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Keep the memory of a beloved pet alive by helping others

Pet owners are no strangers to loss—many have shared a bond with a special animal who has since passed. While you hold those memories close, maybe you’ve felt a need to honor that relationship beyond the photos or other reminders you keep. But how?

If you’re like me, you regularly get appeals from animal welfare organizations in your inbox or by U.S. mail. So many pleas and each one seems to tug at the heartstrings. What can you do?

Offer your personal assistance. Volunteers are often needed at fundraising or awareness activities, to help clean cages or to feed homeless pets, or to socialize animals so they, too, can find their forever homes.

Gather friends who also have lost a pet over the years. Have T-shirts made featuring photos of those pets and create a team to participate in annual charity fundraising walks.

Another gift given in memory of a pet that is always appreciated is money. Donations of $5, $10, or $25 add up when many contribute or contribute often. But to which group, which plea? Here are some ideas to help you narrow the field:

Check to see where the money goes.

With a little online research, you can learn more about your intended charity to ensure your donation will be used efficiently. Find out how much goes for education and outreach, administration, programs, and fundraising.

Among groups that provide data on the financial health, accountability, and transparency of many larger charities are CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

Choose local or national groups.

Did your pet come from unusual circumstances such as a rescue or raid? National groups use donations to help change laws through eye-opening investigations and outreach.

Or maybe you prefer a local group where you can stop in and drop off your donation. There, you can see the needs firsthand, learn how your donation can help, get a feel for how the organization operates, and, sometimes even a sense about its viability, since good intentions do not always turn out to be good outcomes.  

Find a connection to your pet. 

For example:

  • Do you have a particular group to thank for finding your pet? Help them help others. Some organizations offer the opportunity to buy a brick or plaque on which your pet can be memorialized with remaining funds used for the group’s needs.
  • Aid the cause that fits your pet’s backstory. If your pet was part of a feral litter, support groups that provide free or low-cost spays and neuters. If your pet was abused, help groups that deliver animals from crisis and into care.
  • If a friend or family member has been helped by a service, military, or law enforcement animal, donate to organizations that help those animals.
  • If your pet battled health issues, consider a donation to help pay for veterinary care of the pets of those in need.
  • If you enjoy a safe place to live with your pet, consider supporting groups that help the pets of the homeless, for whom a pet might be their only friend.
  • If a relative had a pet who provided great companionship throughout his or her senior years, donate to a group that helps with veterinary bills for the elderly poor or finds homes for senior pets.

When you think of your beloved pet, remember what many over the years have suggested: You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward.

Maureen Blaney Flietner, an award-winning freelance writer, photographer and artist, has been “mom” to several dogs, cats, and horses over the years.


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