On Thanksgiving night in 2007 I shared a bite of pumpkin pie and whipped cream with my Brittany Spaniel, Speckles. Shortly after, he went into respiratory distress, and I was rushing him to an emergency veterinary clinic 40 miles away.
I knew that he had a paralyzed larynx and partially collapsed lungs. I knew that respiratory distress would be a sign that he would be facing death. It all happened too soon after diagnosis.
That night in the emergency clinic, I kissed his cheek, my tears wetting his fur while he was under sedation. As he was euthanized, I told him that I loved him and would see him again some day. That night I left without him, driving home alone.
The next day I faced cleaning my car of his vomit and fur. I cried hopelessly at these remnants of 12 years of companionship. He was not just a dog. He was my boy, my joy — an inspiration.
Anyone who suffers the loss of a loved pet knows the pain that follows. You slowly heal and remember the good times. You also might have pet memorials. I have Speckles’ ashes on a bookshelf in my living room, along with a photo of him and a clay mold of his paw. I also wrote and published a book of stories about our relationship over the years.
The reality is, I still cry at times over missing him — tears ignited by the oddest situations. The No. 1 trigger is seeing another Brittany. I always drop to my knees when I meet one, showering them with hugs and kisses.
For two or three years I couldn’t walk through a dog toy aisle in a store without crying. Speckles had two wicker baskets full of stuffed toys, which I donated to a local animal shelter after his passing.
A surprise trigger came the spring after Speckles died. I was raking leaves out of ornamental grasses in my backyard when I spied a tuft of his soft orange fur. I held it between my fingers and cried. Many times I had combed his long ear hair and feathery thighs. I’d let the fur blow in the wind for birds to use as nesting material. This particular tuft had lingered, and when I picked it up, I felt Speckles all over again.
A friend recently posted on Facebook how she opened a box of items belonging to her dog who had passed. The scent of her dog emanated from a collar and made her cry.
My mom found a small amount of her cat Spike’s orange fur after he died of cancer. She sandwiched it in a frame with one of his pictures, and that picture sits on her sewing table, where she can “talk” to him often. She also refuses to remove an old shoebox from the headboard of her bed, which Spike used to sleep on during the night.
My cat, Desdemona, loved little felt mice, retrieving them after I threw them, carrying them through the house in her mouth while talking to them and batting them about on the kitchen floor. After she died, I placed her ashes on my bookshelf with her three little mice. I could not part with the mice, just as I could rarely separate her from them.
Speckles loved a large stuffed moose from the time I brought him home at three months of age until his death. I still have that moose, 18 years after he entered my life. The toy is missing its bottom lip, antlers, tail, ears, and an eye, and it has been mended countless times. But I cannot throw it away. Speckles slept with that moose and it has brought comfort to my current dog, Trucker, and my cat, Jack, who loved Speckles like a brother. The moose rests in a wicker basket with Trucker’s toys.
I believe that these triggers, though they spark pain and peace, are our pets’ angelic ways of letting us know they are okay and waiting to see us again. They are calling cards to say, “I love you.”
Do you keep toys or favorite items of pets who have passed? Tell us your stories in the comments.
Read more about the bond between humans and dogs on Dogster:
- Leo the Puppy Mill Rescue Boxer Always Has His Mouth Full
- 3 Things My Senior Dog Has Taught Me About Aging Gracefully
- I Have a Baby AND a Pit Bull, and People Are Supportive
About Tracy Ahrens: A modern-day Tasha Tudor with a pen as an eleventh phalanx, Tracy is a magnet for small children and creatures, along with strange mishaps and writing errors in need of correcting. Her mind is akin to a 24-hour bustling liquor store and prone to late-night inspiration. She’s most happy planting or pruning something, drinking tea, throwing a tomahawk, drawing or napping. Her obsessive compulsions include planting a peck on each of her pets’ heads before leaving home and brushing/flossing her teeth before bed. Add her book, Raising My Furry Children, to your collection.
20 thoughts on “Do You Keep Items That Remind You of a Dog Who Has Passed?”
