August 28 is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. It’s a day to honor all of the pets waiting at the Rainbow Bridge, and a day to try to think of the happy times – how they made us laugh and the quirks they each had.
The day was founded by Author, Blogger, and cat lover Deb Barnes in 2015. You can learn more about that in this video.
And most of all, we wanted to share the many ways in which you can honor your pets memory, from clay paw prints to jewelry to planting trees and more.
This video is part of the Pet Voices PRESENTS series. CLICK HERE to see all the series videos.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:02
Losing a pet, any kind of pet, is super hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things pet parents have to go through.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:10
My first family pet that I lost, so it was me, my husband, and my daughter, so it was all of us together as a family. And losing that pet was an event. And it’s something that we will never forget. And it did bring us closer, but it was a grief. And I think we all know what grief feels like.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:28
And for me, I always grew up with pets, but they were mostly my parent’s responsibility. So, when I went to college, I got a fish. And that fish traveled with me all over the place. He went home for the holidays. So, when I finally lost him after college, it was tough. My parents, my sister, and my boyfriend at the time (CORRECTION: now husband – Sorry Struan!), we all actually got together and performed a little ceremony for him in honor of his life.
RAINBOW BRIDGE REMEMBRANCE DAY
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:55
And to honor the lives of pets that people have lost, families, individuals, there is a day called Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. And it was founded in 2015 by Deborah Barnes. She is an award winning author and blogger and her blog is Z’s and Zoey’s Cat Chronicles. And she shared on that day the journey of letting her cat, Mr. Jazz, go. She even wrote a book about it, which I have. It’s called Purr Prints of the Heart: A Cat’s Tale of Life, Death, and Beyond. And his passing was on August 28th. So, each year on August 28th we celebrate Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day.
And we reached out to Deb, because to start something like that it takes a lot. You have to put focus into it, think about it, and celebrate it each year, which means finding the happy memories and sharing those as much as you share the hurt, the heartache, and heart loss.
And so, we wanted to know from her, what is it like to celebrate this day each year?
Deborah Barnes, Founder of Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day – 1:56
Hello Chloe and Jessica. Thanks for having me on and for the great question. It’s actually a tough one to answer. Because not only am I reliving the loss of my own pets – dogs, cats, bunnies, fish, frogs, and hamsters – but as Founder of the day, I’m absorbing the loss of pets worldwide as people share memories, pictures, blog posts, and more. I had no idea just how significant the day would become when I founded it in 2015 in tribute to the loss of my Ragdoll cat, Mr. Jazz, who I had to say goodbye to on August 28, 2013. It’s growing astoundingly and reaching impact every year. And I take great pride in the day knowing how special it is.
I do my best to comment on any posts that I see on social media, on blog posts, and more. So, that at the end of the day, it’s quite emotionally exhausting for me, as you can imagine. But it’s also joyous, touching, and beautiful as people open up their hearts and the outpouring of love, compassion, and support I see from people. Many virtual strangers to one another never ceases to amaze me. It’s like a virtual hug across the world. And for that, it makes any sadness I might feel worth it and the reason this day was created.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:05
It means a lot to have a day set aside to just remember pets that have touched our lives. And so, I think that’s a really great reason for why Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day exists. And again, it’s August 28th every year.
You can participate by sharing the stories of pets you’ve lost. For me, sharing stories, Rho, my little betta fish, it helps me remember how he helped me through college, that he was my buddy, how he would help me relieve some stress on those really hard days. So, I’m definitely going to be sharing stories of him this coming August 28th.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:45
The whole idea of the Rainbow Bridge is that your pets go to the Rainbow Bridge to wait for you. And then when you join them, you cross the Rainbow Bridge together. So, Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day is about remembering all of the pets currently waiting at the Rainbow Bridge.
And when I think about that and I think about “How do I honor the memory of Reznor?” He was not my very first pet, but as an adult with a family, it was our first family pet. The first dog I got to experience having with my husband and my daughter. And there are so many happy memories in that. And yet it always touches a part of my heart that reminds me of the sadness. And I think that that’s okay. That’s part of the whole process. I don’t think you’re supposed to “get over it” like some people may say. Our pets become a part of us.
