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Of course, it's important to remember that giving a pet the same name as a former one does not guarantee the same spirit or personality. Los Angeles' Adina Reyter describes how her husband grew up with a Springer Spaniel named Charlie, whom the family adored but who passed away after only two years. They bought the exact same dog — in theory, anyway — and named him Charlie, too. “The new dog was insane,” she says. “It bit my husband and destroyed their house. They literally had to throw deli meat before they left the house or it would bite them. Needless to say, it was a traumatic experience for them.”
Humans aren’t the only ones who mourn lost animal companions. Sometimes fellow pets seem to feel sadness, too. To honor her cat, The Mish, who passed away after almost 18 years, Hollywood’s Ali Goldstein saved one toy, a plush blue fish. But it wasn’t just for her own comfort. “We chose that toy because Clementine, our Siberian Husky, would always steal [it] from The Mish's toy basket and put it in her own bed,” Goldstein recalls. “Right after The Mish passed, Clem kept going into the room where [the cat] bed was and looking for her and would continue to steal the fish. We sensed that she was experiencing the loss, too, so thought she might like to have it.” Goldstein also refrained from washing the toy so it would continue to smell like her cat for her dog’s sake.
As for the bulk of the stuff owners accumulate with pets, some people like to keep it and reuse it, so as not to be wasteful. Others give it all away, making generous donations. According to Dr. La Jeunesse, unless there is an infectious disease involved, either choice is just fine. (There are also potential factors to consider when reusing a litterbox, for example, which may smell like a previous cat and turn a new cat off. It should also be noted that, typically, medications and medical supplies for the deceased pet should not be given to another pet owner, and many shelters are not able to accept them.)
Goldstein took The Mish’s two cat beds, travel case, bucket of toys, wooden house for her litterbox, excess food and nice bowls to a no-kill shelter near her office, where The Mish herself was rescued at 6 weeks old. “For us, the thought of reusing [the stuff] didn't make sense, and saving it seemed morbid and also a bit cruel to Clementine, who didn't understand why The Mish wasn't there,” she explains. “We figured that if we cleaned out her stuff, Clem wouldn't torture herself as much, looking for her old friend.”
Having kept the one toy and given the rest away, Goldstein also planted a tree “to signify rebirth” in The Mish’s honor, another way to mourn a pet in a giving manner. “The tree symbolized something new and beautiful coming from this sad experience and honor[ed] her life,” Goldstein says, proving that, whether we rename our pets, keep their favorite items or give their stuff away, their memories live on.
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