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Heartbroken pet owners leave the most moving tributes to their fetch-loving dogs

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

Tennis ball memorials for dogs are the sweetest, most thoughtful tribute

Meg the border collie's favorite pastime was chasing a tennis ball on her local beach in Swansea, South Wales.

So when Meg sadly passed away recently, her owner, Alison Lenihan, knew there was only one way to properly pay tribute to the dog who had given her "14 happy years."

More: 9 creative ways to commemorate the loss of a pet

She left a box full of tennis balls at Port Eynon Bay, together with a photograph of Meg and a note for other dog walkers, inviting them to take a ball and enjoy a game in Meg’s memory.

"Please take a ball and enjoy a game with your dog in memory of our beautiful girl," read Lenihan’s note. "Meg loved the beach and loved life! And we love and miss her. So much."

Actress and singer Lenihan, of Gorseinon, Swansea, told ITV News, "It seemed the right thing to do — I hope people enjoy the beach and the tennis balls as much as we did."

Lenihan may have been inspired by the story of Forrest, a rescue dog from California who also loved nothing more than chasing balls on his local beach. Even when he was diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy, which began to limit the mobility in his back legs, his desire to play remained strong.

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"Even when he could no longer walk, he would always go to his toy box and grab a ball over anything else," Forrest's owner, Teri Hembree, told The Dodo. "That was just part of his personality."

When Forrest died in May 2015, Hembree and her husband, John, decided to honor their beloved pet by leaving a bucket of tennis balls for other dogs and their owners at his favorite beach.

Forrest ~ 2002 - 2015 "Forrest loved to play on this beach. Please feel free to borrow a ball and play with your dog. Please return it when you are done, so that others may play as well".

Posted by Run, Forrest, Run on Monday, 25 May 2015

Ten months later, and Forrest's memorial is still on that beach in Oxnard, California.

"We're just really happy that there's a legacy for him. He was just a really good dog," said John. "When we're feeling a little bit down, we will go to Forrest's beach and just sit and watch other dogs playing with the balls. It makes our day to know that others are bringing their dogs out to play."

In January, another dog owner named Chris honored his Rottweiler-boxer mix Everything on the two-year anniversary of her death by buying 100 tennis balls, which he proceeded to give away to other dog owners all over the world.

"On Jan 23 I'll mark 2 years without my best friend. I purchased 100 tennis balls last week. I plan on sending them to anyone who wants one. I hope that all the people who get a ball from me will use it to spend some quality time with their best friend," posted Chris on Instagram.

Chris invited dog owners to request a ball by email or Instagram and promised to cover the costs of sending out the balls. He wasn't prepared for the huge response but pledged to try to send a tennis ball to everyone who asked for one.

What a lovely way to remember three special dogs — and proof that dog owners the world over want to pay tribute to their pets in very generous ways.

Did you create a special memorial for your pet? Let us know in the comments below.

More: 6 stages of pet grief and how to move through them

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