“You had him 17 years. What more do you want.?” These are the words Penny Mitchell heard when her elderly cat, Quickie, passed away.
What Penny wanted were people who understood the role Quickie played in her life, and who respected her feelings of loss ad grief.
When we lose a human loved one, a funeral or memorial service gives us a chance to express and share out emotions with others. But animal lovers can be wary of sharing their feelings about the death of a dog or cat, As Penny discovered even friends and family can make insensitive remarks.
The American Pet Products Association estimates that 62% of American households have animal companions. “The other 38% can’t relate or empathize with your loss; they just don’t get it,” says Colleen Ellis, owner of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center in Greenwood, Indiana.
A new trend
While many people create their own memorials for deceased companion animals, you now have the option of actually using the services of a funeral home for your dog or cat, Colleen opened the first stand-alone animal funeral home in 2004. ” A funeral beings closure, gives permission to grieve and offers an opportunity to remember a life well-lived,” she says. -Why not do the same for your dog or cat?”
Even some human funeral homes are beginning to understand that animals are part of the family, and are expanding their services to include dogs and cats. They’re few and far between as et, but it seems to be catching on in some areas. Separate rooms are set aside for animal memorial services or even full funerals, The death of a dog or cat is stressful; dealing with professionals can ease the pain and help achieve the kind of service and memories you want.
“Grief is what we feel on the inside,” Colleen says.
“Mourning is grief shown. A cemetery maker often tells only the name, date of birth and date of death. A funeral is for talking about he life lived between those dates.”
So how do you invite friends and family to a Funeral for a dog or cat without hem thinking you’re odd? Just say some something like the following: “This has been a hard time for me. It would be a big help if you could be with me when I say goodbye to Sparky. Remind me of some of he stories I told you about him.”
Pre-planning is important
Pre-planning eliminates the pressure to make decisions during an emotional time. Consider the following four questions.
1. Burial of cremaion?
If burial is your choice, check local ordinances – some communities forbid backyard burials for health reasons. Also keep in mind that you may move.
A pet cemetery is another option. You can choose a casket that will protect the body, or go green and select a biodegradable casket made from recycled paper products, cardboard, wicker or sea grass. ” A green burial can take place without the use of formaldehyde-based embalming and concrete vaults,” says Elizabeth Fournier, owner of Cornestone Funeral Services and Cremation in Boring, Oregon. “It’s the way funerals used to be.”
With cremation, you can choose between private (your animal only with ashes returned). Consider a decorative and fashionable urn for storage.
“I have placed urns with dog or cat’s ashes in the caskets of their human loved ones,” adds Elizabeth. “The person making he funeral arrangements for the deceased will sheepishly ask if I can do this. They’re always so surprised that it’s quite common.”
2. Viewing or memorial service?
If an animal has been euthanized at the vet’s office, or died in an accident, children may not understand. A viewing, after the dog has been bathed and groomed, may help ease he pain. “At the funeral for a Pomeranian named Miss Thing, she was in a white knit dress and looked like she was asleep,” says Elizabeth.
When an animal has been cremated, a memorial service can fulfill the same purpose as a funeral. Adults and children alike can choose photos, favorite toys or treats for the tribute table.
What happens at a funeral or memorial service is up to you. “I helped organize a tribute for a cat named Brutus,” says Elizabeth, “It included readings from the owner’s journal and all the grandchildren sang “What’s New, Pussycat”.
3. Formal or relaxed settings?
Full honors were given to Bo, a narcotics/patrol dog with the Indianapolis Police Department killed in the line of duty. Floral arrangements, an honor guard and a eulogy made for a formal setting. The Chief of Police spoke of Bo’s contributions to the community. “About 100 officers and 50 people from the community attended the memorial service,” says Commander Lt. Diggs. “While losing a dog is not the same has an impact on the whole department. We’ve spent time training, living with and counting on these dogs. They deserve a service.”
Mike The Dog, meanwhile, had a more casual service – photos and a bowl of his favorite treats were placed alongside his urn to remind friends and family of their favorite Mike stories.
4. What about remembrances?
A plaster cast was taken of Mike The Dog’s paw print. A clipping of hair for a scrapbook or locket can cat close. Take photos of the tribute table. Have a guest book for visitors to sign.
Dog and cat funerals may not be for everyone. And chances are, your local funeral home doesn’t yet offer this service – but it’s worth a call and it may get the directors thinking. A funeral or memorial service is an outward sign of respect, both for your feelins and he life your friend lived. Who doesn’t deserve that, whether human or animal.