Making memories with your dog

Gaston standing on agility ramp during an enrichment session at Canterbury rehoming centre

If you know your dog is approaching their twilight years or nearing the end of their life, you might like to choose an activity or two from the below so you and your dog can make some very special memories together, which you can cherish forever.

It is very important to discuss the topic of euthanasia with your vet so they can advise you on your dog’s condition, and the process involved. Many of the activities below won’t be suitable for all dogs, so please share your ideas with your vet first, so they can help select what your individual dog may be suitable for and enjoy.

There are lots of health conditions commonly seen in dogs towards the end of their life which means these activities may not be suitable. However, some dogs may be currently healthy enough to enjoy them, depending on their diagnosis and veterinary advice.

Professional Photos

If your dog is healthy enough to enjoy this, consider asking the photographer if they can come to you, or if you can go to your dog’s favourite local location.

Having professional photos, like those taken by Pawtrait, that capture the true spirit of your dog will be something sentimental that you can treasure forever. These photos can be hung around the house, made into jewellery, or even used to model a tattoo off. 

Tasty Treats

If their digestive system is healthy, you could consider baking them dog friendly pupcakes.

As humans, we use cake to mark special occasions like birthdays, retirement parties, or any event that is of significance. Dog-friendly cake can also be used to celebrate the wonderful life you and your dog have enjoyed together, and they will be very thankful for the tasty treat!

Choose Their Own Toy

Speak to your local pet shop and ask if they might consider lining up some size appropriate toys for your dog to choose from.

If they’re not up to the journey, perhaps you could buy them a few toys and let them choose their favourite at home. Choice is enriching for dogs and watching them decide can be enriching for owners too.

Watch the Sunrise/Sunset Together

There is something very special about watching the sun rise or set for the day and bringing your dog can turn this everyday event into a very special moment.

Bring their favourite bed or cushion and enjoy the beauty of nature together.

Watch an Animal Movie Together

Some dogs can find it enriching to see other dogs or animals on the big screen. It could be a classic movie like Beethoven, or even a nature documentary that piques their interest, but whatever you choose to watch, make sure there are plenty of their favourite things to keep them occupied! Provide them with lots of enrichment whilst you watch a movie. 

Get Arty

This can be done by adding small blobs of pet friendly paint onto a canvas and covering it in several layers of cling film.

Ensure the layers of cling film covers the paint entirely and add some (xylitol free) peanut butter or another safe smearable substance (perhaps tinned dog food or dog friendly pate) over the top for them to lick, ensuring their tongue cannot make contact directly with the paint.

Hold the ‘treat’ and let your dog engage (or not) at their own pace and hopefully, you will have a masterpiece to cherish forever.

Please note, this may not be suitable for ‘enthusiastic eaters’ so only engage in this if you think your dog will be likely to lick, rather than bite into the smeared food.

Have a Doggie Date at Home

You have spent most of your time at home with your dog, and so this loving environment might just be their favourite place in the world. Setting up a doggie date can be something as simple as filling the garden with toys/paddling pools/dog friendly treats, or even setting up a ‘sniffari’ with fun smells that bring your dog on a tour of their favourite spots in the home.  

If your dog isn’t able for this, then just your presence in the same room can be rewarding enough for them.

Make a Memory Box

Take a clipping of their fur, one of their favourite toys, and leave space for their collar and tag and maybe a scrap of their favourite blanket etc. and get a keepsake box to keep everything in. 

Make a Scrapbook

When you feel up to it, print off your favourite photos and write stories underneath each one. Where you were when the photo was taken, why you love it so much etc. As time passes, our memories fade and it is lovely to be able to open a scrapbook every so often and smile at the bond you shared with your dog and laugh at any mischief they may have gotten up to.

A Lasting Tribute

When your dog passes on, you may like to leave a lasting tribute to them in our Legacy Garden. 

Visit Their Favourite Places

Speak to your vet and if your dog is physically happy and able, consider a trip to the beach, a walk in the woods, or a local park your dog loves.

If your dog is not able for this, why not go to these places and bring home items they can sniff, like pinecones or shells so they’re still getting to experience the sense of being there? Use containers with holes in the lids if you think there’s a risk your dog might try and eat what you bring home.

Renting a Dog Park

Depending on your dog’s condition, it’s likely that your dog won’t be able to run around a dog park but if your vet is happy that they would be physically capable without any discomfort, renting a dog park for just you and your dog can give you the privacy you may need during this difficult time.

A simple search on Google should hopefully bring up a park to rent in your local area.

Dog Friendly Hotel Stay

If your dog is okay to travel, consider staying at a dog friendly hotel, even one close to you for some special bonding time.

Whether it’s exploring a new environment, or even snuggling up together, a hotel break will create lasting memories. If your dog prefers to avoid the busy nature of hotels, then a camping or glamping trip might be a nice option instead.

Don’t forget to bring any medication your dog needs and everything you may need to make your dog comfortable.

However you choose to spend the precious time you and your dog have left together, please ensure to take care of yourself too at this difficult time. Planning and participating in a doggie ‘bucket list’ can be very emotional. You may need to take time away from your daily activities to spend with your dog in their final days, or it may be comforting to you to have a support system around you. Please ensure you discuss any plans with your vet to make sure your dog will cope with these activities and enjoy them.

Please remember to be kind to yourself as you dedicate this time to ensuring your dog’s last memories are filled with love and kindness.  

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