Any ideas for a thoughtful gesture to a lady who lost her dog?
March 20, 2013 2:46 PM   Subscribe

A regular customer at the coffee-shop where I work just lost her dog. She is a lovely, somewhat lonely seeming older woman. She and her pup were attached at the hip and a familiar presence in the cafe every morning.

One day she came in with a crestfallen expression and told me the little dog was having minor strokes, and that she had a tumor growing around her aorta. About a week ago I found out from a coworker that she had just put the dog to sleep. I've seen the woman a few times since and she looks devastated.

I was thinking it would be nice if my coworkers and I did something to honor her loss but I'm not sure what. Would a card be too generic? Any ideas?
posted by timsneezed to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've sent cards to friends who have lost pets, they always seem to appreciate them. Also, I've seen a special piece of painted pottery at a friend's house with a little cat face on it - it was made for her after she lost her beloved kitty, and she treasures it.
posted by 41swans at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2013

Best answer: How awful. I think a card would be very nice. You should write this inside, perhaps changing the I to we/my to our or relating it as something a friend once told you:
Every time I lose a dog, he takes piece of my heart. Every new dog gifts me with a piece of his. Someday, my heart will be total dog and maybe then I will be just as generous, loving and forgiving.
posted by phunniemee at 2:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [25 favorites]

I think a card with a warm message and signed by all of you would be a lovely gesture.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 2:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

You could ask her if there's a local pet-related charity she supports (maybe a shelter, or a veterinary office that helps with strays), and then put a collection jar at the counter to make a donation in her name. Ask the owner of the shop to match the donation.
posted by bcwinters at 2:54 PM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]

I knew an older woman who lost a beloved dog. A friend had a painting of the dog done from a photo. It meant a great deal to her.
posted by Michele in California at 3:04 PM on March 20, 2013

Card. While the pottery and painting are lovely, they seem a bit much non-family/close friends.
posted by maryr at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Definitely a card with personal messages. Also, be sure to follow up in the weeks and months ahead to see how she's doing; the grief from an animal's death can linger a long time, so I bet she'll appreciate knowing down the road that you haven't forgotten.
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had a couple of really good friends who lost their beloved cat. They had it cremated, and I happened to be in a pottery class at the time, so I threw an urn for them. I even put the cat's name on the urn. They loved it.

That might be a bit much in this situation, but that depends on the lady. Honestly, I love my own dogs so much that even reading your question made me tear up a bit, thinking of my own dog's mortality. People often get as attached to their pets as they do to their friends. Sometimes more so.

Anything you do will be a nice gesture. Cards are good, free coffee is nice, hugs are good. Goddamn, I'm actually crying. I feel sorry for this old lady. Poor thing.
posted by Pecinpah at 3:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Scody has it. It is wonderful to provide a card with your thoughts/signatures -- I was so touched to get one from our vet's office, including staff, when we put our beloved cat down -- but the human contact is even more important.

Some time later you may want to talk to her gently about whether she's considered making room in her heart for a different dog, perhaps from a shelter. A new pet never replaces a lost one, but can help a lot with the big hole in your heart.
posted by bearwife at 3:19 PM on March 20, 2013

If they have been a longtime fixture there, you could (with the boss's permission) ask for a small photo of the dog to frame and hang in the cafe, or perhaps name a drink/dish after it.
posted by susanvance at 3:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [17 favorites]

I lost my dog a few months back and had a really touching moment with the cafe where he and I used to get our morning bagels and coffee. Blue Dog Cafe in Seattle, for the win, y'all. One of the ladies asked about him when I came by without him and was so sweet when I told her what happened. We sat and talked about him for a bit and, more than any physical thing they could have given me, the shared remembrances of him meant the world to me. They always made me feel like he was a favorite -- they knew his name and would always come over to say hi to his little floppy-earred self and spoil him with treats. Feeling like someone else acknowledged his spark and personality and saw his loss as a real loss...well it just made me start crying again. Telling her how much you enjoyed her dog, with verbally or in a card, and how much he lit up the room, will probably mean more to her than you know. Knowing somebody else notices and, in some small way, mourns goes a very long way.

Also, you're a gem.
posted by diamondsky at 3:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [23 favorites]

I would be a little careful about things with similar looking dogs on or a pic of the dog being put up. We lost our beloved cat recently, I appreciated cards from my partner's parents and his god-daughter (aged 3) but they did not have cat pictures on and I frankly couldn't have coped with that. Just to put that out there. A nice generic flower picture card with kind messages would be much appreciated, I'm sure, and doesn't risk further upset. People can be very different in their reactions to these things (I am sure all the other things are highly appreciated by you, your friends and families. Personally I can't bear something with a cat on given to me just before our pet died).
posted by LyzzyBee at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

When one of my cats passed away, I was super touched by the card I received from the vet. The vet and techs who knew her wrote what they liked about her (she was such a friendly kitty), that she was well loved, and that they'll miss her, too. The ones that didn't know her expressed sympathy. It was such an incredibly kind and surprising gesture that they took the time to do that. I'm sure your customer would love that, too.

Also, the idea of a picture to frame is so heartwarming! Lovely gesture to make, if the shop can do that.

