On Pet Memorial Sunday, “The Joy of Pets”

bleeding hearts

Remembering our cherished pets.

It’s hard to believe it’s only a week away, and I’ve been planning what I will say, deeply musing on the cats I’ve known and those I know today, finding the connections that bring us all together.

I was flattered to be asked, and honored to accept, Deb Chebatoris’ invitation to speak at her annual Pet Memorial Sunday celebration on September 11.

I’ll be the third speaker with the topic of “The Joy of Pets”, about loving again after loss.

“You’ve certainly had your share of loss,” said Deb when she asked me if I’d consider speaking. “You write about this, your art is about this, and you work with people through your portraits in the midst of loss, and I certainly think you have valuable things to say on the topic.”

rainbow

The Rainbow

As part of the ceremony Deb has always had three speakers who discuss our relationships with our pets before, during and after their death. This year, Dr. Brad Carmichael of Pleasant Valley Veterinary Hospital in McMurray PA, will speak on “Our Last Moments Together”, covering how to determine it’s the end of your pet’s life and whether or not to choose euthanasia, and honoring that last time you have with your pet. Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW, will speak on “Our Initial Grief Response”, explaining that grief is totally normal in the loss of a pet and covering the different types of grief, how grief changes with time, and how to tell if you may need help with your grief.

I will then speak about loving another pet after loss. Certainly, having lost 13 cats over the years, I’ve experienced the change in my relationship with the ones who still share my home, and also found new love as new cats have come into my life.

And, as Deb said, I have not only my own experiences to draw from but others’ as well. Most often, my portraits are done as a remembrance, either in a stage of anticipatory grief, soon after losing the pet or some time afterward, and as I work with my customers to design the ideal portrait we discuss all the aspects of loss. I typically keep in touch with my clients, hearing news of the loss, of their healing, and of a new animal who enters their life.

In addition, in all the years I was rescuing cats I was also looking for homes for them, and shared many stories with people who had lost and were just getting ready to adopt again, hearing their hesitance and also, later, their joy at the new love.

pet memorial sunday tent

Pet Memorial Sunday celebration.

I look forward to being able to discuss this joy with those attending the ceremony. I’ve attended nearly every year Deb has hosted her Pet Memorial Sunday celebration, in part because nearly every year I’ve lost another kitty, or two, and she has been the person to lovingly take care of their cremation, but I also want to be there even without a loss. And, more practically, I handle Deb’s publicity, advertising, website and social networking so I also photograph the event for her and just like to get a feel for how it goes. It will be interesting this year to be a part of the whole program.

Some of my writing

I have written extensively on the topic of “Pet Loss in the First Person”, and also chronicled the final treatments and loss of several of my own cats, such as Peaches last year as she turned “100” years old and we battled with kidney failure.

In addition, my line of Animal Sympathy Cards grew from my own grief after the loss of several of my household in a short time, ending with Namir.

And in 2009, just before and after I lost Namir, I was honored to work on the illustrations for Karen Litzinger’s CD Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet.

This year’s ceremony

doves

The Dove Release

The ceremony is on Sunday, September 11, 2011 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Melrose Cemetery in Bridgeville and everyone is welcome regardless of whether they are one of Deb’s families or when they lost, or will lose, their pet. Families are encouraged to bring a photo or memento of their pet to be displayed during the ceremony.

After we gather and greet and we speakers are finished is a reading of “Words of Tribute” written by pet owners who attend. Deb invites participants to write a 50-word tribute to commemorate and remember the lives they shared with their special pets, and has tips and examples on her website for composition.

“Keeping a tribute to your pet to only 50 words can be a challenge,” Deb says, “but limiting your remembrance to 50 words helps you to focus on the essential elements that made your pet special.” Also, attendance is usually between 30 and 40 persons, and Chebatoris wants to make sure everyone’s tribute is heard in the limited time scheduled for the gathering.

Next is the candle-lighting ceremony, and then the dove release as we watch the flock of white doves disappear into the tree tops and sky symbolizing our ability to let go of our precious companions.

The gathering is always held under a tent in the cemetery, and light refreshments are served afterward as families are invited to share their experiences with each other and speak to the presenters.

If you’re local, I hope you’ll join us. Even if you haven’t had a recent loss, the ceremony is cleansing and an opportunity to share special moments with others who love animals.


I’ll Be Speaking of “The Joy of Pets”

bleeding hearts

Remembering our cherished pets.

