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What a difference a year makes!

Today is Kona’s 1st birthday. We brought Kona into our home and lives last June when she was 8 weeks old and life hasn’t been the same since! Kona is the most entertaining and curious dog we have ever had and we love her dearly; she makes us laugh a lot. Yet, while we wouldn’t trade the last year for anything, Kona may also be the last puppy – not dog, but puppy – we ever bring home. :)

Our other dog, Legend, was five when we brought him into our home and while Legend definitely has his issues, they are different from the high-energy puppy issues. And so, while we will always have one or two dogs as part of our family, Skip and I are thinking some of those great older dogs waiting to be adopted are in our future, even though those adorable puppies are hard to resist.

Regardless of the age or energy level of a pet, though, we can’t imagine not having a pet. They add so much joy and fun to our lives, and help to make our house a home. That is why it is so difficult to say goodbye to them when the time comes, but with great joy comes great sorrow and we’re not willing to give up on the great joy.

Kona and Legend don’t seem to grasp the significance of this day, but to them, every day is a fun day filled with treats, bones, tummy rubs, tail wags, walks and naps. They help  us to celebrate every day of life. Happy Birthday to our wonderful Kona!

 


As I was driving to Pets Remembered this morning, I was listening to a news report on the radio. The announcer acknowledged that folk singer/activist Pete Seeger “passed”, then went on to the next story about a piece of legislation that ”passed”. Hmmm . . .   I find it rather curious that the term “passed/passing” has become synonymous with death, dying, and died. This seems to be a recent phenomenon and it speaks to me of our aversion to accepting the reality of death.

Although Skip and I have been dealing directly with death for decades - Skip as a funeral director and myself as a pastor and then hospice chaplain – now as the creators and owners of Pets Remembered Cremation Service, the death of beloved family pets is what we encounter numerous times a day. Therefore, my curiosity about the prevalence of the term passed rather than death comes about because it’s a constant theme for us.

I can only speculate, but I believe it’s easier for us to think of those we love, both humans and pets, as passing on to another dimension rather than dying and ceasing to exist. Over thirty years ago I read Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, which is definitely a sobering book, but it’s true that many of us do everything we can do to deny the reality of death. Even when I was working within a hospice program, it was surprising to me how many patients, family, and friends had still not accepted the fact that treatment could not cure or extend the patient’s life.

There’s no way around it, though, whether we prefer the term passed or died, saying goodbye to those we love is painful.

 


Two weeks into the new year and 2014 still feels very new, although two weeks is long enough for me to write 2014 on my checks. As much time as humans (some more than others) spend reflecting over the past and pondering what the future holds, particularly at the end/beginning of each year, our pets show no sign of those practices whatsoever.

As is frequently mentioned with respect to our pets, they live in the moment. All of my pets have been dogs, so they are the pets I am most familiar with. In all of the dog books I have read and the obedience classes I have either watched or participated in, the reminder that dogs live in the moment is frequently stated. That means that if you scold them for something that happened earlier in the day it doesn’t work; they can’t make the association between whatever they did earlier that was “naughty” and the current punishment.

Beyond the punishment theme, it tells me that dogs/cats/rabbits/other pets are not likely to lament a past decision or event, nor are they able to anticipate or ponder a future event. I imagine that we humans would have less stress and anxiety in our lives if we were able to fully live in the moment as our pets do. Because that is pretty much impossible, at least maybe we can practice  living in the moment more than we currently do. Here’s to the lessons our pets can teach us today!

 


Christmas with Pets!

We’ve had our Christmas tree up for about one week now and Kona (our 8 month old puppy) seems to have adjusted to having a tree in the living room. The first day she was fascinated with it, staring up and down at the lights and glitter. The next few days she started chewing on the branches (it’s a fake tree) and the glitter. We have learned not to trust Kona with anything (living up to puppyhood, she enjoys chewing/eating just about any and everything), but the tree has lost some of its enticement, thankfully.

We continue to really miss Boots, even with two other canines filling the house. Memories of last Christmas will forever hold the sadness and pain of Boots’ death on Christmas Eve, although also in my memory is the first Christmas Boots was part of our family, in 2002. At Christmas he was ten months, so he was a big black lab puppy then, but still full of curiosity. When I finally got the tree up and fully trimmed (no easy chore!), I discovered that when Boots was left on his own with the tree he couldn’t resist pulling on the ornaments. First he pulled a few off and chewed them up, which was annoying but understandable. Next he pulled the entire tree over in his quest to pull the ornaments off. After about three times of putting the tree back up I finally took off all of the ornaments and we lived with a bare tree that Christmas!

