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Pet Memorial Sunday 2013

the doves take off
The doves take off.

The second Sunday of September is designated as Pet Memorial Sunday by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories, and commemorating that day is important to friend and customer Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation (CCPC). She has hosted a ceremony on this day since 2005 dedicated to remembering our animal companions for families who have lost a pet.

“Our society does not normally have a ritual to help families transition through the loss of a pet. This event is an effort to meet that need,” said Chebatoris.

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. 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.  Grief after the loss of a cherished animal companion needs to be treated with respect.

“I am honored to continue hosting this ceremony,” Chebatoris says. “From past years’ thank you notes families have received healing from attending.”

tent with people at pet memorial ceremony
We gather on Pet Memorial Sunday.

This year’s ceremony

The ceremony is on Sunday, September 8, 2013 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Melrose Cemetery in Bridgeville.

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 speak on “The Joy of Pets”.

These speakers are followed by a reading of “Words of Tribute” written by pet owners who attend. Chebatoris 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,” Chebatoris remarks, “but limiting your remembrance to 50 words helps you to focus on the essential elements that made your pet special.” Families are also encouraged to bring a photo or memento of their pet to be displayed during the ceremony.

people touching the dove
People touching the dove.

After all the speakers and the readings and the candle-lighting ceremony, “we release a flock of white doves to symbolize our ability to let go of our precious companions,” Chebatoris explains.

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.

The Tribute Scroll

As a follow-up to the event, attendees are encouraged to offer a photo with their tribute to be included in the annual “Tribute Scroll”, a slideshow of photos and tributes with original musical accompaniment composed after each Pet Memorial Sunday since 2010. Each slideshow is added to her website for families to view as a memorial whenever they choose; to see these Tribute Scrolls, please visit

Please RSVP

For more information or to RSVP, please visit or call Deb at 412-220-7800 by Friday, September 6. If you wish to compose a tribute, please send that by Friday, September 6 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.

To read a write-up and see photos of the 2011 Pet Memorial Sunday celebration, visit the CCPC’s blog “Animus” and read “Pet Memorial Sunday 2011”.

. . . . . . .

The Joy of Pets

I’m always happy to speak on this topic. It’s focused on why we choose to live with animals, especially after a loss. Deb watched me over a period of years lose a number of cats, then gain a number of cats, then lose again, and decided I would probably have something valuable to say about loving and losing and loving again. In 2011 I spoke about losing all my senior cats in one year, and then losing Lucy, but that she brought me Mimi and her children. In 2012 I spoke about losing my two oldest kitties, Cookie and Kelly, in one year and though I’d just lost Kelly a month before I knew it had changed my relationship with cats forever.

This year I will speak about taking in Lakota and Emeraude knowing my relationship with them would be brief, and losing Lakota after six weeks but loving him nonetheless. Why do we take animals into our lives? Because we need them, and also because they need us, and we can’t fear to love for fear of loss.

Perhaps I’ll see you there. If not, my thoughts will be with my own losses, and all those I’ve read about in the past year.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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