Carol Loveman, PhD
Upon the loss of my dog after almost thirteen years of companionship, I thought long and hard about how to pay tribute to this close friend, this confidante, this surrogate child. I decided to treat him as if her were human; to bury him and have a funeral service for him.
I thought at the time that I was eccentric and unusual in my feelings for my dog, but I will never forget what I discovered. I went to pet cemetery near my childhood home and was astonished by what I saw. Unlike any human cemetery that I had visited, there were an enormous number of graves with flowers, pet toys and many other decorations. In my short visit their forever-remembered and cherished animal companions.
In a human cemetery, one would have thought it was a special holiday to draw so many visitors. The outpouring of love from people to their pets was imprinted on my mind and heart. The care of these grave sites far surpassed any human cemetery that I have been to and the experience really left me feeling that I was not alone.
What I learned from this experience is that choosing a way to honor a pet and to celebrate the unique relationship between humans and companion animals is an individual decision. People memorize by writing a poem, planting some flowers, writing an epitaph, contribute to charity, or burying a pet and having a memorial service. The death of our pet teaches us to accept death as part of life, and to cherish life and one of its most precious gifts: the relationship between people ant their pets.
Even Lord Byron wrote an epitaph for his cherished companion:
Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices. This praise, which would be unmeaning flattery if inscribed over human ashes, is but a just tribute to the memory of Boatswain, a dog.
This article is courtesy of Pet Loss Support Group of the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society, and may not reflect the views of any individual member of the DAVMS.