It all began back in 2012, when our white-faced golden retriever developed a
massive tumor in his stomach that quickly rendered him incontinent and immobile. Unwilling to subject my beloved companion to the “exploratory surgery” the
vets had offered, I made the very difficult decision to put him to sleep.
Brandon - my Brandybran, passed away in my arms on the eleventh anniversary of our time together. It was by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
During the following months, as our family grieved over our
pet, friends, neighbors and even strangers came out of the woodwork to share
their stories of loss and bereavement with us. That's when it became painfully obvious to us that we all shared the same feelings of isolation as there wasn't much support out there for those who grieve for a pet. We realized that what we all needed most as a group, was to have
our feelings validated.
Motivated by that, my daughters and I decided to coordinate a collective memorial to provide everyone with the opportunity to honor and bid farewell to their treasured companions. We called it The Winter Park Canine Memorial, and it was held on the one year anniversary of our beloved Brandon's passing, July 27th, 2013.
On that day, the cities of Orlando and Winter Park, Florida united to help us create the most beautiful and unique ceremony; one that brought together animal lovers from near and far, who expressed their sorrow by decorating lanterns in honor of their canines. These lanterns were then released into the water to carry away the heartwarming messages written to them. For some, it was the first real opportunity to say goodbye to their companion.
After the event, we received many messages from attendees letting us know what a powerful impact the ceremony had on them. Some even expressed that the new found sense of closure had allowed them to finally open up their hearts to another pet in need. What a great tribute to the memory of their beloved!
Sadly, and as expected, many more dogs have crossed over since our first memorial, leaving behind many families in need of an outlet for their grief. Therefore, in order for our concept to grow faster, we decided to take a chance and created this Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately, the campaign was not a successful one, as we failed to reach a bigger audience.
At dusk, an emotional procession of lantern bearers walked toward the other side of the lake to Fleet Peeples Dog Park. This procession symbolized grief as a journey.
At the end of the walk, volunteers in kayaks and canoes were waiting by the Rainbow Bridge to receive the dedicated lanterns from the hands of the furbabies' families.
One by one, the lanterns were placed in the middle of the lake...
Perhaps, one of the most impressive elements of the evening was to witness all of the lanterns floating in the water and creating their own procession toward the dog beach!
A true testament to the fact that even in their absence our fur babies showed their presence...
Risks and challenges
As you know, event planning is $erious business! Our ultimate goal is for the movement to spread all around the country so that every animal lover has the opportunity to participate in such a powerfully healing ceremony.
However, with each new market comes the same set of challenges: finding the perfect venue, the bureaucracy and red tape, getting volunteers and sponsors, etc., basically starting from scratch each time.
As funding is the root of most challenges, this wonderful idea can only continue to grow and reach more people if we have the funding to support it.
Thank you for each of you who has taken a step of faith to support what we are doing. Help us spread the word!
Every single lantern will be retrieved from the water by the following day. Some of the wooden parts will be cleaned and stored for future usage, while all the sleeves with the dedicated remembrances will be removed and handled in a proper and respectful way.
The short answer is no. But if you feel that it is important to bring your dog, s/he is well behaved and you feel confident juggling him with the lantern decorating and other activities, feel free to bring him on-leash. However, the night is about honoring our departed companions, not the ones we are lucky enough to still have with us.
If you are floating a lantern, bring a photocopy of a picture of your beloved pet companion to be attached to it. Materials for decoration will be provided. Please note: to prevent the lanterns from tilting when placed in the water, no extra decorations will be allowed.
The walk is approximately 15 minutes. Please wear comfortable shoes if you are planning to walk, otherwise, when it's time to join the procession, you can ride your car from Harbor Park to Fleet Peeples and wait for us until we get there.
No, for the safety of the environment and all those involved, we have decided to use flickering LED lights instead. They have the same effect, plus they stay lit for hours, making them easier to find when it’s time to retrieve them from the lake.
RESERVE A LANTERN - Ready for pick up at the event or if you cannot attend, your remembrances will be written by a volunteer who will decorate and set the lantern afloat + You will receive a picture of your lantern by email + Your name will be listed as a contributor on our Facebook page!
LIMITED EDITION PHOTO BOOK - Receive a copy of our beautiful picture book with images from the event + Your name will be listed as a contributor on our Facebook page!
Please ADD $5 for shipping within USA
JUST BECAUSE YOU LOVE THIS PROJECT- Reserve a lantern + Receive a T-shirt + A limited edition poster + Your name will be listed as a contributor on our Facebook page!
Please ADD $5 for shipping within USA