EAST LIVERPOOL - The Christmas season is a time for cherishing the people you love, including those who have passed on. As we reflect on the family members and friends who have made our lives special, we also remember the four-legged family members who have brightened our lives with their presence.
For eight years, East Liverpool resident and founder of the local animal charity Citizens for the Humane Animal Treatment (CHAT), Carol Chaffee has been working to give people a tangible way to remember pets who have passed on or gone missing. The "Fur Tree" is a CHAT sponsored program which welcomes pet owners to decorate a Christmas tree with stockings and mittens containing personalized messages memorializing their beloved former pets. Established by Chaffee in 1995, CHAT is a non-profit animal charity which donates one hundred percent of donations to help animals.
Chaffee is a retired school teacher and a life-long pet owner who has experienced the grief of losing a dear animal companion. During her 20 years as an educator, she says she encountered countless cases of children who had lost a pet.
Sponsored by local animal charity Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment (CHAT), the 'Fur Tree' stands at the entrance to Thompson Park in East Liverpool. It allows the owners of missing or deceased pets honor and remember them by placing a Christmas stocking on the tree with a personalized message. This is the eighth year the 'Fur Tree' has been up. See story on Page 5A. (Photo by Devin Bezeredi)
"I've heard so much about children who would lose a pet and someone would say 'It's just an animal,'" said Chaffee. "No, that animal is something very dear to a child and we have to recognize their grief."
To give pet owners an outlet for their grief, Chaffee and other CHAT members erected a Christmas tree at the entrance of Thompson Park and welcomed pet owners to adorn it with a stocking bearing the name of their former pet. Having lost three pets of her own throughout the years, she says the project is near to her heart as well.
"I have three stockings on there (the Fur Tree) now," said Chaffee "I know the grief to lose anything you love."
Chaffee took several weeks making each of the 60 stockings by hand. Chaffee says the task of erecting the "Fur Tree" is an labor of love. She was eager to get back to the yearly tradition after being unable to erect the tree last year due to health problems. Chaffee says she has heard many "heartrending" stories from the "Fur Tree" through the years but feels good about giving people a way to honor their lost pets.
"It's a gentle, kind thing and we don't have enough of that in our culture right now," said Chaffee.