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Vito (left) and Carmela (right) before their passing.

Students, staff reminisce on cherished departed pets

Not to be confused with Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road, the Rainbow Bridge is a path with a more solemn purpose. Created by author Deborah Barnes in 2015, Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day is a day to honor the memory of cherished pets who have passed on, according to a Newswire news release.

Since its launch, Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day has become a nationally acknowledged holiday. Celebrated annually on August 28, the day Barnes’ cat Mr. Jazz passed away, people fondly remember their pets who have passed on.

“(The day is) a time to remember those pets we have lost with love and happiness,” Barnes said in the news release.

This intention was not in vain.Though August 28 has come and gone, the memory of a lost loved one lives forever. Kitty Crino, a sophomore studying retail and fashion merchandising, keeps the memory of her dog Vito alive with a large oil painting of him above her fireplace.

“That’s just like his little altar,” she said. “He’s the best.”

Crino grew up with two Jack Russell terriers, Vito and Carmela, who have both passed — technically. Around five years after Vito died, her family got another dog, Leonardo, and they went to a pet psychic.

“[The pet psychic] told us that Leonardo was Vito reincarnated, and when I first heard that I just burst out in tears,” Crino said. “I feel like I have a special connection with my newer dog, Leonardo, because of hearing and believing that.”

In addition to Vito’s portrait, Crino’s family has pictures of Vito and Carmela on display and keeps their ashes in handmade urns. Her dad also has a keychain with Carmela’s collar and name on it.

Carmela was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and though her passing was not a surprise, it still took a toll on Crino’s family.

“I knew that she was going to a better place; she was going to be able to run around with Vito again,” Crino said. “It was more just sad for my dad, being [she was] like his best friend.”

A study published in the National Library of Medicine, titled “Pet Humanisation and Related Grief,” stated pet loss could produce effects in people similar to those caused by losses like that of a spouse, a child, health or a job.

Eileen Marsal Koch, LPCC-S, a staff counselor for Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), wrote in an email that she could relate to the study’s findings “as a professional and a person who loves animals.”

Marsal Koch’s family has lost three rescue dogs due to natural causes.

“My family and I definitely grieved the loss of [those] dogs, as we considered them part of our family,” she wrote in the email. “Dogs can provide us with unconditional love — that can sometimes be hard to find from people.

The Humane Society of the United States echoes Marsal Koch’s sentiment, stating that “animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love. … It is [OK] to grieve when [one’s] pet dies.”

Coping with the death of a pet looks different for everyone, and so does the grief process. However, The Humane Society said finding ways to cope can bring one “closer to the day when memories bring smiles instead of tears.”

Kate Dennis, a sophomore studying sports management, had two schipperke dogs growing up named Sam and Lex.

“[Sam passing away] was really hard for me, just because he was around my entire life,” Dennis said. “The house was really quiet once we lost him, but he really brought our family together.”

Dennis has many favorite memories with Sam, such as going out in the snow together and getting “pup cups” from Dairy Queen. Her family commemorates Sam with pictures and the keeping of his ashes. They also have a new schipperke named Joy.

 “Every life event of my childhood, I think of him,” she said

Both Crino and Dennis’s families made the decision to get new dogs after their’s passed.• 

“This can help ease the loss of a beloved pet,” Marsal Koch wrote in an email. “For other people, this might not be the solution.”

The Human Society’s advice is to not rush into the decision. Take the time to mourn and consider if the time is right.

According to Marsal Koch, students who have experienced pet loss can contact CPS at (740) 593-1616 to process the loss of a pet with a professional. Though there is no dedicated pet loss support group at Ohio University, she provided this website with hotlines and online resources.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know about [Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day],” Crino said. “I’m so glad that I do now.”


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