THE BLOG
07/23/2014 06:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Losing a Pet and How to Keep its Presence Alive in the Home

I'm not surprised to read that pets have become extremely important to young singles, who find that a dog or cat is less stressful than being with a lover (though in defense of humans, an animal, no matter how devoted, will never pick up the cleaning). There is now the phrase, "pets as partners," which I guess should take the sting out of hearing a woman referred to as "a dog." With U.S. veterinarians claiming that medical marijuana is a necessity for dogs in pain, there may soon be an expression for getting high with a pet, particularly since an animal isn't always welcome at a bar.

I have a husband and son so the Tibetan Terrier wasn't a substitute for family. But when Z.C. died, I was devastated. We all were. She was the only one in the house who never rolled her eyes in reaction to a story that had already been told. That's the kind of acceptance you get only from a pet, which explains why singles are looking for love in animal shelters, where there will be no lying about age, which isn't always true on Match.com.

The three of us were sobbing as we stared at our dog's limp body on an examining table, not sure how to respond when the vet asked, "Do you want her cremains returned to you?" A cremation urn wasn't the way we would choose to remember her; it would focus on her death. We looked to one another, each of us indicating, "no."

Opening the door of the apartment, we were immediately struck by the difference this made. Each time we came home, Z.C. would greet us as if she were the host of a talk show and we were the unattainable guest she'd finally succeeded in booking. The apartment was eerily silent. Morose, we plopped down on the couch, the one that had been recovered after Z.C. had torn into it one night while we were out, sending its stuffing everywhere. Reading about a Purina study that found 90 percent of owners talk to their pets, I remembered trying to scold her. Her vocabulary was limited. Though she understood "sit" and "heel," "time out" meant nothing to her.

I opened a photo album and we flipped through the 11 years she'd been with us. "Aw," one of us would say, seeing shots of Z.C. the first day we'd gotten her or looking at her playing with a ball on the lawn of the San Diego Hilton, and others of her demonstrating to my mother-in-law's new puppy how to go through a doggy door.

Singles aren't the only ones who come to regard their animals as family. I turned a photo of Z.C. sitting on my desk chair into my screen saver, pleased to find a way of keeping her presence in the home. Pictures reminded us of the good times and were helping us cope with the loss. I design mosaic art -- vases, picture frames, tables, etc. -- working in the French style called pique assiette (loosely translates to eating off someone else's plate). It occurred to me that maybe I could personalize a vase by adding photos to the mosaic pattern and create a memorial tribute to Z.C. It took some amount of experimenting to find the right glue and clear glass to protect the pictures, but I was determined. To replicate the colors of Z.C.'s coat, I nipped black and white plates. The vase is in our kitchen, just above where her water bowl had once been. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.

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Seeing this, friends suggested I get a website as other pet owners would surely appreciate having a memorial vase or urn with photos of their animals. I invite you to see others on www.personalized-urns.com. For those who are still relating to humans, I do larger sizes as well.

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