WHAT IS PET AFTER-CARE AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
With the exception of some extremely long-lived pets such as parrots and cockatoos, our pets’ lives generally are very short compared to our own. The day a pet comes into our life, we should acknowledge and accept the fact that at some point we will experience the pain associated with the loss of that pet. How far in the future that will be, nobody knows. We can only hope that our new pet will experience a long, happy and healthy life with us.
“After-Care” as it relates to death, describes those activities, ceremonies and practices associated with how the pet’s remains are handled, what will become of the remains, and the celebration of the deceased’s life. They say, “Funerals are held not for the dead, but for the living”. Think about it; aren’t all those nice glowing words expressed during a funeral service meant to remind us how large a part the deceased played in our lives and to give us inspiration to carry on the good work he or she may have started. Funerals are intended to help us celebrate the life of the departed, to help bring closure, and to help us as we start our journey through the grieving process without their physical presence. Psychologists believe the lack of some form of funeral or memorial service when a friend or relative passes makes the grieving process more difficult for those left behind.
When was the last time you attended a funeral for a relative, a friend, a co-worker? When was the last time you attended a funeral for one of your pets? How did you feel when your relative, friend or co-worker passed? How did you feel when your pet passed? For some, there may be quite an emotional difference. However, for many pet owners the loss of a pet may result in an enormous emotional upheaval. Many pet owners actually feel guilty because the pain they are experiencing after losing a beloved pet is worse than the pain they felt when they lost a relative, a friend or a co-worker. Why such pain? Until you experience first-hand the human-animal bond that develops between a pet and its owner, it is difficult to comprehend just how strong that bond can be.
If funerals for people are so important, and if the bond we experience with our pets often is so great, why don’t more pet owners celebrate their pet’s life with some form of funeral or remembrance service? Or do they? Think about the number of times you have heard stories about parents burying fish, small birds, hamsters, or guinea pigs in the garden for their children and placing a small marker over the spot. But what about the dogs and cats we have in our care as adults. Don’t they deserve some similar recognition, and don’t they deserve to have their remains treated with dignity and respect? After all, aren’t they just as important as the smaller pets in the family dynamic? No matter how large or small the remembrance service may be, such a service will help family members move through the grieving process by providing a forum to celebrate that pet’s life.
For many of us, accepting our own mortality is something we do not wish to consider. However, because of the relatively short lifespan of many pets, the loss of one or more pets during our lifetime is a realty that we will have to confront. How we handle each situation will be dependent in large part on how we may have prepared ourselves in advance for the inevitable.
Although each loss will still be painful, a bit of investigating today to determine the pet after-care resources available in your area will help ease the anxiety and helplessness you will feel when the loss does occur. It is interesting how many pet owners have indicated to us the regret they have felt for not taking that initiative before their pet passed. Take the time to learn what resources are available in your area; resources to provide the personal services that you and your family will require during that difficult period in your life when your pet leaves you. Cremation, burial, funeral service, memorialization for your pet; what will you and your family members require to help you cope with the loss of an important family member when that fateful day arrives?