for you. It can help to think about memorialization options when you are approaching your pet’s end of life.  In this post, we explore some ideas.

Burial and Cremation

First, we will discuss two of the most common methods of memorializing a lost loved one: either burying them in a particular place, or having them cremated. As with everything in this article, one method is not necessarily better than another.

Both burial and cremation are common, socially accepted ways of memorializing a loved one. They can be meaningful because they can provide a physical reminder of our pet in the form of a place to visit their remains. For example, there might be a gravestone or other marker at the burial site, or in the case of cremation, we may have an urn that we keep in a special place. Alternatively, there may be a special place that our furry loved one used to particularly enjoy, like in your backyard, where ashes can be spread.

Often, when people envision cremation, they think of a process through which they receive an urn back with ashes at the end. There are two kinds of cremation where ashes can be sent back home. The first is called a separated cremation. In this scenario, a pet is cremated in a large chamber that can accommodate multiple pets at one time. The size of the chamber allows for ample physical space between everyone in order to ensure that each family receives only their pet’s remains back. In an individual cremation, the pet is in the crematory chamber alone. This style of cremation can be slightly more expensive due to the cost of fuel needed to run more machinery.

Sometimes we either may not receive our loved one’s ashes back, or may not have a specific place to visit them. One example of this is in communal cremation, where a pet is cremated with others. In this instance, ashes generally cannot be returned home due to the possibility of remains mixing. Communal cremation is a completely valid choice, whether due to an owner preferring not to keep ashes, or due to necessity (i.e. limited finances). There are many other ways to memorialize a pet that we will explore.


Many people choose to keep a physical memento of their pet as a way of honoring their life. Below are a few examples.

  • Collar/tags and toys. Some people choose to keep a beloved pet’s collar that they always wore, their collar tags, or their favorite toy.
  • Prints. Many people like to make paw prints or nose prints to remember their pet. Paw prints can be made using clay (such as Crayola Model Magic) for an air-dry option. Nose prints and pawprints can also be made using an ink pad. Some owners use clay or ink prints as the basis of a tattoo or custom jewelry to remember their loved one.
  • Lock of fur. For pets with longer fur, some people may choose to clip a small lock of fur to keep. This can be kept safe in a locket, vial, or shadow box.
  • Photos, paintings, and shadow boxes. Pictures are a great memento alone, and they can be the basis for a shadow box. Try searching online for ideas on how you might arrange a shadow box to commemorate your pet. Many ideas incorporate some of the above mentioned items, such as a pawprint or a collar. Your only limit here is your imagination and the dimensions of the box, so feel free to be creative.
  • Gardens. For owners with a green thumb, cultivating a memorial garden can be a beautiful, symbolic way to honor your pet’s time with you while fostering the growth of brand-new life. These can be as simple or as complex as you like, from a grouping of plants in a special corner of your yard to a large garden with walkway stones, benches, and a memorial plaque.
  • Artisan-based services. The internet has greatly expanded owners’ options regarding artful ways to remember loved ones. Through a service like Etsy, or another local artist, paintings can be commissioned based on a photo of your pet to create an extra special memorial item. Others might prefer a memento that they can carry with them, like jewelry. Some artists and crematories offer jewelry with a small compartment to hold cremains, whiskers, or a tuft of fur. Others can even create gems and other glass artwork out of a small portion of cremains. There are many options beyond these for the pet owner who prefers a unique memento!

Ceremonies or rituals

Some people find great comfort in creating a ceremony to memorialize their furry loved one, similar to how you might hold a funeral for a human family member. Funerals or other remembrance ceremonies have been held for centuries for a multitude of reasons: they help us accept the reality of a loss, express our grief over the loss of someone special to us, and connect with others for support as we grieve

Consider whether some form of ceremony or ritual may be meaningful for you in your grief journey. This can be done alone, or with other people.

Here are some ideas to spark your imagination.

  • Consider incorporating meaningful dates. It may feel extra meaningful to remember your loved one on certain specific days each year, such as their birthday, the anniversary of their passing, or another special occasion such as their adoption date. For others, small day-to-day reminders of your pet (like memories that bubble up, or memorial items) might be all you need. There is no right way to grieve, nor a specific timeline, so do what fits you best.
  • Write. Some people process their feelings in a very verbally-oriented way. Writing about your loved one can help to commemorate your loss and allow you to express how you are feeling. You might journal about your pet’s life, or about a favorite memory with them. Some people may choose to write a poem or song. This can be shared with others, such as on social media, or kept completely private; it is up to you!
  • Meditate. Another idea to commemorate a loss is to meditate on your grief. It can be very helpful to sit with your feelings as you think about your loved one as a means of helping your body and mind release them. A simple meditation can be found here. As your grief changes and shifts over time, you may find that eventually your meditation focuses on feelings of gratefulness or even joy as you think about your loved one.
  • Hold a ceremony of remembrance. This can be as long or short as you’d like, religious or non-religious – there are no limits. Some things to think about here incorporate the previous ideas mentioned, as well as a few additional ones:
    • What important items should be included, if any? Perhaps you choose to display photos of your pet, items they used in life like their collar or favorite toy,  or memorial items like a clay paw print or urn.
    • How would you like to open and close the ceremony? Many people choose to light candles, read a meaningful poem, or have a moment of silence to reflect, as some examples. This can be a great place for music, too, especially if there is a certain song that reminds you of them.
    • What would be a meaningful way to commemorate your loss? Some people choose to read short pieces they have written about their pet’s life; watch favorite videos of their pet, or run a slideshow of favorite photos; and/or take time to allow those present to share their favorite memories.

MN Pets will be holding our first ever Remembrance Ceremony in an upcoming Facebook Live on September 2, 2021! Stay tuned to our Facebook page for details on how you can submit a memory of your loved one to be read during the ceremony.

In conclusion, remember that whatever you choose, you get to remember your loved one in the way that fits you best. Your grieving process is as unique to you as your fingerprint. 

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die. – Thomas Campbell

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