I had to put down my little boy at little over 11 years old he was a Chihuahua.. He had CHF.. It has been over a year now
Im still broken and lost with out him.. He was my life my everything.. I was besides myself when i had to put him down ..i needed him so i made pictures of him..on pillows i saved his fur and i bought a locket to put his fur in…
He has this stuffed dog he slept with that i now sleep with as it's the only close thing to him.. There was a hole in the dog so i put fur inside and sew it back up… Not once but twice the stuff dog had moved from laying down to sitting up.. First time i thought it was just my mind playing tricks but when it happened again i knew… My boy shows me signs… The first couple of weeks at night in our room i heard him bark once and snort… I know he's with me.. Its just so hard not having him here…
I am not necessarily always a very mindful person myself,
but I have been studying and teaching mindfulness since the mid-1980’s.
A cat lover since the age of six, I’ve always have cats,
and since moving to Vermont in 1990, dogs as well.
I believe that one of the reasons (although not necessarily an obvious one)
that we have and love pets other than tortoises and parrots is that,
on some level conscious or not, we know that we are likely to outlive them.
It is a lesson in the terrible paradox of Loving and Losing.
If we do not love, we will not feel the loss of that love.
But not loving is a devastatingly high price to pay in order to protect us from loss.
I lost “Mittens,” my first cat, when he was sixteen and I was twenty two.
And still miss that bad boy.
But never, ever, for even a micro-second wish that I had not had him at all.
My heart is with all who lose any creature that they love.
I lost my girl eevon December 22 2017 she was 16 years old (4 months from her 17th birthday) and I had her from 8 weeks old. I have kept her bed, all of her toys, all of her collars over the years, some fur and some teeth she lost several years ago. After almost 3 years it’s still hard and it’s hard to believe it’s almost that long. January 31 2019 I lost my girl rein, she was 15 years old (5 months from her 16th birthday) I’ve kept her bed, blankets, sweaters, collars and toys. I also have a little bit of their last meals and I have both of their ashes. I’ve been told that I need to move out, that I should spread their ashes and let them go. I have had a very hard time getting rid of anything unless I absolutely had to. I actually just found a bunch of toys of theirs I’d been missing for years and I sobbed for quite a while. Rein loved to get sweaters for Christmas and it’s hard knowing I won’t be buying one for Christmas for her anymore and looking at them makes me very sad. It’s been a very hard few years. I miss my girls every day.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Grief lasts a lifetime. It just changes in how we grieve as time goes on. I still cry today over pets I have lost. I understand your pain.
On November 6, 2020, I lost my Miniature Pinscher, Lady. Her Mom was rescued while pregnant with 4 pups, she being one. We traveled, went on dog walks and fairs and went to pet stores, walking up and down the aisles. I celebrated every holiday with her, got her special doggie birthday cakes and Christmas morning we woke up, I would say.”Merry Christmas!” and she would run down the hall to the tree to open her presents. I got her at 9 weeks, this would have been our 17th Christmas together.
She had pulmonary hypertension, although for 3 years all the vets said she had trachael collapse. My heart is broken.
This time of year is so hard when you are grieving. I understand. I still miss many of my pets that have left my life. I have their photos – at least one of each – displayed in my house. My Christmas tree had reminders. Currently I have four senior pets and I know my time is limited and precious with them. I know the pain of loss will hit me again any time. I treasure every day.
– Tracy Ahrens
I just lost my terrier mix, Marley today at a little past 5pm..he was diagnosed with cancer about 4 months ago and I had to watch him slowly become unable to do his favorite things. Every day when my mom or anybody got home from work he would rush to the door, tail wagging but today he just laid on the ground and barely moved at all. He was in a lot of pain but I’ll always feel guilty that we could have had him live a couple of weeks longer but maybe that’s just what I tricked myself into believing.. he died in my arms, staring at my mom as the vet put him to sleep. I told him I loved him before his head met my lap and in a matter of minutes he was gone..I thought I was ready for this moment since the day we got the bad news but losing him so suddenly, it just feels like he was ripped from my life and I was totally unprepared…
Joshua, my heart aches with you. Seriously. I lost my second dog, Trucker, in 2017 due to cancer. He had mast cell cancer while I also was fighting breast cancer. I let him go while I was still without hair. To watch him go due to a disease that also tried to take my life, it was beyond description all that i felt. I miss him every day, still.
please do reference some of the comments above where pet loss support is available.