I am flattered to be asked, and honored to accept, Deb Chebatoris’ invitation to speak at her annual Pet Memorial Sunday celebration on September 11.

I’ll be the third speaker with the topic of “The Joy of Pets”, about loving again after loss.

“You’ve certainly had your share of loss,” said Deb when she asked me if I’d consider speaking. “You write about this, your art is about this, and you work with people through your portraits in the midst of loss, and I certainly think you have valuable things to say on the topic.”

rainbow

The Rainbow

As part of the ceremony Deb has always had three speakers who discuss our relationships with our pets before, during and after their death. This year, Dr. Brad Carmichael of Pleasant Valley Veterinary Hospital in McMurray PA, will speak on “Our Last Moments Together”, covering how to determine it’s the end of your pet’s life and whether or not to choose euthanasia, and honoring that last time you have with your pet. Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW, will speak on “Our Initial Grief Response”, explaining that grief is totally normal in the loss of a pet and covering the different types of grief, how grief changes with time, and how to tell if you may need help with your grief.

I will then speak about loving another pet after loss. Certainly, having lost 13 cats over the years, I’ve experienced the change in my relationship with the ones who still share my home, and also found new love as new cats have come into my life.

And, as Deb said, I have not only my own experiences to draw from but others’ as well. Most often, my portraits are done as a remembrance, either in a stage of anticipatory grief, soon after losing the pet or some time afterward, and as I work with my customers to design the ideal portrait we discuss all the aspects of loss. I typically keep in touch with my clients, hearing news of the loss, of their healing, and of a new animal who enters their life.

In addition, in all the years I was rescuing cats I was also looking for homes for them, and shared many stories with people who had lost and were just getting ready to adopt again, hearing their hesitance and also, later, their joy at the new love.

pet memorial sunday tent

Pet Memorial Sunday celebration.

I look forward to being able to discuss this joy with those attending the ceremony. I’ve attended nearly every year Deb has hosted her Pet Memorial Sunday celebration, in part because nearly every year I’ve lost another kitty, or two, and she has been the person to lovingly take care of their cremation, but I also want to be there even without a loss. And, more practically, I handle Deb’s publicity, advertising, website and social networking so I also photograph the event for her and just like to get a feel for how it goes. It will be interesting this year to be a part of the whole program.

Some of my writing

I have written extensively on the topic of “Pet Loss in the First Person”, and also chronicled the final treatments and loss of several of my own cats, such as Peaches last year as she turned “100” years old and we battled with kidney failure.

In addition, my line of Animal Sympathy Cards grew from my own grief after the loss of several of my household in a short time, ending with Namir.

And in 2009, just before and after I lost Namir, I was honored to work on the illustrations for Karen Litzinger’s CD Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet.

This year’s ceremony

doves

The Dove Release

The ceremony is on Sunday, September 11, 2011 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Melrose Cemetery in Bridgeville and everyone is welcome regardless of whether they are one of Deb’s families or when they lost, or will lose, their pet. Families are encouraged to bring a photo or memento of their pet to be displayed during the ceremony.

After we gather and greet and we speakers are finished is a reading of “Words of Tribute” written by pet owners who attend. Deb invites participants to write a 50-word tribute to commemorate and remember the lives they shared with their special pets, and has tips and examples on her website for composition.

“Keeping a tribute to your pet to only 50 words can be a challenge,” Deb says, “but limiting your remembrance to 50 words helps you to focus on the essential elements that made your pet special.” Also, attendance is usually between 30 and 40 persons, and Chebatoris wants to make sure everyone’s tribute is heard in the limited time scheduled for the gathering.

Next is the candle-lighting ceremony, and then the dove release as we watch the flock of white doves disappear into the tree tops and sky symbolizing our ability to let go of our precious companions.

The gathering is always held under a tent in the cemetery, and light refreshments are served afterward as families are invited to share their experiences with each other and speak to the presenters.

If you’re local, I hope you’ll join us. Even if you haven’t had a recent loss, the ceremony is cleansing and an opportunity to share special moments with others who love animals.


Fans of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation

Feline urns at chartiers custom pet cremations

Two of the ceramic urns offered at Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation

Hmmm. What could a cremation service offer through social networking, you ask?