Helen Keller said it best. She has a little quote that I like to share with people when they lose a pet. And I might be paraphrasing slightly. “What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose because everything we love deeply becomes a part of us.” And I think that speaks so well to what our pets mean to us when they move on.
WHAT IT MEANS TO HONOR A PET’S MEMORY
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 4:51
Absolutely. And we reached out to friends in the pet industry. Two of them who have done something very special to honor their pet’s memory. So, here’s what they had to say.
Jen Costello, My Brown Newfies – 05:02
I finally feel a little bit of closure now knowing that I’ve honored Sherman and Leroy in a wonderful way and that they’re always with me.
Abby Chesnut, Healing Whiskers – 05:11
You’re taking something like a really sad moment, it’s just generally sad in every way and form. But seeing the really pretty flowers, it’s really nice to think, “Oh, yeah, I remember the good times.”
PAW PRINTS & CREMATION
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 5:25
I think we can all relate to all the feelings that we’re talking about because pets just mean so much. And we really want to spend some time talking about the different ways that you can honor the memory of your pet.
A lot of people nowadays will have their pets cremated. Still, some of you might live in places that you can bury them, and you choose to do that. But there’s a lot of people who cremate, I think, partially because we’re moving around more than we used to. I know I’ve always cremated pets so that I can keep their ashes, maybe do something special with them. But one of the things that happens during that is your vet will usually give you the option of having a paw print. This is probably hard to see, but this is Reznor’s paw print.
And it came to us not fully hardened, so that we could write in it. So, I wrote his name in it and then I wrote the day that we lost him and how old he was. He was only five. This is part of what I keep. I also have his ashes. And I think he can get nice little things to hold the ashes in. But this is, I think, an easy ask of your vet – for the paw print. And if I’d be surprised actually, if most of them don’t just offer it. Because I think that’s pretty normal now, isn’t it?
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 6:32
Yeah, I think so. When my family dog, Keto, passed away a few years ago, my parents actually were able to get multiple. So, they have one, I have one, and then my sister has one. But it does, it has his name in it. They even used a heart cookie cutter and created a little heart inset out of it. But it’s something that I display. Just seeing it, I remember the good times, the memories with him.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 6:59
And I think that’s a key point of all the things we’re talking about. It’s really about finding ways to honor the memory that’s happy. I don’t necessarily want to look at this and remember how I lost Reznor. I might and might be connected to that. But what I do is sort of charge it with, “Nope, this is happy stuff.”
So, I just like to think about the effect that he had in our family. And those are the happy memories. We really want to try to figure out, how can we do things that constantly remind us of the happy times.
PLANTING A TREE, GARDEN, OR MEMORIAL PLANTER
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 7:30
And I think part of that is coming up with ideas, whether it’s a project or something you purchase, that’s beautiful. And it’s not innately sad like the actual act of losing a pet. So, one of the other things that we talked about is planting a tree. And Chloe, I know, that’s something you’re excited about. Well, I don’t know if excited is quite the right word. But you’re interested in it.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 7:54
I am. I love the idea of planting something and that it grows. So, it is sort of being nourished in a sense. Even though I know that if I was to take my cremated pets, their ashes aren’t direct nourishment. But you can put ashes in soil and then plant a tree. There are actually even companies out there who you can send your ashes to and they will mix it, have a little seedling, and send it back to you. So, that it’s easier for you to just plant said tree with the ashes.
And then as that grows, you can always remember your pet. That becomes an essence, the memory of your pet. I feel like I would take care of that tree a lot better than maybe I take care of my other plants. And so, I think that’s why it makes me excited. It’s this idea that something else is continuing to grow. I like that.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 8:40
Yeah, I love that too. And I think with a tree, it’s more permanent. It’s something that lasts a really long time. But if a tree is not the right option for you, you can also plant a garden. And that can be a vegetable garden, a flower garden, a bush garden, any kind of garden. That does require you to obviously have some land that you can dig into.
But we spoke with one person, Abby Chestnut of Healing Whiskers, who doesn’t have that capability. She doesn’t have the ability to plant her own garden because she’s currently renting and is going to most likely move. So, when she lost one of her rats, which yes, rats. We’re not just talking dogs and cats here. She decided to make a memorial garden in a large flower pot. And we’ll let her tell you about that.
