September 4, 2001

Pet Memorial Fund Helps Celebrate Life of Pets

Add Bruno, NuNu, Kelsey, and Costello to the list of benefactors of a memorial fund at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County. Their memories will live on forever, as will hundreds of others with names like Tuffy, Terra, Puddin, and Whiskey, through the Library�s Pet Memorial Fund.

Grief, confusion, anger, guilt and depression are all typical responses to the death of a loved one. Only recently, however, have researchers come to realize that a pet may also be considered a loved one and a family member, and that its death may often evoke similar and equally intense emotions. The Pet Memorial Fund is one way to help deal with those feelings of loss.

The first known fund of its kind, the Pet Memorial Fund was the brainchild of a Library staff member. When Eugenia Rhein�s dog Trixie died in 1960, Miss Rhein, who served as the Administrative Secretary to four of the Library�s Directors from 1935-1979, decided there should be a way to remember her pet and those of many others. Through her efforts the Pet Memorial Fund was established, and since then, thousands of dollars have been donated to purchase hundreds of books in remembrance of beloved pets.

Anyone contributing to the fund (the minimum contribution is $15) can specify if they want the book to be part of the Main Library or a branch collection. Books are purchased on various subjects for children and adults. Each book is marked with a special gift plate inscribed with the name of the pet, the owner, and the donor.

A memorial book that lists the pet�s name, species, owners, and donor is kept for every pet. The memorials are housed in a special display at the Main Library, and each donor and pet owner also receives a letter of acknowledgement. Anywhere from six to ten pet memorials are donated each month, honoring mostly dogs and cats, but memorials have also been made in the name of birds, horses, hamsters, and even gerbils.

When Nancy Greenlee had to make the decision to have her beloved Sheltie dog, Kelsey, put to sleep the day after Christmas 1999, it was comforting to know that a close friend had made a donation to the fund. �It really helped to know that someone else cared enough to remember Kelsey. It also helps you deal with the loss knowing that a book with his name in it would circulate to dog lovers all over the county,� she said.

Children�s librarian Maria Bach was touched when co-workers at the Monfort Heights Branch Library made a memorial donation in honor of her beagle Terra. They purchased several books in the Shiloh series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, about a lost beagle and the boy who finds him. �It was difficult to give up Terra after having him nine years, but knowing the people I worked with cared enough to make a memorial in his name was really touching,� said Ms. Bach. �I think this is a nice way for others to express to a pet owner that they understand how deep the loss is.�

The fund has become so well known that several veterinarians distribute brochures about it at their clinics, and several animal hospitals (Grady Veterinary Hospital, Oak Crest Animal Hospital, and Miami Township Animal Hospital) regularly make donations to the Library when any of their customers have to euthanize their pets. Other libraries around the country have followed suit with their own pet memorial programs, including Kenton County right across the river from Cincinnati, and Dallas Public Library.



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