...as one era of my Mom's cats, those furry bodies that comforted me with non-judging purrs and warm laps through high school and college, passes into memory...
...as I count myself lucky for having had the opportunity to meet, capture, and fall in love with some of my clients' pets who have since then passed...
...as I worry and fret over my each strand of grey fur on Katze, who is oblivious, curled up between my arms and the keyboard, purring away, sometimes resting her chin on top of my hand, riding the tip-tapping of my typing.
I try to savor every moment I have with her, and I believe we all do the same with our furry best friends. Knowing that some day Katze and Jayla will be gone, like their predecessors makes my eyes hot and my heart fill with emotions.
Losing a pet hurts, it hurts bad, and it hurts deep
The heart doesn't know the difference between the loss of a human and the loss of an animal. The loss is the same, yet everyone grieves differently.
So here's my advice on what to say or not to say to your loved one whose pet just passed on, coming fresh from losing my last childhood pet.
Please don't say-
'There's a lot of other cats out there.'/ 'There's a lot of other dogs out there.'
Yes, believe me, as most animal lovers are, I'm well aware. However, pets are as unique as snowflakes, there's only one, and there will never be another like that one. You will most likely make the grieving person feel worse by throwing this phrase their way.
It goes without saying that yes, likely another cat or dog will steal our heart again and a new book of memories will start writing itself which will be its own legacy and epic in every way, unique and different to its predecessor. No better or worse than its predecessor, just different.
Instead of asking, "But, hey, don't you have (other pet’s name) still?"
Try asking, "How is (other pet) handling the loss?” By asking this, you recognize that pets are not interchangeable, and you understand the other pet is grieving a loss as well.
What should you say?
Do say what a great cat/dog, he or she was, and how they also left little paw prints all over your own heart. That's comforting to a pet owner, knowing that their pet's greatness was not only recognized by themselves as their owner, but by others. We're proud of our pets.
If you can think of a funny story of something their pet did, remind them of it now, and make sure they know how you'll never forget that memory.
And if none of this feels right, one last piece of advice. I'm old fashioned, I love giving and receiving a good greeting card. It will always feel momentous to receive one, knowing that someone else took the time to stop and pick one out just for me. I've been known to spend a good 15-20 minutes stewing over the options before I find the perfect one to give, depending on the occasion. When you're wordless, or at a loss, wander over to the card aisle and let someone else help you say the right thing.
Do you have any other suggestions on what to say or not to say to someone grieving a pet? Leave me a note in the comments.
Natalie and I have been friends since we met on the school bus in first grade. I haven't seen her and her husband Ben for two years! A lot has changed in those two years! They've moved back to their home state of Indiana with their baby girl Nora and their two rescues Costello, on the right, and Lexi on the left. This is the first time I've met their daughter and their dogs! They've created a very easy-going, furry family of five.
Natalie wanted 'down to earth' grassy family shots, which my Aunt and Uncle's backyard delivered. It was perfect, we could let the dogs off-leash without any worries, and the only distractions were an occasional bird or squirrel.
Here are two similar shots, but different focal lengths. I couldn't make up my mind if I liked the naturalistic shot with the large depth of field (more detail in the background), or the more artistic looking small depth of field (very blurry background).
This is what happily ever after looks like.
Seeing Nora feels like traveling back in time and seeing Natalie as a baby. Those eyes. Those cheeks! Oh my goodness! The drawer that Nora is sitting in was refinished by Natalie, and the blue knitted blanket in the background is the first knitted blanket Natalie ever made. I was there when she knitted it, probably ten years ago, because I learned to knit alongside Natalie. One of the many things I adore about Natalie is how she's so thoughtful and puts so much sentiment and meaning into everything she does.
Here are some shots of Costello. He was the first furbaby Natalie and Ben adopted after moving to Colorado! He was a little timid at first, but I gave him plenty of space and used my zoom until he trusted me more. What a handsome, fluffy guy!
Whenever a camera is around, Lexi does her best Audrey Hepburn, doe-eyed wistful look. She is the ultimate people lover, and lives to greet people. She's always by Natalie's side in the house, helping put Nora to sleep for naps, and hanging out during changing time. She loves protecting her family and nanny-ing baby Nora. Nana from Peter Pan would approve!
Love, Love, Love. Just in case you didn't notice, those lilac colored flowers match Lexi's collar! Seriously!
I worked with Costello and Lexi while Nora had an outfit change, but like the good watchdogs they are they kept checking on Momma and baby periodically.
This was a touching end to our session! Natalie's husband had the sweet idea to go back to Main Street, Zionsville and recreate some of their wedding shots from 2008! Those were taken in a snowy November, so the contrast and change is really fantastic. I hope they keep doing updates as their family grows and changes over the years. Can you imagine a wall gallery in their home of the changes over time?
What a joy! It was so rewarding to shoot this session for my best friend. One of our favorite things to do in High School was photo shoots in Arbuckle park in Brownsburg and neighboring corn fields. Some things never change!
And because I just can't resist, here's a picture of Natalie and I in first or second grade, at the Indianapolis Zoo, visiting the polar bears of course! That's my big brother Shawn on the left. Fanny packs! Oh boy!
I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks about pets who are long gone. Marmalade is the ‘one who started it all’ for me. His memory certainly lives on in my home through my girls Katze and Jayla. What better way to honor a pet who has passed by opening up your heart and home to a new pet who needs love?
I hate it when I can’t find something. I wanted to share a specific old photo with you. It is probably my first pet photo I ever took, and I’ve been digging through all my photo boxes I have for the past month looking for it
I have wonderful news!