Plenty! On a daily basis, Deb Chebatoris offers resources for your pet’s health and well-being, gifts for yourself or a bereaved friend, reading and website suggestions for your information and comfort, a comforting voice on the phone, and compassion to her circle of families who have lost their pets. It’s a lot more than simply the business that none of us likes to think about.

But the way Deb has organized her business encourages us to think about this openly and honestly, and to remember our cherished companions with the same love and affection we felt in their lifetimes. What better place than a blog and Facebook to share with people?

Deb and I are what I call “co-customers”. Initially, I sought her out when I knew I’d be losing my Moses late in 2005. I so appreciated meeting this gentle smiling person who invited me into the quiet, comforting “living room” of her shop that my fears of handing over my precious Moses were allayed. I knew she would treat Moses with love and respect.

She told me that she recognized my name, and we realized that she had seen several of my portraits in the homes of other of her families. A bond was formed with our mutual respect for each others’ work and our love for animals.

I lost five cats in the next 18 months, including Moses. Knowing Deb was there for me and my kitty each time was a comfort I could never have imagined possible.

In the course of that time she became my customer as well, I began assisting her with her website, with publicity, and with photographing her shop and the urns she carries. You can read more in “Options for After-care” from “Pet Loss in the First Person“.

Persons who choose to work in animal care are not looking at an illustrious career of great wealth and fame. Deb left a very responsible well-paid career as a health care administrator to follow this goal of helping people who love pets and making a difference in the world. I truly respect that decision and enjoy my part in helping her do this.

We’ve been building her website and considering how best to serve her families, and after my own forays into social networking I told Deb that she could be such an asset to the animal community that she had to do this.

Because Deb is either in the car transporting pets or engaged in her business, I’ll be assisting her with blog and Facebook postings. I’m really going to enjoy this new assignment.

Here are the links to Deb’s website, blog and Facebook page. Please welcome a friend to the community, visit, bookmark, sign up, fan, whatever, and we welcome your comments.

Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation website: www.ccpc.ws

Animus, the blog of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation: http://chartierscustompetcremation.wordpress.com/

Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bridgeville-PA/Chartiers-Custom-Pet-Cremation/114685048549195


Options for “After Care”, featuring Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation

Third in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”

watercolor of a cat bathing in front of cabinet

Sunbath, my Kublai, watercolor © by B. E. Kazmarski

Kublai was ill for nearly a year before he died, and even though my veterinarian and I tried to treat all the symptoms in an effort to make some progress it became clear that he would indeed die sometime soon, though I wouldn’t admit it. I remember that I wouldn’t plan into the future, next year’s garden, for instance, because I would picture him there with me and I knew it wouldn’t be so.

Even though I kept up all hope that he would somehow recover, the little fiction writer in my mind started drawing out scenarios of his last moments, his death, and what life would be like afterward. The little scenarios she comes up with can be frightening sometimes, but I’m glad she makes me face things and think through what I might do under the circumstances presented, otherwise I would have kept spinning in that I-won’t-consider-the-future mindset that would have left me helpless on the day Kublai died.

Compared to the present day, I had no experience then of watching for death, as I came to call it, watching Kublai’s graceful black body deteriorate and watching for “the sign” from him, and I didn’t even know what I’d do with his body after he had died.

Considering my options

image of block print of black cat and white cat

Awakening, Kublai and Sally, linoleum block print © by B.E. Kazmarski

After that first awful experience with Bootsie, I decided that I should find my options and have a plan that I could follow through when Kublai died. I don’t like the thought of burial in a cemetery, even for myself. I might not mind burying him in my yard, but it’s really not permitted in most urban or suburban places, though people still do it. Also, even though I owned my home I knew I wasn’t staying here forever, and I was really freaked out at the thought of a future owner digging him up. I also had eight cats at the time, spaced about two years apart, so I knew I’d be losing a fair number of cats while I lived here. I didn’t like the thought of leaving behind a yard full of cat graves.

I chose to have Kublai cremated, and I would have time to decide what to do with his ashes, or cremains as I learned they are called.

But I had no idea how to even start looking for how to do this, and I didn’t want to start asking for fear of looking like the crazy cat lady.

I asked my veterinarian what other people did, and she told me about a business that would pick up his body after he had died whether he was at my home or at an animal hospital and transport it to the crematory.

Planning ahead

After a few days I called the business and talked to the owner, who told me the process and the fee and suggested I give her another call when I either had an appointment for euthanasia or after he passed if he died naturally.

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