For many, the loss of a beloved four-legged friend can be one of life's most difficult experiences.
With that in mind, the Ontario SPCA unveiled a memorial garden at its Midland & District Animal Centre Tuesday afternoon to coincide with World Pet Memorial Day.
The garden, which was made possible through donor support, dedicated volunteers and the expertise and contributions of the Midland Garden Club, is located on the Midland & District Animal Centre's property and marks the site of a cemetery where members of the public have laid their beloved pets to rest.
One of those interred at the scenic location is Yukon, a golden-coloured horse that once belonged to former Midland resident Nancy Hull.
Hull, who also has a number of other pets buried at the grassy overlook, says she’s been a volunteer and donor with the OSPCA since the age of eight or nine.
“From a young age I learned about respecting animals. It used to anger me that people could mistreat them,” says Hull, who now resides in Barrie and points out the site serves an important need.
“Some people live in apartments and have no place to bury their pets. And others move to a new place. This allows them to always have a place to visit their pets.”
A walk through the grounds fully illustrates the love and very special bond that exists between area residents and their pets.
There are remembrance markers for ‘Trixie Cipollone Our Sunshine,’ ‘Cleo Our Baby’ and ‘Our Loveable Boomer’ along with graves commemorating dozens of other pets, including Lucky, Toba, Pepper, Little Ba and Skipper.
“The bond that people have with their pets is so incredibly special, which makes it so incredibly painful when they are gone,” says Robin Elliott, community development coordinator with the Midland & District Animal Centre.
Adds Midland shelter manager Caytlynn Croisier: “Our goal was to create a beautiful and welcoming spot where someone can come and reflect on the happy times they’ve spent with their furry friends.”
Elliott says the gardens are the result of a lot of hard work by volunteers and donors, including the important guidance and contributions by members of the Midland Garden Club.
“This is an exceptional space to celebrate the lives and think about our amazing pets,” Elliott says.
Garden Club president Kay Hawkins says about six volunteers helped get the garden back up to snuff.
“The (garden) bed was a disaster,” Hawkins says. “There was so much crabgrass growing all over the place because it hadn’t been tended to in a long time.”
Kate Hicks is the OSPCA’s manager of planned giving.
“This is an important little spot for a lot of people,” says Hicks, noting the tranquil setting appeals to all animal lovers as a place to reflect and recall the good times they shared with their pets. “I’m very happy we have this.”
To help those dealing with the grief of losing a pet, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has partnered with the Robbie Dean Counselling Centre to present a free, online pet loss support group.
The group meets virtually on the second Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The sessions are free and are facilitated by a certified grief counsellor.
Beloved companions can also be honoured by making a tribute donation to the Ontario SPCA in their honour. These tribute gifts can provide comfort to someone who is grieving by giving them the knowledge an animal in need is being helped in honour of their furry friend.
For more information about the support group and to learn about making a tribute gift, click here.