Life Lessons I Learned From My Cat

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Hi everyone —

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. Unfortunately it has been a hectic — and frankly extremely sad — few weeks here at In Brief Legal Writing Services. As many of you already know, our mascot, Eli “The Cat” Bogdanovic, passed away a week ago at age 13.

He was fine when I got back from London — or at least he seemed fine. But during the first week of June we noticed he no longer wanted any kibble, which was highly unusual. Gradually he lost interest in his food altogether, but was still drinking. After a harrowing weekend, I took him to the veterinarian on Monday, June 10.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat. 1/1/06 – 6/17/19

To make a long story short, his initial assessment showed evidence of significant dental issues and alarmingly elevated kidney values. He was hospitalized for four days and I visited him twice during that time. We brought him home on Friday, June 14 and he seemed to be doing well. But the next morning, he made it clear that he no longer wanted any medical intervention, even here at home.

So we made the incredibly difficult decision to let him leave us on his terms here at home, with us, where he knew he was loved. And that’s exactly what he did.

Life won’t be the same without him.

He was more than a mascot for my business. He was my best friend. He never let met down. He was a great listener. In fact, he was my officially unofficial “therapy cat.” He was a great teacher. I learned so much from him. I learned:

  1. Don’t give up on people, no matter how many times you’ve been betrayed or how badly they let you down.
  2. Once you do find someone you can trust completely, you’ll realize everything else was worth it.
  3. A true friend will always stand up for you no matter what.
  4. Live life on your own terms.
  5. When all else fails, turn on the charm.
  6. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes.
  7. Loyalty is one of the most precious commodities on earth.
  8. Those that you love most fiercely are the ones who need it most.
  9. If you get a second chance at anything, make the most of it.
  10. Life is wonderful, but it is incredibly unpredictable and incredibly short, so make the most of every day.

Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Burial Or Cremation? Planning For A Pet’s Death

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Last week, I did a post about a woman who had a memorial service for her dog. The question I asked at the time — which none of you felt compelled to answer — is whether it is appropriate, or whether it is over the top?

Today I’m posing a different, but very difficult question. What have you done when a pet has died in the past, or what do you plan to do after the death of the dog or cat you now have? Will you bury him (or her) under a shade tree in the backyard? Will you have him (or her) laid to rest in a pet cemetery? Will you request his or her ashes and keep them in an urn?

Speaking from personal experience

As many of you know, I had two cats before I adopted Eli (or more accurately, he adopted me). Tiger was the first. She was a small American shorthair/Siamese mix (as far as anyone could tell). She came into my life by chance when I was 10 — and we were only supposed to keep her until she got rid of the mice in our house. She died peacefully in my lap 17 years later, at the ripe old age of 20 — give or take.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot, Eli.
Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

We wrapped her in her favorite blanket and tucked her into a shoe box (yes, she really was that small when she passed) with some of her favorite toys. Then we dug a hole in her favorite spot in the backyard, and that’s where we laid her to rest in a quiet, but dignified manner.

That was more than 20 years ago. Today our old house and the backyard are gone — replaced by ugly, expensive townhouses that are way too big for the tiny little corner lot perched atop a hill. I hope Tiger’s ghost comes back to haunt anyone dumb enough to live there, but I guess only time will tell.

Anyhow, Heals — a big, fearless orange and white tabby with a penchant for finding trouble — came into my life several months after Tiger died. I hadn’t really been thinking about getting another cat at the time, but a friend found and couldn’t keep her. Thinking about her being sent to the local pound — and an unknown fate — broke my heart. So I agreed to take her.

Heals, named after my favorite NHL goalie, quickly became my best friend and constant companion through marriage, divorce, and multiple moves. In September 2007, approximately three months after she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, I took Heals to the vet and did the hardest, but best thing for her. Her suffering ended on a cold, steel table in a Virginia veterinarian’s office. She was approximately 14 years old, and I’d had for 11 years.