Upon posting, what diamondsky said is dead on what I felt.
posted by vivzan at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2013

I love the idea of the photo on the wall, and you can avoid inadvertently upsetting her by simply telling her that's what you'd like to do and asking if she'd like it. I bet she would. And as for something being "too much" for non-family/close friends, she may not have any of those. You may be it as far as people who will do something like this for her. Better too much than too little, I say--handle it with tact, but don't be afraid to open your heart.
posted by HotToddy at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

2nding diamondsky that any little specific thing you can say about the dog will mean a lot to the lady. When I lost my dogs, it meant a lot to me to know that other people had known and appreciated them. Someone also gave me flowers, and I was surprised how touched I was by that.
posted by walla at 3:42 PM on March 20, 2013

Definitely ask about the picture idea first if you decide to try that - it took me a looooooong time (I'm talking years) before I could look at pictures of one of my dogs when she died suddenly.
posted by walla at 3:44 PM on March 20, 2013

I like the idea mentioned above of naming a drink after the dog--maybe what his owner always orders? Unless she gets like a black coffee or something...then you'd need to come up with something new.
You could also have a portion of proceeds from the drink donated to an animal charity. Obviously that depends on the ownership of your coffee shop.
posted by janerica at 3:50 PM on March 20, 2013

Or the bowl of water you put outside for dogs could become the Regular's Pet's Name Memorial Pond/Fountain/Fancynameforbowlofwater.
posted by maryr at 3:57 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

A card signed by all of you is the perfect gesture. She will be very touched.

Sometimes in situations like these, you make lots of bigger plans, and it ends up taking awhile to execute properly, or it ends up not happening at all. Don't go down that road in this situation.

A lovely card is perfect. Promise.

Once the summer hits, you could put up a sign with the dog's name near a water bowl outside, as maryr says above.

Thank you for being such a nice and thoughtful person.
posted by barnone at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I usually make a Tribute Gift to Best Friends Animal Society in honor of the pet, and include a mention of it in a note to the pet's parent.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:19 PM on March 20, 2013

2nding a card, with thoughtful notes. If you wanted to do more, You could also donate money in memory of her pooch to a local animal shelter. But I think the card and thoughtful messages is already awesome. You guys rock. :)
posted by NikitaNikita at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2013

When my mother, a regular coffee shop goer, and known in a lot of shops about town received a cards from a surprising number of people that knew her and her dog, they meant a lot to her. Knowing that you are not silly to feel sad to loose a pet and that other people understand is a nice thing to give someone. Maybe comp her a free coffee the day you give her a card. The card is a very lovely idea.
posted by wwax at 4:40 PM on March 20, 2013

Give her a coffee on the house (i.e.: you) and let her know you're sorry and you miss seeing the dog. That's what I would want. It's nice of you to think of her in her grief, but there's really not much you can do for her. She will come to peace on her own, but it will be nice for her to know that others remember her dog. I wouldn't bother with a card (just another thing for her to throw away), but putting down a water bowl for other dogs might give her some kind of comfort as she grieves.
posted by trip and a half at 5:38 PM on March 20, 2013

Nthing the card idea. When I had to have a cat put to sleep, I received a handwritten card from the vet who euthanized her, and it really did mean a lot to me. I still have the card, actually, and this was a few years back. I think just acknowledging the loss verbally would mean as much, because so often the loss of a pet is seen as something that doesn't even bear mentioning, since it was only an animal, when really that loss can be just as devastating, especially to an older lady who maybe doesn't have a real big support system. Whether you actually saw this or not, maybe let her know how really happy and content the dog was in her presence, because most certainly it did love her very much.
posted by wolfgirl at 6:14 PM on March 20, 2013

Nthing a card. Also if you and your coworkers would be able/willing, a donation to a local animal charity in the dog's memory is always nice.
posted by radioamy at 7:01 PM on March 20, 2013

Oh, and this is really sweet of you. So nice.
posted by radioamy at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Phunnimee mentioned above the message that a friend gave me at the time, and I can confirm it still holds true. It's been seven months, and I still think of those words every so often, and it's given me perspective and reassurance about my sweet pup's passing as well as my connection with the remarkable little dog I have since adopted. This lady might do well to know she made a difference in her dog's life, and that she has the capability to do that again if she chooses.

When it happened, a different friend brought over some treats for me, all wrapped up in a pretty to-go box, and we sat quietly for a while -- I'd forgotten to eat, and it was a thoughtful gesture. And then everyone at the place where I was volunteering gave me a card that said, All Dogs Go to Heaven and everyone signed it. Little things made a huge impact.

So my vote is a small bundle of treats or a full punch card (if you do that, or a free coffee) and a note.

You're thoughtful to think of this. Small gestures mean a great deal.
posted by mochapickle at 8:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make a small donation to the Morris Animal Foundation in her dog's name
This is a wonderful organization that funds research into animal diseases including cancer. It's a gift that would be meaningful and also benefit other pets.
posted by SinAesthetic at 6:40 AM on March 21, 2013

I lost my beloved dog Lily in January. A friend sent me the most thoughtful handwritten note, and it really helped soothe me.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2013

I think even if someone throws away the card, having it to throw away is still pretty nice. And I have always kept the cards I got in sympathy from the loss of my humans and my pets, so... I'm definitely on the side of the card, and I like the free beverage idea, and making a donation to a group. I have never had those things go wrong when someone I know has lost a pet.
posted by emcat8 at 10:49 PM on March 21, 2013

Response by poster: Update. I went with phunniemee's excellent suggestion: bought a card, had everyone sign it, and inscribed the dog heart message. She LOVED it. Unfortunately I wasn't able to hand it to her myself because I no longer work mornings, but a coworker reported that she was so touched and has been asking for me every day. The message inside really moved her. Hopefully our paths cross at some point, but I feel content knowing it made a small difference.
posted by timsneezed at 11:37 AM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The gender is wrong, but this could have been me. My dog and I used to make daily visits to the local coffee shop. I lost him in February, and it was rough going to say the least. A few weeks ago, when I stopped in for a coffee, the owner had a sympathy card for me, left by a patron I've only spoken to a few times. I really appreciated the gesture.

You did a good deed, timsneezed.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:15 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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