Abby Chesnut, Healing Whiskers – 9:24
I have pet rats. And so, they’re very small and I’m in a rental house. So, I can’t really go into the ground. What I’ve done is I’ve gotten a really big planter and I buried my pets in there. You can use seeds or get actual plants that are already bloomed. Put them in there. It’s super, super easy. With this, if I move, I can take this with me. You also do this if you have cremated remains. You can mix it in with the soil.
I would recommend doing a memorial planter for anybody who has small animals, including exotic animals, pretty much anything. Even if you have a larger dog or any other kind of large animal. Like I said before, you can use cremated remains and mixed them in with the soil. If you’re renting or you don’t have a place to bury your animal or you don’t want to do the urns, this is a really, really great idea.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 10:16
I love that Abby came up with something that’s movable and portable. She can take with her places. Because I think a lot of people are in that situation where they’re renting and moving from place to place or younger, thinking about you in college with your fish. That would have been really hard to bury your fish somewhere that wasn’t home, right? I think it’s a little different when we have a family where we can put it in the yard. We know we’re not moving. We all have those family members that never move. But I think younger generations and a lot of people, tend to move. So, portable options feel like a good choice.
CREATE A SHADOWBOX
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 10:52
Absolutely. And with Rho, I definitely didn’t bury him in my apartment complex that I only lived in for one year. He resides in my parent’s backyard. And the reason I felt comfortable is that they’ve lived there since 1996. So, they’re going to be there for a while.
But there are tons of other things that you can do. You can create. You can buy. One of my favorites is a shadowbox. And so, I created this as a demo. My Luna here is still very much with me. I just want to make that crystal clear. But this is an example of a photo of Luna and then her collar. It’s a great way to remember the happy times. And also, honor something she wore every day. And that was a part of her when she was, she is here.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 11:42
Yes, she is still there. She’s actually in the room right now with Jessica.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 11:45
She is. I think she sighed recently.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 11:48
So, yeah, I love that. And I think for people who are crafty, something like that might be a really great relief kind of thing. Not that you won’t feel any sadness while you’re doing it. But you’ll feel happy at the end in the sense that you’ve got this memory and this thing that you created to help honor that memory of your pet. I feel like that’s good for a crafty person.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 12:07
And I feel like also part of the grieving process is, what do I do now with their collar? Or another thing you can put in here is their favorite toy. What do I do with that? It doesn’t feel right to throw it away or get rid of it. So, put it on display. And remember all the times that you played with that toy or went on a walk with that collar.
DESIGN A PHOTO ALBUM OR BOOK
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 12:27
Yeah. And one of the other things, this is for people who are kind of crafty, but it’s a little bit more digital. Because there’s all the different ways you can make photo albums online, books online. This is an actual online book that was made for me in honor of Reznor. And my mom actually made this for me and gifted it to me. So, I guess if you are thinking about something like that, this was a nice gift.
But one of the things that we did. This is Reznor in his last moments. And this is his favorite toy. So, she mentioned a favorite toy. If you don’t shadowbox it. We actually had it cremated with him because it’s literally the only toy that lasted. He had that toy for years. And it was a dollar toy from a cheap store. But he loved it.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 13:13
It’s always that way.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 13:15
I know! We cremated him with that so that his ashes are with that. But this is a lovely gift. I’ll be honest, when I first got this book, I looked at it and it was a little bit harder because it was so fresh. And now I look at it and I laugh. He actually liked wearing hats. He liked putting on hats.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 13:30
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 13:31
She pulled out so many of his quirks. He also liked opening Christmas gifts. And so, I feel like if you can remember those quirks and those fun times and those funny things, that’s when this becomes a wonderful option. Lots of photos, lots of things that make me smile, and bring back all those memories.
ORDER CUSTOM JEWELRY
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 13:48
And even now too there’s digital picture frames. You could get one that it scrolls through with all of the photos of your pets when they were amazing. Photos are such a big thing. And that’s another reason why you should just constantly take pictures of your pets. Don’t feel bad if your cell phone’s full of just pictures of your pets.
