The Cat Hospital’s Memory Garden Helps Ease the Pain of Loss
By Greg Stemm
For anyone who has endured the pain of losing a feline friend who has been part of their life for many years, the Memory Garden at The Cat Hospital can be a touching tribute and a way to bring closure to the relationship.
The Memory Garden is nestled in a shady location where hundreds of rocks … each one a hand painted tribute to a beloved cat are displayed. Since artist Lori Renshaw got together with Cats On Park Street animal hospital, over over six years ago, the Garden has grown to more than 500 rocks. Each is as individual and colorful as the pet to which they pay tribute.
In among the hundreds of brightly colored pieces of art is a special rock bearing the name of “Sammy” a Maine Coon Cat that once belonged to Renshaw. Renshaw was introduced to the cat hospital through a friend when Sammy was very ill several years ago. Renshaw says Wilson’s experienced veterinary skill give him an additional year of life.
“It took me over a year to do Sammy’s rock,” Renshaw remembers. “It was emotional and hard for me to do this one last thing to bring closure and say goodbye.” Now she visits the Garden regularly and fondly remembers her friend every time she sees his rock.
Renshaw who suffers from Lupus, finds the experience of painting the rocks physically therapeutic and nothing less than a spiritual act of kindness. She accepts no payment for her work. If someone insists upon making a donation she gives it to the Cat Hospital or to a “no kill” shelter. Renshaw paints a rock for each client with the cat’s name, date of passing and an imprint of a cat carefully chosen from her collection of stamps. She says she tries to capture the spirit and the essence of each cat’s personality in the way she designs their rock.
The cat hospital donates the rocks, paint and other materials. Every month or two the veterinary nurses in the office drive to the rock quarry and hand pick the rocks and deliver them to Renshaw.
The service is available both to clients of the Cat Hospital as,well·as to ‘Others. Each individual has the option of keeping their hand painted rock or adding it to the Memory Garden collection. Most elect to have the rocks displayed in the garden.
“I have to say I am truly honored to be a part of this,” said Heatwole. “It makes all of us on staff feel good when we see someone come early to visit the garden or even see them after hours. Everyone takes care of the garden, brushing off leaves and twigs as they fall on the rocks. Even our landscapers seem to pay special attention to it. It really affects a lot of people emotionally.”
Renshaw says it has been an evolution process in how she crafts the rocks and you can see difference in her earlier rocks from 2002 or 2003 and those she does today. “I’ve learned how to seal them better, although my early ones are still holding up pretty well,” she notes.
Both Renshaw and Wilson say they understand that most cat lovers need more than just an “I’m sorry” and a pat on the back when they lose a cat. They say that the memory garden helps to preserve precious memories and enhance the human animal bond for those people who need time, a place and something special to help them through the grieving process.
“The atmosphere both inside and outdoors was so soothing,” said Sherman. “I immediately felt that I was in a place of healing, not just a place of business. I feel very strongly about the spirit of all souls. The memory garden reinforces my belief in the after life and reassures me that my Teddy will be remembered.”
“I feel very privileged to have been able to provide this kind of emotional and spiritual closure for so many people,” said Renshaw. “I feel the loss of each of them. I like to call my creations my ‘rock stars’ in their tribute. ”
The Cat Hospital on Park
Donna L. Repeta, D.V.M.