Pa. — The death of a loved one is never easy and, in
fact, can be quite overwhelming. And it’s not just the
people in our lives we grieve when they’re gone.
with the loss of a dog, cat or other family pet you’ve
lived with and loved for years can be extremely hard,
too, especially since there’s usually no public way
for bereaved pet owners to share their pain.
doesn’t really give us ways to grieve our pets,"
said animal artist and writer Bernadette Kazmarski of
Carnegie, Pa., who has rescued and served as a foster
mom to cats for 25 years. "But sharing grief is one
of the best ways to ease it."
Sunday, she and her good friend Deb Chebatoris aimed to
remedy that, with a pet memorial service at Melrose
Cemetery in Bridgeville. With the sun shining, more than
40 pet owners gathered under a large white tent
decorated with a garland of fall leaves and vases of
marigolds on the cemetery grounds to remember and
celebrate pets that have passed on.
service, which included written tributes, a picture
display and a dove release under clear blue skies, was
one of many such gatherings held across the U.S. in
honor of National Pet Memorial Day. Celebrated each year
on the second Sunday in September, the event was
established more than 40 years ago by the International
Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories in
recognition of the important role that pets have played,
and continue to play, in people’s lives.
ceremony marked the 12th year in a row that Chebatoris,
who owns Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation in Bridgeville,
has held the memorial service. Speakers included
veterinarian Mike Pensenstadler of Pleasant Valley
Veterinary Hospital in McMurray, Pa., who talked about
how to make euthanasia decisions, and Elizabeth Babcock,
a licensed clinical social worker who discussed the
this is a process that takes time," Babcock said,
and will have its ups and downs. But at the same time,
she cautioned, it shouldn’t be all-consuming.
make your pet’s death more important than their
life," she said. "You have to remember all the
she added, "is the price of admission for having a
opening the event to anyone dealing with grief over the
loss of a pet,. Chebatoris said she wanted to give
people a ritual that would help them to alleviate their
heartbreak, as well as a place where pet owners could
share their pain without fear of being scorned, gain
insights and find companionship. Or, as she told the
largely female crowd, "This is a safe place to cry
in the company of other families who feel loss as deeply
as you do."
cry they did, with more than a few attendees tearing up
when Chebatoris and Kazmarski took turns reading aloud
the heartwarming short stories they had written about
their pets. There were additional tears after a
candle-lighting ceremony and a dove release, with Celine
Dion’s "Fly" playing on loudspeakers, to
represent the release of deceased pets’ spirits.
just loved my dog so much, and knew I’d be in good
company," Jenny Buranovsky of Carnegie said of the
Welsh corgi-beagle mix Gracie, an Animal Friends rescue,
died on June 27.
honor the day on which so many across the country
gathered to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11,
Buranovsky wore a T-shirt naming all of the dogs who
helped rescue workers scour ground zero in New York City
Poness of Canonsburg, Pa., who lost his Shetland
sheepdog Zoe a year ago, agreed that the service helped
ease the grieving process.
got to remember the departure of our four-legged members
of our family with others," he said.
attended the event with his sister Tracie Poness of
Strabane, Pa., who was there to celebrate the life of
Buckley, a Humane Society rescue who died at age 16.
was a lot of good information, and others who
care," Poness said.
she said, provide so much unconditional love. The
memorial service "allows us to appreciate