Saying Goodbye to “Amber, Pamber, Peaches, Pumpkin, Pie” & 5 Ways to Pay Tribute to Your Beloved Pet

Saying Goodbye to “Amber

I call my friend Betty my “California Mom”. We met over seven years ago serving together at church. One of many reasons we bonded immediately is due to our love for dogs.  Neither of us would be offended if you call us crazy dog ladies, because quite frankly, the name fits.

Betty had adopted Amber from a lady who could no longer care for the precious pup.  Due to the color of her coat and many of us like to give our dogs endearing nicknames, she became “Amber, Pamber, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie”.  Betty became skilled at rambling off her full name the majority of the time. It was not until recent years that she became simply, Amber.

A few months ago, Betty started telling me how sick Amber was. She was not eating much and was losing weight at a rapid pace.

A trip to the vet detected problems with her liver.

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto/WebSubstance

Each time Betty would report to me of Amber’s worsening condition, my heart would sink. I simply could not talk to her about this subject. One of my dearest friends, and I changed the subject each time she brought it up. I knew how much she loved Amber and the unbearable hurt that was around the corner for her. It’s the day us animal lovers dread the most and I didn’t want to think about it.

On October 3rd, I awoke to a message from Betty informing me that Amber had died in my “sister” Robin’s arms just after midnight.

I envisioned the painful path that was unfolding for my “Mom”.   She and Amber were inseparable and this sting of death was going to be devastating.

The strange part of it is that I speak with grieving families for a living yet I found I could not talk to Betty about her loss.  I responded to her message with my love and condolences but I refused to hear the pain that I knew would be in her voice. Yes, I felt like the worst friend ever.

Why is the loss of a pet so hard? I think there is the obvious, it’s unconditional love. Pets never say the wrong thing, never misunderstand us, and never expect an apology.  They are grateful for just a bowl of food, a pat on the head and a cuddle.

Dogs make life whole O'Connor BlogWe also spend more time with our pets than we do most people in our lives. No, I am not saying pets are more important than people! They are just more constant. In Betty’s case, she was able to take Amber to work and so she was with her beloved pup 24/7.

So how do we begin the grief journey when it comes to our animals? I have described a few ways below. It may or may not surprise you that paying tribute to our pets can be very similar to paying tribute to our relatives.

Have A CeremonyAs Neil O’Connor wrote in his previous post You Killed Lilly-Losing a Childhood Pet”, his father knew the importance of ceremony being a third generation Funeral Director.  Gather family members and friends to tell funny and heartwarming stories about your pet.

Write An ObituaryIt does not mean you are going to publish it in a newspaper, although stranger things have happened. But you could post it to your Facebook page or tuck it away in a special place.  Sitting down and writing out your memories is key to beginning the healing process.

Photo Courtesy of

Design A Miniature Grave MarkerWhether you have buried your pet in your yard or cremated him/her, you can design a miniature grave marker as a tribute.  Include a photograph and place it in a favorite spot in your yard to recall fond memories.

Custom Replica of Your PetThere are multiple companies who will design custom stuffed replicas of your pet if you submit a photograph but these felted ones are my favorite. Isn’t this just the cutest thing!? Have a look at their gallery by clicking here.

Adopt A New Pet This is my favorite option! Betty and I discussed it the other evening. She was concerned it was too soon. My reply to her was, “What if you had died?  Would you want Amber to be alone without anyone to take care of her?” Adopting a new pet is not an attempt to replace the one you have lost. The purpose of a new pet is to make your heart whole again.


Are you an animal lover who has experienced a loss such as Betty’s?

How did you pay tribute to your animal?

What did you do to fill the void?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Jeff Turner says:

    This is such a hard thing for many reasons. For some I have noticed a sense of guilt over the depth of their reaction to the death of a dog, cat or other pet that has become part of the family. I have heard them say things like, “This is so silly to feel this way” or “It’s not like it was a person”, because we should value people more. While I agree that “people” should be valued differently, the loss of a pet should not be trivialized or dismissed. We ought to be able to allow the depth of the emotion that shows up to be expressed and released without apology or guilt.

    We are made for connection and we are part of this creation. Thanks for the reminder that we have permission to have “little funerals” for those who have navigated life with us in powerful, though non-verbal, ways. Our pets can teach us many valuable life lessons, including how to grieve well.


    • Lori says:

      It is so true. I have heard people say exactly that, “It’s not like it was a person”. No it’s not a person, but it is a presence in your home. It is a lick on your face, a wag of their tail or whatever the ritual with your pet may be. It is a connection and a habit. As with any habit, especially one that brings joy, there is a sense of loss when there is change.

      We were made for relationships and connections and I whole heartedly believe pets fall within that realm. They can teach us much, including how to grieve.

      Thank you for reading and commenting……
      You are appreciated……

  2. Elsa says:

    I Love this post:) I feel the same way you do (Maybe not as extreme ;). Losing a pet is always such a hard loss that is felt deep in your heart. My saddest experience for me was when I was young. I remember getting ready to go to school one rainy morning and as I did every morning, went to say goodbye to our family dog. Our dog had been sick following a recent surgery he had and I wanted to see how he was feeling. When I went to him, I noticed that he was no longer breathing. This was the saddest moment for me as a child and I remember the feeling as it was yesterday. You are so right in that pets are our constant and unconditional love. They always know just the right way to cheer us up when we need it the most.