You are not alone.
I will be cremating my dog tomorrow. He was adopted he had survived through hell. Every time we changed his tags on his collar he would get nervous until we put it back on again. Here is my question. We dropped him off on Friday and I couldn’t take his collar off. I will going to handle the cremation. Do I remove the collar and hold on to it or do I leave it on him? My husband doesn’t think he needs it now but, he’s okay with whatever is decided as long as he can have his tags.
From the author:
My heart breaks for you.
I have kept the collars of all the pets I have had. I have them displayed (with tags) on decorative hooks in my home. I have also hung a collar over the corner of a framed photo of my pets.
I think it’s your personal choice. But to me, the collar was such a strong reminder of them, I could not let it go.
Thank you for writing
FROM THE AUTHOR:
Thank you all for reading my story about Speckles.
I adopted another dog after Speckles left my life. His name was Trucker and I adopted him when he was 5. He passed away in 2017 from cancer. I was battling breast cancer while he was battling cancer. I let him go while I still had just baby fine hair coming back after chemotherapy. It was a very brutal loss.
I wrote a story about his passing, as I have shared other stories with Dogster. You can see that story by doing a search on this site under my name and the title “losing a dog to cancer while going through cancer myself”
I also will share here a resource for grief after a pet dies.
Your pain is real. You will go through many stages. You are not alone.
Thank you all for reading my story (ies)
University of Illinois CARE pet loss helpline
Please google this.
We just lost our beautiful Melly. She was 16 1/2 yrs old. I am devestated and am having a hard time with her being put down. I know it has only been 2 days but it feels unbearable. She was a beautiful Shih Tzu with the most loving personality, how do you get thru this pain? I just want to hold her again and tell her l love her.
Hi there Janet,
We are so sorry to hear about your dog Melly. Here is an article that gives helpful suggestions for coping with the pain of losing your pet:
I lost my Spunky girl. It’s been about 3 weeks and I just put her bed away. I have regrets.
She was 14 and went do hill quickly!
I am devastated. I can not hardly make it through the day. I had her cremated so she is here with me. ???
This hits hard. I just had to say goodbye to my childhood dog, also a Brittany, yesterday due to complications caused by seizures… it was so hard to see him struggle with the tremors. He didn’t deserve any of that pain. And it was even harder to see how little of him was left. We put him to rest in the comfort of his home with as much family around him as possible. We received some hair and a clay paw print as well which my parents kept. I took his oldest surviving toy with me, a stuffed squeaky duck. It was comforting to sleep with it after such a hard day. I can see why he liked it.
I miss him so much, but it’ll get better I believe. Slowly, but it will.
