At least once a month, Bonnie Lyons finds herself reading the words she wrote about her beloved mixed-breed terrier Kooshie, the dog that slept in her bed and wouldn’t eat or drink unless she was near her.

On Sunday, National Pet Memorial Day, she may find herself reading Kooshie’s story again.

“She gave me strength through the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Lyons, recalling how Kooshie helped her through major spinal surgery in 2018. “She was my best friend, I know people say that, but she really was. Even though she’s not here, it’s nice to have a space to honor her that I can go back to and visit.”

Kooshie’s story is just one of hundreds on the Washington State University Pet Memorial Program website. The program and its stories, all of which are online, date back nearly 20 years and provide a way for friends and family to express sympathy and compassion to grieving pet owners.

In addition, the program funds different needs at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, student scholarships, research and ultimately improves the care offered to patients and clients.

After all, veterinary medical care is what brought Kooshie to WSU.

Kooshie was referred to the veterinary hospital’s oncology service for radiation therapy in March 2019 after her veterinarian struggled to remove an aggressive tumor in her right hind leg known as a malignant myxosarcoma.

Throughout two and a half months of radiation therapy, Lyons stayed in Pullman, nine hours away from her home in north-central Montana.

Once the cancer diminished, Kooshie finally headed home.

“We had at least two awesome months of her being in normal shape and it was wonderful to have her like that at home,” Lyons said. “Then we noticed the tumor returned and it was determined that it was a much more aggressive tumor.”

After a nearly one-year battle with cancer, Kooshie was humanely euthanized March 1, 2020.

“She couldn’t even get on her bed without triggering nerve pain; we knew it wasn’t fair anymore,” Lyons said. “The loss was big, but we are so thankful we got those extra months. That’s time we wouldn’t have had if we didn’t come out to WSU.”

It was never Lyons’ intention to memorialize her pet. She didn’t know there was such a program, but she learned about the WSU Pet Memorial program after the primary veterinarian on the case, Dr. Rance Sellon, made a small personal donation in Kooshie’s honor.

“Dr. Sellon is an amazing individual. He really went well beyond when working with me and answering my questions. Even after Kooshie’s passing, he was just always there,” Lyons said.

In a field with its share of heartbreak, Sellon and his veterinarian colleagues are grateful they have a way to pay tribute to long-time clients and patients with whom they have special connections.

“It is often the last chance we have as veterinarians to aid our clients,” said Sellon. “I hope they can find some solace knowing that their animal’s lives may somehow benefit others.”