We call it the Pear Garden, and this is how it started. I come from a family of dog lovers. Almost everyone has or has had dogs: my husband and I, our kids, my siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins. When they pass, we grieve for our fur babies for a long time; and we always remember them fondly, even after we adopt a new pet.

A few years ago, one of our great nieces and nephews came to visit with our daughter, Jessica. Emil was maybe about nine or ten that year and still grieving for the family’s dog, Pear, a lovely, gentle Golden Retriever who had been laid to rest a few months before. Emil was still sad about the loss. We live on Lake Ontario, and Jessica and Emil went off to the beach to collect smooth stones at the water’s edge. Then they came back and painted them with creative, colorful designs including four of them each with the initials that spelled “PEAR.”

Behind our garage there’s a mulched bed of shrubs with some spaces between them. The stones were artfully arranged in one of those spaces to honor Pear’s life. We said prayers and sang songs.  I had wondered if the stones would survive our harsh winters, but to this day they are as bright as when they were first painted.

A few weeks ago, our niece, Suzanne, her husband, Tom, and their two daughters came to visit. While they don’t have a dog, my brother and sister-in-law, Didi and Grammy to the girls, had recently sent Gus, their sprightly Wheaton terrier, over the rainbow bridge.  Maya and Hannah had loved Gus and were taken with our Pear memorial. Our daughter was visiting this time, too, and a little while later we added painted stones for Gus.

When I told my sister about the expanding garden, she remarked that when she and her husband visit us from Florida this fall, they would like to paint rocks and place them in our garden for their beloved dog, Sally, another gentle Golden who had recently succumbed to an unexpected illness.

In the past, we’ve scattered the ashes of our own dogs where they most liked to romp and kept the remainder in ornately carved boxes stacked upon shelves in our library. Now I’m thinking that we need to paint stones for them and add them to the growing display. Our adopted Beagle, Nova, has been with us for about a year-and-a-half. We love her dearly, and she’s as much a member of our family as our other dogs were. I hope, though, that it will be years before painted rocks bearing her name are placed beside the others.

As it turns out, there’s a new tradition that’s begun in our family to remember all the dogs we’ve loved. Perhaps Pear is watching somewhere from puppy heaven, proud to have been the first of these and pleased that we’ve named our memorial garden after him.

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