Monday, March 25, 2013

Memorializing a Cherished Pet

If we are loved and remembered, then we live on forever in the hearts of those who love us. ~ Ted Menten

As I was leafing through my copy of The Fireside Book of Dog Stories (a treasure I inherited from my father after he died too soon from a heart attack in 1978), I came across an old newspaper clipping I'd apparently tucked between its pages many years ago. I'm going to share the contents of the clipping with you, but first I want to tell you a bit about my father.

My father was a lover of all creatures great and small, but most especially he was a dog lover. It didn't matter what kind -- our family had many different breeds as I was growing up, including a cocker spaniel, a boxer, a collie, a German shepherd and a couple of loveable mutts -- but his favorite by far was the female Saint Bernard-collie mix he named Moose.

Despite his skills as a surgeon, my father lived the simple life of a classic country doctor with a modest office on the outskirts of a small town in northern Michigan, and Moose was as much a part of his practice as his stethoscope or his little black medical bag. For years his dear friend lay quietly at his feet under the desk in his office, warmly greeted the patients who came in to see him and accompanied him on house calls. But eventually she grew old, and one night died quietly at home in her sleep. I remember my father being absolutely heartbroken, but as I watched him weep and openly mourn his loss, I learned some valuable lessons about acknowledging grief and memorializing a cherished animal companion.

What follows is the content of the clipping I found tucked inside his book that day: the eulogy my father wrote for his dog, which was printed in the obituary section of his town's local newspaper in July of 1971:

An Obituary for a Very Beloved Dog

by Harry E. Merritt, M.D.

Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts:

Moose Dog died, at 2:50 a.m. Tuesday, 6 July 1971.
She just . . . died: quietly in her sleep, 
with dignity--and at home among those she loved,
and who loved her.

There have always been dogs,
and classes of dogs,
that stand above the common herd:
the Collie frequently,
the Saint Bernard almost as a rule.

In keeping with her double-thoroughbred ancestry,
Moose exhibited (as it seems to us)
those traits of character held to be most admirable:
devoted loyalty, tested in a thousand night-time "alarums and excursions;"
patience, tried by hundreds of times of waiting for the unknown;
and--what is more important--a consistent
and enduring (because earned, and maintained)
self-respect and, there from, respect for others deserving it.

Gentleness she had,
such as is not known by those who clamor for attention,
or kill for the joy of killing;
hers too was a keen sense of "duty,
order, self-restraint, obedience, discipline,"
 reminiscent of Kipling's Scottish steamship engineer, McAndrew;
and dignity so admirable as to be almost humbling . . .

So it was that she brought a strong sense of security,
and great peace of mind,
into our home--and often enough,
though not so often as she desired,
brought deep warmth and affection into our lives.

It would be easy to say,
"There will never be another dog like dear, good Moose."
But that's nonsense . . .
because as long as love,
in its broadest and best meaning exists,
just so long will there be good dogs, and good people -
and all of them good for each other.

We're sorry to tell you that you'll never see Moose again.
But we are glad to thank you,
who knew and admired her so much,
for her having had so many friends.

As a grief counselor, I know this piece stands as a fine example of one man's efforts to pay tribute to a cherished friend. As my father's daughter, I now know where I first learned how important it is to memorialize our companion animals when we lose them, and to acknowledge and honor the important role they played in our lives. I shall always be grateful to my dear father for that, and for so much more than that.

My father at his favorite fishing camp, with his beloved Moose

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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH


  1. So true. Memorializing the loss of a pet might seem odd, but I'm sure it helps a lot.

  2. It only seems odd to those who haven't experienced the loss of a tremendous relationship with a pet. To those who have, we understand.

  3. Beautiful memorial of Moose. What a gentle human being he must have been.


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