By Shana Siren Kempton
Pawprints left on pet owners’ hearts are filled with emotion and memory after their furry companions have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, a pathway to pet paradise. A new work of public art graces a sidewalk in Brookside and provides a place for the collective honoring of these lost and cherished pets.
The Fur-Ever Friends Pet Memorial stands at chest height just outside of the Brookside Barkery and Bath near the corner of Oak and 63rd streets. The patinated steel, dog-shaped sculpture was created by Machine Head, a team of metal fabricators in the Crossroads District. It provides a place to pause and honor those creatures that left an indelible mark on the lives of their humans.
Inspired by both the Love Locks made famous on the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris and Timeless Tags, a dog memorial in St. Charles, Illinois, a local pet advocate wanted to pay tribute to their recently deceased dog. This anonymous donor commissioned the sculpture for all to show appreciation to lost pets in a public space.
Pet owners have the option of placing original identification tags or newly engraved tags onto small metal loops that appear to create a thick coat on both sides of the sculpture. There is no cost to hang a tag but when a specialized tag is made, patrons may donate to Chain of Hope, a non-profit outreach organization serving animals in the Kansas City area.
“People who have put their tags on it have been very generous in donating to Chain of Hope,” says Alex Strawder, Manager of Brookside Barkery. “They like that they can put a tag out there for people to see ‘hey, my dog was here – let’s remember them too.’”
Since its dedication on August 28, 2021, “Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day,” 14 tags have been added to the memorial. A green, heart-shaped tag engraved with “Lucy Chaney” was recently added by her longtime owner, Katie Chaney. Lucy was a Lab Shepherd mix found on the side of a road 11 years ago. She wasn’t expected to live, but as Chaney recounts, “True to what we discovered to be her form, she fought her way through.” Chaney fell in love with Lucy while volunteering at Wayside Waifs and adopted Lucy into the Chaney family.
With Chaney’s grief still fresh, her mother-in-law brought her to the memorial to help commemorate Lucy’s life. Chaney says, “It’s such a great tribute. Whether it’s a person or a pet, anything you can do that helps you with closure is huge.”