All dogs special in the eyes of their owners

Mourning owners can buy walkway bricks that commemorate the lives of their beloved, departed pets.

Diane White

Pet owners shared memories of their four-legged friends at the fifth annual Pet Remembrance Ceremony in the Nestlé Purina Memories Garden, located on the grounds of the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul.

The garden provides space for pet owners to spend time with pets being treated at the nearby animal hospital on campus.

Many who spend time at the garden buy bricks to commemorate their pets. The bricks are placed on a pathway that runs through the garden.

Bill James donated a brick last year in honor of Baron, his 13-year-old golden retriever, which said, “Baron Buddy My Best Friend Love, Bill.” He attended this year’s ceremony, as well.

After doctors diagnosed Baron with heart cancer, James decided to euthanize the dog across from the garden on the lawn.

“I told a story that made a few people laugh Ö about when I flew Baron out to California,” James said, remembering the dog’s confusion in tasting the ocean’s salt water.

Proceeds from the bricks, which range in cost from $250 to $500, go to the school, garden maintenance and to what James called phenomenal pet care.

Some bricks are donated to pet patients by classes of veterinary students and others to companion animals. A special section honors police dogs.

At this year’s ceremony, the College of Veterinary Medicine dedicated a brick to the newly merged Humane Society in the Twin Cities area, which united three organizations in January.

Janelle Dixon, chief executive officer of the Humane Society, said the merger includes five locations and will increase the quality of care given to animals.

Barbara Ryan, a Humane Society representative, walked Dolly, an abandoned six-year-old beagle-basset hound mix.

The veterinary school got in touch with the Buffalo, Minn., Humane Society to invite them, Ryan said. It was her and Dolly’s first time at the event.

Jeffrey Klausner, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke during the ceremony of the joint effort between the school and the Humane Society to save animals and strengthen the human-animal bond.

“My dog’s a mutt Ö all dogs are special,” he said. “Regardless of the breed Ö 6 to 8 million animals enter the shelter and 3 to 4 million are adopted.”

Jeannine Moga, director of social work within the veterinary school, said a strong bond is characteristic among many owners and their pets.

“It’s as difficult to lose an animal as it is to lose any other family member,” she said.

Moga encourages people to participate in the ceremony, but not necessarily immediately after a pet’s death.

“It’s good for the staff and students here Ö to acknowledge the patients we helped,” she said. “It’s hard for us to lose them, too.”

Loss is something Melissa Cohen-Silberman has dealt with as a volunteer at the school and as a pet owner.

She and her husband Sheldon Silberman, came to the ceremony, where they dedicated a brick to their three Poodles.

Silberman held Tiger, the couple’s current Poodle, while he spoke of their two past.

“I married into Fella,” he said, later recalling a time he gave the dog mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Their second dog, Kirby, was treated at the University pet hospital for a disorder that inhibited him from producing red blood cells.

He lived many more healthy years after being treated at the hospital, Silberman said, before the couple decided to euthanize.

Silberman came home from work early the day Kirby was set to be euthanized to spend time with him in the backyard.

Silberman said the dog looked sick, swayed between his owner’s legs and died at his feet.

“He knew we were going to let him go Ö there was no questioning,” he said. “He let us off the hook.”