Today her ashes remain in a small but beautifully crafted wood box. I keep it on the bookshelves in my office, along with the copy of her paw print taken by the vet. I take comfort in knowing that — in a way she is still with me — and she is at peace.

A search for the perfect urn

Apparently I was lucky. Another woman, who detailed her experience after her dog’s death in a recent article was decidedly less satisfied with the plain, poorly crafted wooden urn that initially contained her dog’s remains.

“My dog was exquisite, a cantankerous bundle of love and light. She was not a default font. She also wasn’t a teardrop urn with paw prints running along the side. She wasn’t a box with a ceramic dog on top that looked nothing like her,” Jen A. Miller wrote on self.com. She wasn’t a cheap bracelet that held her ashes either. She was my dog, and she was dead. She deserved a better final resting place than that ugly box.”

Miller’s quest to find the perfect urn for her beloved pup finally ended when she found a couple that handcrafts wooden pet urns. The urns are sold on the online marketplace, etsy.com.

“When I opened the urn, it smelled like my grandfather’s woodshop. He loved Emily, who was a rambunctious terrier but would sit quietly and calmly on his lap when he asked during the last years of his life,” Miller wrote.

Pet cemeteries and other options…

In her article, Miller also delves into the inception and expansions of pet cemeteries in the United States. She also mentions taxidermy as another way to memorialize pets — although she doesn’t seem very fond of the idea. Truthfully, neither am I. In fact, I would never consider it.

Come to think of it, I would never consider tossing my dead pet in the dump, either. Or donating its body to science.

Frankly, both options make me cringe.

Is A Memorial Service For A Pet Appropriate?

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to blogging three days per week is that there is a never-ending quest for interesting material. Fortunately I signed up for google alerts a long time, which makes things a little bit easier.

And thanks to google alerts, I recently came across a detailed article about a woman who arranged a full-blown memorial service — for her dog. Personally, I think it is completely over the top, if not a little bit crazy. But I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Rest in peace, Angus

As reported by the Associated Press, Suzanne Shaw organized the service for her rat terrier, Angus, when it became apparent that his time here was coming to an end. But it wasn’t easy. In fact, she couldn’t find a funeral home to accommodate her request until she contacted Michael Farrow at Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Farrow initially suggested an outdoor ceremony at a setting such as a park or Shaw’s backyard. But she made it clear that she had something else in mind — and Farrow decided to help.

“We talked and after a little while he started to work with me,” Shaw told the media.

In the end, Shaw, family, friends and even complete strangers honored Angus at a memorial service that included live bagpipe renditions of “Danny Boy,” and “Amazing Grace.” Rev. Bruce Plumley, who works at the funeral home, presided at the service.

“A pet is different for each and every one of us and holds a special place in our lives,” Plumley reportedly said during the service. “We often don’t realize until they are ill or gone just how much they had been loved and have given love to us. For many of us our pets are a treasure, and when we lose them, they have left a place that cannot be filled.”

Even so, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), says mourning the loss of the pet is a unique and personal experience that isn’t always understood.

“Some people still don’t understand how central animals can be in people’s lives, and a few may not get why you’re grieving over ‘just a pet,'” the HSUS says.

But Dr. Shaw (yes, she holds a Ph.D.) has a message for any “haters.”

“I didn’t have a Go Fund Me for this,” she told the media. “I’m paying for it and it’s what I want to do. They have their opinions, thank you, but they need to stay in their own lane. I do know that people might have a reaction to that but this is private … I’m burying my child, that’s what I’m doing.”

Tips for coping with the death of a pet

According to the HSUS, pet owners struggling to cope with the loss of a beloved companion animal may feel isolated and alone. However, the organization notes that there are “many forms of support.” These include counseling services, hotlines, local or online groups, books, videos, and magazine articles specifically devoted to helping people grieving the loss of a pet.

The HSUS also provides the following tips:

  • Acknowledge your grief and don’t be afraid to express it.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who can help.
  • Put your feelings in writing.
  • Ask your veterinarian or local humane society for information about local support groups or referrals to such groups.
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet.

You can learn more here.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.