But if crafting isn’t for you, then there are plenty of services, plenty of products, out there that you can buy to honor your pet. Some of these just feature a photo. I have this bracelet of Luna. And again, Luna is still very much alive. But it’s something that I can take, and it has her likeness, and I can wear it, and it can be close to me. There are also tons of types of jewelry out there where you can actually carry with you some of their ashes or even their fur or their hair, whatever you think is the best representation of them.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 14:40
And I think with the ashes, they’ll come to you from your vet in a cardboard box kind of thing. You can always buy, I guess it’s an urn. Although in the pet world, they’re a little funkier. You can buy cute things. There’s lots of options. So, if you wanted to put that in something that more, to you, represented the personality of your pet, you could. And that way, at least you have their ashes not in a cardboard box, but in something that is a little bit more, not only personal to the pet but in terms of what you remember when you see it. It may transport you maybe a little bit more to a happy place, which is our goal here. That’s why we are talking about this because our pets make us happy.
And even when they’ve moved on and they’re waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge, they would want us to be happy. So, finding those happy times and remembering them with different things that make us think about the happy times is important.
GET A PERSONALIZED TATTOO
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 15:34
And I think too, for your vet, if you know that you want to do something with their ashes, you can often also ask for it to be separated. So, you can have a smaller part. And then you can still keep the bulk of the remains in a beautiful display, like Chloe was just mentioning.
We do have another interesting topic that we just recently found out about. And it’s from Jen Costello, who writes the blog My Brown Newfies. Jen did a lot of research. She tried to find something that fit both her and her dogs. And she landed on getting a tattoo. And I thought that was so cool.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 16:06
It makes me want a tattoo. Well, not really. Because I don’t want a pet to die so that I can get a tattoo. But it makes me feel like it’s a great way to commemorate my pet.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 16:17
Absolutely. And Jen’s going to explain how her process went. But one thing to keep in mind is that you can actually get an invisible tattoo. So, if you’re not into the way tattoos look, you can actually still get it on your skin, but nothing is visible. So, only you know that it is there.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 16:38
Which would mean that only you would know that you are carrying around your pet with you, but it could still be special.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 16:43
Yeah. Let’s let Jen tell you about her process and why she decided to get a tattoo.
Jen Costello, My Brown Newfies Blog – 16:48
So, the process that I went through for getting my tattoo was first I talked to the company called Everence. And that’s the company that processes the ashes for you, they make it into a safe substance that can be added to any tattoo ink. So, first I researched that. And I wanted to learn a little bit more to make sure that it was safe and what exactly the whole process entails. And then, I spoke to a local tattoo artist and asked him if he would do it. He wasn’t familiar at all with the process. So, I sent him over all the information. And he had never heard of it. So, he said that it was something really cool and it would be a lot easier than how they have to do it with just regular unprocessed ashes.
And then what I did was I picked out a design of what I wanted for my tattoo. I wanted something a little bit smaller. But something that I could always see and touch too. Something, you know, when I’m feeling down, when I’m missing them, I can just look at the tattoo. I can remember them. And I can touch it. And they’re always right there with me.
I would recommend this to anyone who is into tattoos. Somebody that hasn’t found the right way to honor their pet. And what’s cool about this is you don’t even need to do it with ashes. You can also do it with your existing dog’s DNA. So, if you have a really special dog that you wanted to do something to honor them, then you could use their DNA. So, it doesn’t have to be just for deceased pets. But it can also be for pets that are still with us.
It means the world to me knowing that they’re always right by my side. They’re not gone. They’re always right here with me. Wherever I go, they go.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 18:26
I still think that’s such a cool way to honor your pet’s memory. But obviously, tattoos are not for everyone. And there’s really no right or wrong way on how to honor your pet’s memory. And you also don’t have to just pick one.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 18:40
Right, because there are so many different options going from the paw print to the photo book. Obviously, I’ve got two. So, doing more than one is not a problem. I’ve also got ashes, so I could still choose to do more now, if I’m ready. Maybe it takes you a little time and you need to set it aside and go back to it. And that’s totally acceptable. I think the point is there’s no wrong way to honor your pet’s memory. But these are just a few ideas for you to think about.
Jessica Shipman, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 19:03
And if you learned of an idea that you would hope to use someday, or if you have something that we haven’t talked about, a great idea that we overlooked. Leave us a comment and let us know. Because we would love for this to be an ever growing resource for people to find something that matches both themselves and their pets on how to honor them.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 19:24
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