The following post is brought to you by Nelli Designs. We’re very paw-ticular about our partners and only feature those we think are top dog.

Pets touch our lives in the deepest and most profound ways, so it’s no surprise that losing a beloved animal companion is one of the hardest things you can go through as a pet parent. And sometimes finding the right way to honor them and keep their memory alive can be even more challenging. With this in mind, and September 14th marking National Pet Memorial Day, we turned to Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs to discuss the inspiration behind her line of pet memorial candles.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

What made you decide to start making pet memorial candles?

When our first dog, Maggie, passed away 6 years ago, I needed something that would honor her and our time together. Something personal about Maggie that made me reflect back on our 14 years together. Other than photos, I had her red leather collar and tags – the same ones that jangled with excitement every time I came in the door. So, being candle-obsessed, I made a candle and fit a replica red leather collar around the neck and hung her tags there. I placed the candle next to the door so I could jangle her tags as I came and went. I just needed that connection to her. And it seemed to help in the days, weeks, months and now years, to move on and continue to remember her 14 years of pure love.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

In the weeks after Maggie’s passing, I had several friends lose their dogs, so I made candles for them, too. It was after requests came pouring in from friends, then strangers, that I realized others needed a way to connect with their pets just as I did. Upon adopting Nelli, I felt it was a great tribute to Maggie from Nelli to launch a business in her honor.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

Image: Sarah Beth Photography

What exactly IS a pet memorial candle? Tell me more about what it means to you, to other owners, and how it helps heal.

To me, a pet memorial is something that connects you to that time and space you once shared with your pet. Whatever it is. It can be anything. As long as it provides that personal connection for you, that is all that is important. It’s remembering and honoring that pet and all you shared that provides the healing to move forward again.

For me, a candle made the most sense. It provides a place where I can hang her tags, and lighting it each night still provides that sense of comfort I need when I’m missing Maggie the most.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

You’re now also offering horse and cat memorial candles – have you noticed that other types of pet owners are also memorializing their pets?

Absolutely! I’m a dog lover – I cannot recall a time in my life I didn’t have a dog. But I have friends who have lost cats and/or horses who meant everything to them. And they seek the same comfort when they face that same moment in time of having to say goodbye. Our connections to our pets can be stronger than the ones we have with family, friends and neighbors – they are the only ones who truly – TRULY – love unconditionally without any judgment of our shortcomings.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

How are your candles made?

They are hand-poured individually in my studio, and I assemble and ship each order out – with the support of our dog, Nelli, and my very understanding husband when his work-day is done. Each candle is made with 100% soy wax, and scented with a blend of essential oils and fragrances meant to evoke those special memories: Rolling in Grass, Wet Dog (fresh rain), Big Stick (driftwood) and Lazy Days (lavender).

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

As someone who has lost a pet, what would be your best advice on helping grieving owners?

Find a way or something that you can see, touch, smell that brings comfort and memories of your time together. Focus on what your pet gave to you – how did you benefit from your pet being in your life?

My husband and I have realized that Maggie gave us patience. As a Dalmatian/Golden Retriever mix, her energy level was off the charts! And not having kids in the house, Maggie’s shenanigans provided the necessary chaos we needed to be reminded life is not always neat and on schedule. So in the years since her passing, we have come to realize – and focus – on the fact that she taught us about patience and living in the moment; seizing the moments with all we’ve got, and enjoy every minute. With the gusto of a Dalmatian/Golden Retriever mix.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

Image: Sarah Beth Photography

You also have decorative candles, what is your next design going to look (or smell) like?

As a designer and lover of all things Dog, I’m always searching for items that show my passion for dogs, but is designed with a certain contemporary elegance. To achieve this with my candles, I’ve collaborated with illustrator, Robb Burnham of WACSO (Walkin’ Around Checkin’ Stuff Out). Robb and I worked together when I was in advertising, and talked over the years of working together again. I wanted to design a line of candles that depicted that whimsical aspect of our canine companions, yet elegant enough for your living room, office or bedroom. Robb was the perfect fit to illustrate both Maggie and our current hound of the household, Nelli. His illustrations captured the pure canine bliss of both of their personalities. I’m beyond excited for their launch this holiday season! We are already working on line extensions with dog bowls, beds, pillows…it’s endless!

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

Image: Connie Singer

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

Image: Connie Singer

Tell me about the pet organization(s) that you offer donations to for the sale of your products and why you chose them?

I have two organizations that benefit from our sales: Homeward Bound of MN and Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).

Homeward Bound of MN is the rescue organization we adopted Nelli from years ago. And seeing the number of dogs and cats they foster was amazing that day. Talking with their volunteers made Tom and I realize how much help is needed in providing homes for these pets, so it seemed natural to choose them – to pay back the gift they gave to us with Nelli.

And Tony LaRussa’s ARF organization was chosen because I grew up in St. Louis, and Tony LaRussa was the manager of the Cardinals Baseball team (an obsession of my father’s). And I have always been impressed with the work he and his wife have done, not just on behalf of animal rescue, but also education on the benefits of animals in our lives. His teams has accomplished more than I can explain, so I recommend everyone visit their site to learn more and support their hard work.

Discussing Pet Memorials with Kathy Kuhl of Nelli Designs

Image: Sarah Beth Photography

Thanks Kathy!