Celebration-of-Life is a relatively new concept in our society and especially when we think in terms of our companion animals. Hobo the Wonder Dog is certainly a member of my family and lives as part of the family. Have we thought about the end of life for our pets? Many of us (me included) have not. When we face the end of life of our beloved pets we find ourselves emotionally charged. Societal norms are often in conflict with our grief when we face the loss of a pet and too often we grieve alone in silence. I will explore community resources for emotional health and choices for final disposition of pet remains.
We all experience and deal with grief in various ways. Our pets or companion animals become anchors in our lives with an unwavering love and acceptance. Our pets see us through the best of times as well as the times we struggle. We experience so many changes in our lives, like new jobs or loss of employment, loss of friends or family through death or separation. Companion animals see us through both the good and bad times in our life with acceptance and love. When our loss is our pet, how do we react? How do we grieve, are we supported by family, friends or co-workers? Most employers offer three to five days for bereavement of a spouse, child or parent but what about the loss of a family pet? Many times we trivialize the grief we feel by saying it’s just a dog; never really taking the time to slow down and memorialize the pet and grieve. Dr. Elizabeth Strand, director of veterinary social work at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, stresses that pet loss is worthy of our attention. Dr. Stand encourages us to take pet loss seriously by doing some kind of memorial.
Community resources available to help you with the loss of a pet:
• Your veterinarian: Can help or make referrals within your community;
• Your church: Draw on your minister and congregation for support during your grief;
• Humane societies: Local Animal shelters or Humane Societies may have a pet loss support group;
• Family and friends: Accept help if offered, your friends and family have been with you during difficult situations in the past; and
• The University of Tennessee Veterinary Social Work Department at 865-755-8839. They offer a supportive environment where people can share their varied experiences of grief and loss. A place to remember and honor the life of a companion who has died.
Pet cremation and burial services:
• Tri-State Pet Loss Services in Middlesboro, Kentucky; and
• Yeargan Pet Cremation Services in Lenior City, Tennessee (www.yearganpetcremation.com).
I am not endorsing these businesses; I encourage you to do your due diligence in vetting any business before entrusting anyone with your trusted companion. I spoke with the above cremation services both have references and were professional and sincere.
Our emotional connection and how we grieve the loss of a companion animal has been hidden for centuries. Daniel Boone always traveled with his trusted dogs and when they died he buried them along the trails. There is a marker in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee paying respect to Daniel Boone’s dog buried along the Boone Trail Highway. As the theme song from the popular 1964 – 1970 television show goes: “Daniel Boone was a man, yes, a big man” and he took time to honor and buried his trusted companion dogs along the trail.
When faced with the loss of your pet take time to pause and honor or celebrate their life. Plan for your pet’s end of life after all, life is what we celebrate.
Hobo is a rescue dog out to make a difference in animal rescue and education. Please follow Hobo on Facebook at Hobo the Wonder Dog or contact him at: [email protected]