The Origin Story
A Love of Pets from the Beginning
Hi - I'm Emily Piccirillo and RemembeRing’s Founder and CPL (Chief Pet Lover).
I was a lucky kid because my family included lots of pets — dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, turtles, birds, guinea pigs, fish, salamanders, a raccoon, an iguana— you name it!
They were part of my daily life. My formative years with them taught me so many vital lessons, especially how to deeply care for and adore another being, even one with us for a very short time.
I took special interest in fledglings that fell from their nests in the spring, feeding them a mash of blueberries, milk and bread. Many didn’t survive, even with my careful tending, but I embraced the challenge with each new cycle of life.
Naturally my heart broke many times and over the years a veritable cemetery took form in the woods behind our Connecticut home. Through these early experiences, I learned that the more intensely we love, the more intensely we grieve, that both are worth it, and they bring out the best in us.
Our dog Caesar was the first loss that really shook my world. Pets could run loose in the 1960s and after Caesar attacked a neighbor’s chihuahua during one of his regular outings, my father “took him to a farm.”
I was given a chance to say a brief goodbye before I left for school the following day, but coming home to him being gone was a significant trauma. I loved and missed him so much, and always will. I’m still not sure about the farm story but I do know my Dad loved Caesar too.
From Pain to Purpose
As an adult, I served as a board-certified art therapist and a bereavement caregiver for nearly two decades in the HIV?AIDS community. My clinical responsibilities included accompanying children to family funerals. When one little girl was especially distraught, clearly needing an active way to participate in the service, I came up with this intervention on the fly from an ordinary sheet of paper. We sat in the pew as she wrote and decorated her farewell message on the center token and then we tucked it into the casket together before it was closed for the service. In her next session, we transformed the outer ring into a frame for a photo of her deceased mother. Its comforting benefits were immediately evident! This practice of “holding on and letting go” proved to become a valued ritual for the grieving families I served.
Furthermore, during counseling sessions with adults, I was struck by the depth of raw, disenfranchised grief that many clients still held due to unacknowledged pet loss during childhood. They often expressed significantly greater suffering related to those four-footed loved ones than for their human family members who were actively dying. My own early experiences really helped me to empathize with them. I recognized then that society’s lack of shared pet loss rituals is a profound barrier to healing, and that RemembeRing can help to celebrate love and ease this heartbreak.
Bringing It All Together
As I reflected on these different life experiences in anticipation of launching Remembering, I chose to begin by focusing on supporting individuals of all ages who are experiencing the loss of a pet, knowing that it is often our first introduction to death and deep grief. It definitely was mine.
I am also a fine artist, so I created the first four original RemembeRing designs using mixed media. To extend the line in the future, I will post an open call for other creative folks who are pet lovers to submit their own design ideas for consideration. Please stay tuned!
Family and A Furry Future
I’m so fortunate and grateful to live on Lake Champlain in the beautiful town of Burlington, VT with my family — Gordon, Meeka, and Izzy — my wonderful husband, our finely-tuned orange tabby, and a feisty summa dog (summa dis and summa dat) who has yet to learn the meaning of ”drop it.” And while I’m totally thrilled with the enthusiastic support of our community for RemembeRing, I’m not so sure Izzy fully endorses the notion of it yet, given her treatment of one of the prototypes…
I hope RemembeRing eases suffering and inspires the bereaved to continue to open their hearts and homes to pets. Their companionship is such a joy and they make the world a better place!