    • Lori says:

      Ooohhhh!! That is my worst fear, finding Max and Bella dead at home. I do not know if there is any “easier” way, but being euthanized at the vet seems to be the way I’ve always known.
      I’m definitely extreme in my love for my dogs, I totally admit it. I have become the person I used to laugh at. They truly have been my little lifesavers.
      I’m sorry you had to experience finding your dog when you were so young. That had to be devastating and hard to understand for a little girl.
      So, I think you and Julian need a dog!!
      Thank you for sharing your story…….

  3. Mark Adams says:

    Lori….thanks for your blog….I know you are surprised to read this but I too love dogs…my own….unfortunately the two dogs I have had have both been put down…..One of the saddest days in my life was when we took our family dog Suzy to be put down…tests had discovered cancer in her stomach and we followed the vets advice and said goodbye to Suzy….I wore sunglasses in to the vets office because I was crying like a baby when we said our final goodbyes….I do understand the grief that people go through when a pet dies…..

    • Lori says:

      I know you have to be a dog lover because I know your heart.
      Teasing me about my dogs has become something you are very skilled at.
      You do make me laugh when you make comments about them.

      I am sorry you had to experience all of the pain that came with taking Suzy to the vet that day. Plain and simple, losing a pet sucks! I know you, like my stepfather, can’t think about owning another dog because you want to avoid a repeat of what you went through with Suzy….

      Once a dog person, always a dog person…..someday you will make that leap again.

      Thanks reading and commenting, Brother!

  4. Patricia Kolstad says:

    Lori . . . thanks for this blog! I couldn’t believe this was coming, and it couldn’t have been at a more appropriate time. I spent this past Thursday to Monday babysitting my 3 granddaughters while my daughter and hubby were in San Francisco. Their family pet, a 14 year old cat named Phoebe Buffay, is in the throws of renal failure. Kristen took her to the vet just before she left for another round of fluids, brought her home and said, “Mom, I want her to die here. I don’t want to leave her at the vet. If something happens while we’re gone, have a ceremony and bury her in the back yard.” I felt a moment of panic, thinking, how will the girls react. I began to talk with my 12 year old granddaughter, Madi, and spoke about how sick Phoebe is, and that she may not make it through the week-end. We cried together, but talked about how Madi had become Phoebe’s “mom”. Phoebe slept with her, cried at her when she wanted to eat or go out in the backyard. I hated to see my granddaughter so upset, but the truth is always better than making excuses when things seem dire. Needless to say, I could not sleep those 3 nights that I was there. Phoebe’s breathing became very shallow, she wouldn’t eat, and only took little sips of water. After the first night, I called my neighbor, Danny, who owns a construction company, and asked if he would make a wooden box for me in case Phoebe died before Kristen got home from San Francisco. He was so sweet – created a small casket like box with a lid that could be screwed shut. He placed it behind the gate, so that the kids didn’t see it. I was so very grateful! Each night I prayed that if something happened to Phoebe, that I could be strong for my granddaughters, and explained clearly why Phoebe died, and how much we would miss her. I have to say that I was truly relieved when, on Monday morning Phoebe was still with us, and that Kristen and Jeff would be home soon. What I want to say is that Kristen was right when she wanted Phoebe to be buried at home. And that she wanted her girls to participate. I have had two sweet pets die . . both of them I had euthanized. I think now, if it would have been talked through, I would have had them stay at home. Thanks, Lori, for giving me an opportunity to express my feelings, and remember my own two pets, Brandy Girl and Moses, and talk about the sweet little cotton ball we called Phoebe Buffay!

    • Lori says:

      I am glad that this post was timely for you.
      It’s interesting, because over a week ago, I had written a completely different blog with different subject matter. Molly decided it was not what our readers would necessarily be looking for from us. Also, it was not one I wrote from the heart so it did not flow as this one did. (Coincidence that I changed to this topic at the last minute? You and I know there are no coincidences)
      It is a sad season of loss for pet owners who are close to me or close to those I love. Phoebe Buffay will be the fifth beloved animal to die in as many weeks for friends or family members of friends.

      I am so sorry Madi has to experience this loss. I am sorry for the entire family, but especially Madi since she has the special bond with Phoebe. I am grateful she had Grammy there to talk to her about what was about to occur and that you were prepared should something have happened before Kristen returned.

      Thank you for sharing your story and for encouraging other readers who may not know how to explain what is about to happen to their children or grandchildren. I am certain your comment will help many….


      • Patricia Kolstad says:

        Well . . . as a cat’s fate would have it . . Phoebe must be on her 9th life! I talked with Kristen this morning and she’s breathing better and eating a little more. I guess she’s saying to us “Don’t count me out yet . . . Christmas is coming!”

        • Lori says:

          Might I introduce Phoebe to a 99 year old named Mildred? They seem to belong to the same “Don’t count me out yet” club!

  5. Lori says:

    Thank you for sharing about the loss of your dog. My guess? You were concerned about how your mother was feeling so emotional and wanted to remain strong in order to take care of her. You’re a good guy, Tom.
    Thanks for the comment…….
    AKA “SHD”

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