I lost my old greyhound sat we were always together his legs went he couldn’t stand up or end thing it broke me in two he just hsd tests medication but went down hill fast i didn’t let him suffer i always made sure he got the best I’m so lost so lost with out him we spent 14th apply years together I did everything for him my heart is completely shredded broken
I,just lost my Jack,Russell,mix, Todd, to lymphoma, 6,weeks ago. He had a,weight problem and was on thyroid meds but that didn’t work. 6″weeks ago,,I found that his lymph nodes were swollen on his neck, researched it online, where.it,said that was probably lymphoma, with a month to live. We took him to the vet and the,diagnosis was confirmed. He was on prednisone as a palliative notion only but I really,hoped that maybe he could live a few months. 2 1/2 weeks later, this big personality small,dog, instead of sitting up,in the back seat lay slumped across it. I have been with all my pets at euthanasia and I,kept comforting him, saying we were there with him, we loved him and he looked sadly into my eyes as the light went out in his. I was weeping copiously, not wanting to,scare him but I thought somehow he understood. It is never easy. I,cried all the,way,home and every day, several times a day. I knew he was gone, but still,could not believe it. The sight of a box of his favorite dog bisquits, unopened, brought on tears. I,could not bear to,look at his collar and leash in a basket,near the large cage, or crate, where he slept a lot as he got,sicker. I,forced myself to,hold it one day, smelled it all,over and cried when I saw the light I bought a year before, in case we went for a late walk, still,went on and flickered. Losing Todd was an irony, this year I became very,sick with a serious illness. Now I am recovering, but Todd is gone. The funny things about him make me cry, like how he would lie under blankets with his butt sticking out, or, I,could get him to,howl and we would do,it together, with variations. I,appreciate being able to,write this and cried over everyone’s stories. I,think it is important to,grieve, cry, look up,at the sky,to,whoever is up.there and say, why did you take my dog away and how could you let him suffer??? Then, when, and if you are ready, find another dog, cat, or sugarglider to,love. I.will,never forget Todd, as I,have not forgotten the 6 other dogs and many cats I have loved and lost. My heart is very broken right now and it is wonderful to,share. A book to,read is Dean Koontz book about his dog, Trixie. Forgive my,errors, it is my ipad.
I’m still in shock so I’ll keep this short. The things I have that were my feral cat’s are: some hair of all her colors, whiskers (no I certainly didn’t cut any, I just kept all those I saw on the floor as they naturally fell over the years), tip of her nails (again the ones that had fallen before), all her favorite toys, all her blankets, her beds, all unorthodox items she liked such as baskets, candy wraps, brushes, towel, laces, foil balls, tinsels… . Basically I didn’t want to lose ANYTHING she used before and kept it all but now I have some problems with protecting these thems in a way for them to stay intact and not get old or perishable. For example I wanted to have the hair pressed in a picture frame to that they don’t get tangled or get exposed to air or dust but I can’t find any non-breakable transparent frames anywhere. Aside from that I’m heavily in grieving and not coping at all and sleep with a blanket of hers that smells like her the most but at the same time I’m worried it might lose her scent and get smell.
Apparently according to psychologists keeping items from loved ones in most cases helps with accepting and believing what has happened, not that I really care about what they say. The next days I just hurried to her things and surrounded myself with her most favorite items as if I had and still have an extreme addiction to them or as if treasuring them would bring her back to me pretty much the same I saw mothers doing the same thing with their children’s belongings after they’re gone.
Hope this answered your question. And please accept my sincerest condolences. I’m sure like all other animals and angels, Speckles is in the best place possible in the afterlife (if it exists).
Hello. I said goodbye to my beautiful Bonnie on the 22nd De ember 2016. It was the hardest thing i have ever had to do in my lifetime. She was a black and white malteze shitshu got her at 8wks old and said goodbye to her at 11yrs old.
She was my daughters dog at first but my daughter moved from australia to Canada. Bonnie and I loved each other from the very start. She was to become my really and truell best friend and companion. I believe she taught me the meaning of unconditional love and then at the end of her life the meaning of loss.
I believe that God put that little dog in my life to help me through some very hard times.
She had a heart murmur that got fradually worde as she got older. We had her on medication for it fo a few years. But she just got too sick.
I am so grateful that I woke up when I did to find her gasping for breath and was able to get her to the vet. I knew she was on borrowed time. He told me that morning that she wasnt coming back from this. So I loved her so much I knew I had to do the right thing and let her go. I was with her looking into her beautiful brown eyes telling her how much I loved her and watched as she left. I am so grateful she didnt die alone my husband and I were with her.
I miss her more than words can say, every day. I still cry sometimes It sounds like a wounded animal.
I thank God for all your letters and
I thank you all your shareing. It makes me feel better to know that Im not going mad that this grief is very very real. Been missing het very much today so I looked up grief of losing a pet and found you all.
Am in the process of looking for another wee dog. I needto have a dog in my life. My little girl is with me I had her cremated and she is on my mantlepiece and I kiss her goodnight every night.
Just felt the need to share be ause I know that you all understanh. Again I thank you. Joan McEwanxxx