The second Sunday of September is designated as Pet Memorial Sunday by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories, and celebrating that day is important to my friend and customer Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation (CCPC). She has hosted a ceremony on this day since she has been in business dedicated to remembering our animal companions for anyone who has lost a pet.
“Rituals build community, creating a meeting ground where people can share deep feelings or…keep a solemn silence,” Deb says. “This event is for anyone who may have experienced the loss of a beloved pet, no matter when the loss occurred.”
Our animal companions have become more respected members of our society, from recognizing that people will not evacuate even a life-threatening situation if they can’t take their animals to realizing that a close bond with an animal can help people heal from both physical and emotional traumas. Grief after the loss of a cherished animal companion is also accepted with respectful aftercare and loving ceremonies.
Anyone who has loved and lost an animal companion clearly understands the need for respectful grieving and memorials. Our animal companions fill a deep place in our lives; for children they are sometimes the closest friend and confidant, for seniors they are often a singular daily companion. All who share their lives with an animal find a unique personality and a bond that’s hard to replace when gone.
This year’s ceremony
The ceremony is on Sunday, September 9, 2012 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Melrose Cemetery in Bridgeville.
The gathering will be held under a tent in the cemetery with light refreshments served afterward as families are invited to share their experiences with each other and speak to the presenters.
As part of the ceremony, three speakers will discuss our relationships with our pets before, during and after their death. Dr. Brad Carmichael of Pleasant Valley Veterinary Hospital in McMurray PA, will speak on “Our Last Moments Together”, Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW, will speak on "Our Initial Grief Response", and I will be speaking about “The Joy of Pets”, adopting again after loss.
These speakers are followed by a reading of “Words of Tribute” written by pet owners who attend; last year I had the honor of reading tributes along with Deb. She encourages 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 Deb wants to make sure everyone’s tribute is heard in the limited time scheduled for the gathering.
Families are also encouraged to bring a photo or memento of their pet to be displayed during the ceremony.
After all the speakers and the readings and the candle-lighting ceremony a flock of white doves is released to symbolize our ability to let go of our precious companions.
The Tribute Scroll
As a follow-up to the event, in 2010 Chebatoris introduced the “Tribute Scroll”, a slideshow of photos and tributes electronically submitted by her families and composed after Pet Memorial Sunday with a original musical accompaniment which she commissioned from professional musician and friend Jonathan Wooding. The slideshow is posted on her website for families to view as a memorial whenever they choose; the 2010 and 2011 slideshows are there now. A new Scroll will be composed each year including photos and tributes submitted by families that year.
For more information on the Tribute Scroll and to see past Scrolls, please visit www.ccpc.ws.
Please RSVP and to Deb by Friday, September 7. For more information or to RSVP, please visit www.ccpc.ws or call Deb at 412-220-7800. The public is invited to attend, but Deb needs an RSVP to know the number who wish to attend.
If you wish to compose a tribute, please send that by Friday, September 7 as well. The Pet Memorial Sunday page on the site includes an e-mail address and fax for Deb as well as instructions for composing and sending your Words of Tribute.
Also, in order to provide a peaceful environment for all, it is not appropriate to bring live pets to this event.
All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.