No doubt many (all?) of you who are reading this have your own memories/stories of your pets at Christmas and the fun they have had with Christmas decorations. Our pets add so much fun to life, to the holiday season, and to everything that happens in our lives. Whether your pet is naughty or nice today (or probably both naughty and nice), give her/him a big hug and a tummy rub!

 

 


Caring for Cats

This weekend Skip and I will be attending The Haunted Hairball, a fundraiser for the Caring for Cats shelter in St. Paul. We had so much fun at the event last year that we are looking forward to attending again. Like many of you, I have been to – what seems like – a kazillion fundraisers over the years, many of which were not much fun. So, I have been asking myself what makes a fundraiser fun, and this is what I came up with:

  • Warm and welcoming people - at the dinner tables and around the room;
  • A short and positive program that makes you laugh (and maybe even shed a few tears);
  • Auction items that appeal to many folks and are within a reasonable price range;
  • An atmosphere that helps you feel like you are making a difference through the money raised and the other ways you help the organization throughout the year;
  • Good food and wine helps!

It is quite amazing to think about all of the shelters in and around the Twin Cities – too many to count! Skip and I have become familiar with many of them since we opened Pets Remembered two years ago and we marvel at the many, many dedicated pet lovers who open their homes and hearts to pets who need a home, whether temporarily or permanently. I am grateful for all of the shelters and the people who make them great!


The tree is planted!

How time flies! It has been almost one month since we held our first ever Pet Memorial Event on September 8th at the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. It was gratifying to see many of you who have recently lost your pets, so together we could remember them and celebrate their lives. My favorite part of the event was throwing the rose petals over the bridge and into the Mississippi in remembrance of our past pets.

If you were there you know that we had a beautiful young pine tree, and we invited you to place your hand-written notes and/or pet ashes with the tree so they could all be planted together at a later date and to-be-announced location. We had to plant the tree in a location that would be accessible to us on a daily basis so we could care for the tree.

I’m happy to report that the tree is now planted at our pet cremation center. The notes left with the tree were burned and added to the ashes you left with us, and after mixing all of that with the “Let your Love Grow” product that safely transforms ashes into life-giving nutrients, we mixed it all with the dirt and, voila, the tree is rooted in happy and loving memories.


Pet Memorial Day

Sunday, September 8th is designated as National Pet Memorial Day. In order to honor the day, we (Pets Remembered Cremation) have teamed up with MN Pets (home euthanasia service) to provide an event for all pet folks who want to remember and celebrate the lives of their pets. We will meet this Sunday, September 8th from 2 to 3 pm at the Stone Arch Bridge/Father Hennepin Bluffs in Minneapolis. Included will be live music by renowned acoustic guitarist Joel Shapira, welcome remarks and selected readings, a memorial wall, a memorial tree planting, local rescue pets with their organizations, and a rose petal release off the Stone Arch Bridge.

All are invited and we will go ahead with the event rain or shine. Donations will be accepted and will benefit the Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP). Hope to see you on Sunday, and pets are welcome, too!

 


Sunny!

One of the more uplifting stories this week, amid a week of too many distressing stories, was news that the Obama family adopted a second dog, Sunny, to play with their first dog, Bo. Those of us with pets know, though, that the addition of a second pet is not only for the sake of the first pet, but also to keep us company. Before our boys were born, Skip and I had two dogs, a chocolate lab named Hershey and a black lab named Max. We got Max a year after we adopted Hershey, because we thought Hershey was lonely all day when we were at work. But in retrospect, it seemed Hershey enjoyed having all of the attention to herself, even though we felt better knowing she wasn’t alone.

Now that our boys are grown up and gone, except for brief visits, we are back to two dogs and we love watching Legend and Kona play/sleep/argue together! We also love the companionship and love that Legend and Kona give to us and let us give back to them. They definitely make our lives fuller than if we did not have them with us.

One more thought about the Obama’s dogs. As is often noted, the majority of U.S. presidents in recent history have had pets, whether cats or dogs. Regardless of who is in office at any given time, it has to be a lonely job at times. Pets offer unconditional love and companionship, plus they can be quite entertaining. So, best wishes to Bo and Sunny, and the family they are now part of.

