One man’s tribute to his beloved Rottweiler has gone viral after he offered to post tennis balls to dog owners on the anniversary of her death.
Chris Sontag-Ratti’s dog Everything, died on the 23 January 2014.
To mark the second anniversary of her death, Chris decided to buy 100 tennis balls and post them to dog owners.
“I hope that the people that get a ball from me will use it to spend quality time with their best friend,” he wrote on Instagram.
“This tennis ball is a memory of my best friend. Thank you for helping to keep her memory alive.”
The post clearly touched a nerve with pet owners around the world, as more than 8,000 people liked the post in 24 hours. It quickly became one of the most liked topics on Reddit, with users sharing their own stories of pets loved and lost.
“Wow. I had to close the page really fast to avoid crying,” wrote one user.
“I lost my four-legged sister two years ago,” wrote another. “She used to love to play fetch – but would never let go of the ball once she brought it back. I’m tearing up at work.”
So far Chris, who is in California, has been contacted by over 200 people and has sent out more than 70 tennis balls.
He has had requests from all over the world including as far away as Australia.
He says “My friend has donated packaging and labels to post all the tennis balls and I have more balls ordered. Now all I have to do is pay for sending them. I don’t want to ask for help as it does not seem right, but I am so grateful for all the support I’ve received.”
It’s not the first time that dogs and their love of tennis balls have been such a hit on social media.
In 2013, another Reddit user posted a picture of a bucket of tennis balls which was left on a dog beach in Australia in memory of a Staffordshire bull terrier which had passed away.
A well-known dog beach in San Diego, California also has a dog ball bucket in memory of a military working dog called Raika.
Reddit even has its own subreddit dedicated to pets who have recently died.
Keen to remember their friends in happier times, many owners have taken to posting bucket lists for their terminally ill pets.
A Facebook page set up by Canadian Riina Cooke, to catalogue the exploits of her boxer Romeo, has more than 12,000 likes. It still draws comments from people around the world, almost two years after he passed away.
Chris believes the lack of options for pet owners is one of the reasons why his tribute has gone viral.
“Many of the emails I have received are from people not necessarily wanting tennis balls, but just wanting to share stories about their beloved pets,” he said.
“Everything was my everything. Losing her left a big hole in my heart. This was a cathartic way to deal with her loss. The response I’ve received is testament to how the death of a pet is like losing a family member.”
“I’m touched by the response and helping others is a way of breathing life into her memory.”
By Hannah Henderson with additional reporting by Rozina Sini