Pet Tattoos Are Helping Owners Memorialize Their Furry Best Friends

From 3,500 miles away, while abroad on a work trip, I made the compassionate choice every pet owner dreads and had to say goodbye to my sweet boy and best friend over FaceTime. Upon my return home, I faced his absence everywhere I looked. The lack of morning meows and scattering of loose cat toys sent me reeling with grief. I missed seeing him every morning and whispering goodnight to him every evening, and with each kind condolence message that came my way, or shared story about someone’s own pet loss, I wondered how I could possibly process my sadness.

Like a true millennial, my period of mourning felt like an appropriate time to get a tattoo.

I’m no stranger to body art—on my last count I have 17 tattoos between my arms, leg, back, and ribs, plus three cover ups—but I had mixed feelings about pet tattoos in general. Wouldn’t I feel bad about not commemorating each and every one of my past pets if I did so with Wilson? But as I looked around at my friends and fellow tattoo fans, I realized how increasingly common pet tattoos have become over the last few years.

“There’s always a bump in specific requests when I share new pet portrait work,” says Justin Wayne, a tattoo artist at Atelier Eva in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who specializes in fine line black and gray work. “Clients tend to gravitate towards delicate, fine line representations of their pet portraits. I love to tattoo them.”

As luck would have it, I had also recently spotted Esquire and Men’s Health grooming editor Garrett Munce’s trio of dog tattoos and was floored by how stunningly realistic they looked (he visited Wayne for two of the designs). 

“In the case of my first dog tattoo, I waited until after she died,” Munce says via email. “That was more of a memorial to her. In the case of the two newer ones, I just am so completely obsessed with my pugs Elvira and Morticia that I didn’t want to wait until they died. I already think about them every second of every day, so I thought ‘why not?’”

Munce’s tattoos of his living pugs Elvira and Morticia.

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