 


Pets Remembered Memorial Event

September 8th is the 41st Annual National Pet Memorial Day 

FIRST-EVER PET MEMORIAL EVENT SET FOR TWIN CITIES SEPTEMBER 8 AT THE STONE ARCH BRIDGE/FATHER HENNEPIN BLUFFS PARK AT ST. ANTHONY MAIN. SERVICE INCLUDES TREE PLANTING, ROSE PETAL AND PET ASHES DISPERSAL, MUSIC — PLUS ALTERNATIVES TO PET END-OF-LIFE ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES TO ADOPT A NEW PET

TWIN CITIES — August 13, 2013 — Pet ownership in the U.S. has never been higher.* The death of a pet is comparable to the death of a family member or close friend. Two organizations who work closely with pets and pet owners are creating the area’s first-ever Pet Memorial Day event on National Pet Memorial Day,  September 8th, at the Stone Arch Bridge/Father Hennepin Bluffs Park at St. Anthony Main, from 2:00-3:00 p.m., rain or shine (420 Main St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414, http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=4&parkid=273)

  • The first Pet Memorial holiday was created in 1972 by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries in recognition of the importance of remembering beloved lost pets. The day is always celebrated on the second Sunday in September.

Pets Remembered Cremation Service and MN Pets, two organizations dedicated to providing end-of-life services to pets and their families, have teamed up to honor departed pets.

“Many cities across the U. S. hold special events every year on the second Sunday in September to honor departed pets and to celebrate their lives,” notes Skip Wyland of Pets Remembered, who has more than 30 years of working with bereaved families and individuals in the funeral and pet cremation industry. “Unlike many large metropolitan areas, the Twin Cities does not have a city pet cemetery where a Pet Memorial Day can take place. Hopefully this inaugural occasion will give people the opportunity to remember their pets in a fitting manner.”

“A beautiful ceremony will give pet owners a venerable place to celebrate and remember their pets in a community of fellow pet lovers,” adds Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca McComas of MN Pets, which offers gentle at-home euthanasia services, including grief counseling. “Plus, people will be able share their pet ashes as we plant a large tree in honor of all lost pets, scatter rose petals from the bridge in memory of their pets, and visit with or make a donation to local pet rescue organizations, such as MN SNAP, MN Sheltie Rescue, Wags and Whiskers, and Shit Tzu Rescue of MN, while also exploring end-of-life alternatives for pets and the possible adoption of a new pet.”

PET MEMORIAL DAY PROGRAM

  • Live music provided by renowned acoustic guitarist Joel Shapira
  • Welcome remarks
  • Selected readings
  • Memorial wall
  • Memorial tree planting
  • Local rescue pets with their organizations
  • Rose petal release off the Stone Arch Bridge
  • People interested in participating can RSVP in advance at:  http://tinyurl.com/PetMemorialDay

*ABOUT PET OWNERSHIP IN THE UNITED STATES

According to the American Pet Products Association annual survey from 2012, “Pet ownership in the United States is at a record high thanks in part to pet owners’ willingness to promote owning a pet to others. The Survey indicates that:

  • Pet ownership among all U.S. households is 68 percent.
  • This equates to an increase to 82.5 million pet owning households in 2012.
  • Coincident with the increase in overall pet ownership is a comparable gain in the total number of households owning a dog or cat.
  • Dog ownership swelled to 56.7 million households.
  • Cat ownership grew to 45.3 million. 
  • These gains in dog and cat owning households mean that the total number of these pets has also increased, including a total of 83.3 million dogs and 95.6 million cats in the U.S.

 


Lessons from Dogs

When I was going through some old files the other day I came across a sheet entitled, Things We Can Learn from a Dog. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s dated April 1998, so I’ve had it awhile! It’s too great not to share with others, although maybe it isn’t new to you. Here it is . . .

If we were dogs, we would:

  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride, and experience the fresh air and wind in our face as pure ecstasy.
  • Always enthusiastically greet loved ones when they come home.
  • Be loyal and practice obedience when appropriate to do so.
  • Let others know in no uncertain terms that they have invaded our territory.
  • Take naps often and always stretch properly before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Never pretend to be something that we are not.
  • Dig until we find what we want.
  • Thrive on attention, but when someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close, and be supportive.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • Understand that on hot days, it is best to drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • Dance around and wag our entire body when we’re happy.
  • Not buy into the guilt thing when scolded, but run back and make friends again.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
  • Delight in the simple joys of taking a long walk.

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