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My Downsizing Journey and Pet Memories

By Margaret Manning February 23, 2024 Lifestyle

I remember the morning 13+ years ago when I woke up still in Brazil thanks to lingering jet lag. I had just spent a beautiful Christmas with my son and his wife in Cumbuco, Brazil. Spending a week by a sparkling beach in a simple and minimalist flat with two precious people in my life was simplicity at its heart.

Then I came home to complexity. Still waiting to be unpacked was a stack of boxes that had not been opened from my New York City move. It was 3 am but my passion to continue simplifying my life was fueled by a desire to move on from what seemed like a never-ending lesson in letting go! So, I selected a box labeled #19 (of 39). What I found inside broke my heart.

Heartbreaking Memories Filled with Love

I had not labeled the contents of my moving boxes. So with a cup of tea by my side and a cheerful optimism about what I was about to discover, I opened the box. The first thing I reached in and pulled out, wrapped carefully in pink tissue paper, was a little urn, a pink collar, and a teddy bear. They were memories of my last little dog Chica. It had been 5 years since she died.

So, this is how hard this downsizing process is. First Chica. Well, she was a little ‘blue’ chihuahua. After my divorce, I lived alone in a beautiful little house in Seattle. It was a sweet place with a garden bigger than the house. There was a porch sheltered by a gorgeous cherry tree and a white picket fence.

Looking back, it was a miniature version of what I defined as a perfect idyllic family home (minus the family). Since every home is not complete without the magic of a dog, I began my search. We had owned a blue chihuahua called Sky in the past, and I loved their lovely little faces and warm personality.

Blue/grey chihuahuas are hard to find, so I ‘ordered’ Chica from a breeder somewhere on the East Coast. I did my homework, spoke to the breeder and all seemed to be ok. When my little dog arrived at Seatac in her gigantic shipping carrier, my heart melted. She was a little thing with big ears and the sweetest face. We became immediate soulmates.

Lessons We Learn from Our Pets

Truthfully, I could write a book about Chica and the lessons she taught me. She embodied everything beautiful about life. Chica was pure love, she made people laugh with her big ears that seemed to tip her over at times! At night sometimes she would go to my bookshelf and with her little teeth pull a title from the shelves. Her tiny brain always knew exactly what I needed to read on my healing journey.

She made me feel that I could love and trust again. My deepest friend, Chica, was a little beam of light for a few years that were pretty sad for me.

Dealing with Loss While Downsizing

It turns out Chica was very sick from the minute she was born, and I think we both knew that. As she got sicker, we got closer. So when she died that summer day, I was so overcome with grief I could not breathe. And I know that every single person reading this who has lost a pet knows exactly what I mean. I cried for weeks. My heart was broken.

When you lose someone, especially a pet, just about everything associated with them becomes the last remnant of their existence and treasures to be carried to the end of the earth. So, I kept a huge box of Chica’s things. I held on to her toys, her favorite stuffed monkey that was bigger than her, her bowl and many little coats. Of course, I kept her urn along with her pink collar with little diamante crystals. As I sat on the floor with tears in my eyes, I hugged the tiny teddy bear that she slept with.

Letting Go of Chica’s Things But Not What She Meant to Me

I decided to let Chica’s things go. I decided to bury the urn so that I feel her presence and can sit with her now and again. I thought about taking her ashes to San Juan Island where we used to have a home. She used to play like a crazy thing, dodging the eagles that we were all convinced would sweep down one day and take her away. It ended up closer to home. The washed and well-hugged teddy bear went to the Salvation Army along with all the other boxes of books and clothes.

I kept just the little pink collar with the tiny crystals. That was the only thing I held onto. Chica embodied too much beauty and significance to not keep that in my life. It is on my desk as I type.

Read more about Margaret’s downsizing journey.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you holding on to things that are associated with a pet (or person) you lost? Is it time to let some of their things go? Please share your story.

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Yes, losing a much loved pet is a heart breaker. On the door knob inside my home office I’ve hung the collars with tags of three cats and two dogs much loved and now gone. The jingle of the tags as the door opens and closes is a nice reminder of the joy they brought the family.


I have had cats over the years and yes I was heartbroken when they left me but not really. I have many photos and maybe when I paint in watercolor, I can create their likeness to forever memorialize them…but I still feel they are with me in the odd brush past my ankles when I know my 2 cats are in the other room! The end is not to remember but the good times and the unconditional love they gave me and made my life better and supported me. I found rainbowsbridge .com a grief support portal for losing pets. You are not alone. Share your story, it helps. Take care,

Shirley Jordan

It seems each time we lose a beloved pet, the pain is always worse than the one before. Growing up in England, my first pet was a black and tan rabbit I named ‘Tiptoes’. He was by far the smallest in a Pet Store window, in Hitchen, a town my family visited for its Saturday Market. How well I remember te car ride home, clutching the cardboard box containing my new friend. And, close to home, “Mummy, my lap is all wet and warm!” Once there my father set to work constructing a sturdy wooden hutch for the wee creature, who charmed my heart. And, was lovingly wrapped in cloth and buried in a shoe box, in my own little section of the back garden, five or six years later.

Six decades later, on the other side of ‘The Pond,’ I still love rabbits. Snow, Parsley and Hamish, are my much loved rescue bunnies. They live in big pens in the garage, safe from te elements and predators such as eagles, raccoons, and coyotes.They are all either spayed or neutered to prevent cancer, which proves fatal to does, by the age of four. I feed them Timothy or Orchard hay, a few rabbit pellets and a green salad daily. And, think about how lonely Tiptoes must have been with only a few minutes company twice a day, and not from his own kin.

As I type, surrounded by boxes, the sorting continues, some days more slowly than others. Some items are just way too precious to part with, such as the little wooden box containing the ashes of Skye, the border collie who flew with me from the UK where we walked the Lake District fells fells daily. She was my protector, and shadow for 16 plus years. Before that, she was cruelly tormented by teenaged boys who used her as a football.

Unpacking boxes, and sorting treasures, is indeed a challenge, as memories come rushing back. This could all have been avoided if I had tackled it years ago. I can nolonger procrastinate. Just as sure as the seasons, I must let go of the past, to make room for the present. As snowdrops bloom, why am I wasting the sunshine of another glorious day? A day, I shall never see again. And, as my mother was always quick to remind me, “Time and tide wait for no man!” She was right of course; I must heed her warning, and focus on the task at hand. But, still take time to enjoy nature’s gifts.


Yes we lost a dog that we loved so much. My daughter called a pet grieving service. My granddaughters were heart broken. The lady who came was very comforting to the family. My husband gave the eulogy.
The lady that came allowed us to keep anything we wanted to keep. She gave each person a cloth favor bag to place our things in.
She made paw prints for each of us.
When I got home I found Jack’s last neck hanky when he had gone to the groomers. I found his favorite toy he left at our house. We put all together
and I am keeping the bag in my jewelry box.
Jack’s box still with the granddaughters.
Thank you for sharing your story.


Beautifully written. I also am downsizing, and planning a big move. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, when they get rid of pile will be much larger than the keep one. Thank you for sharing your story.

The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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