Non-crazy ways to remember your deceased dog
What should stay and what should go when your dog dies
Watching comedians Pete Davidson and Kevin Hart do quite possibly world’s worst job of helping a family move is worth your time. As funny and horrible as they were at it, there was one scene in particular that stood out during the comedy skit. It made me realize, “Man, dog owners are a special kind of crazy sometimes.” Skip to 12:46 to see a scene in which the mother shows Kevin Hart her dead dog Lucy’s teeth. My very first thought was, “What kind of psycho keeps a dog’s teeth for 12 years?”
Then came my second thought: I have paintings and framed photographs of both of my dogs — one of 13 years and the other of nine years. And when the latter dog (Faith) died, I went straight to my parents’ house, grabbed a handful of her fur from a basement couch, shaped it into a big heart, and flatted that fur heart inside of a framed photograph on my living room wall. Lucky for me, my entire social circle either owns dogs now or have owned dogs in the past. They get it. But I won’t deny that it’s crazy as hell to keep old fur.
Still though, there are probably saner ways to handle a dog’s death — some involve pet donations while others involve keeping pet memories close to your heart.
What to give away:
- Dog food
- Dog leash/harness
- Dog toys
- Dog treats
- Dog crate
- Dog bed
According to Money Under 30, the first-year cost of owning a dog can total as high as $1,000, primarily due to veterinary bills and just getting essential items. If you know you are in no rush to get another dog, why not give items like these away on Craigslist, Freecycle and/or your local shelter. Someone who has adopted a pet or even taken in a stray could certainly use these items. And if they’re just sitting in your pantry or basement collecting dust, consider letting a dog (and dog owner) who needs them use them. (Throw away those dog antlers though. The safety on that toy is questionable.)
Of course some dogs may initially be turned off by the smell of another dog. If you do decide to use these materials again with a new dog, don’t be surprised if the dog is unimpressed by non-food items. You will probably need to hand wash and vacuum these dog supplies to get the old scent of your prior dog off of them. Or, expect the new dog to “mark” his territory so it smells like him. (True story: One of my prior dog boarding clients was a newlywed. When she found out that she would be banned from sleeping in the bed with her dog owner and his husband — who never had a problem with her sleeping with him before — she jumped on the bed and peed on it. From that point on, she slept on her dog bed. But no matter how much the newlyweds cleaned those sheets and mattress, the dog had made her point. So don’t expect to work any miracles getting rid of the scent or stain.)
What to keep:
- Dog photographs (including digital images) (Shutterfly has amazing collage ideas, and my favorite is the desktop plaque.)
- Learn how to make chiengora (official term for wool spun from dog fur) mittens — if you can knit. According to the American Kennel Club, it must have been brushed from your dog instead of shedding blades or groomer clippings.
- Keep pests away from your garden with fur balls. According to AKC, stuffing a bunch of fur in a pair of pantyhose may help keep rabbits and other pests away because they’ll think the dog is nearby. Note, although I have plants and my green thumb has progressed, I cannot speak about the results of this as a gardener.
- Repair dog pillows or make your own. If you’ve ever left a puppy or adult dog at home and come back to a torn pillow, you know what this scene looks like already. But it turns out all that hair you’re vacuuming up and sweeping away can be used as stuffing for a new pillow. (Note: This will be an issue for houseguests who are allergic to dogs. Again, check out Pete Davidson’s reaction to the family dog in this video.)
There are no rules, and obviously no need, to “replace” your prior dog. But with the amount of strays and dog owners who could really use your help, try to reach a happy medium on keeping your dog’s memories alive without holding onto items that could be used now. In the meantime, it’s OK to just discard the teeth even if you decide to keep your dog’s ashes.