“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France
I’ve noticed my little Shih Tzu is failing. She hides under my bed or stays outside in the rain. When I call for her, she turns toward me in confusion. Her eyes are blank and searching, for she is blind. In the mornings, I regretfully leave her hoping that when I return, she will greet me excitedly at the door. I dread the days when I have to hunt her down as though we are playing hide and seek. I’m never sure of what I will find, and that makes my stomach flip nervously and my heart race.
Our pets are our family, and our family is our world.
For this reason, it’s important to begin thinking about a pet’s death and how we would like to honor and memorialize our companion before our pet passes.
Pet Cremation Services
Before losing my last pet, I never thought about what I would do with his remains. I regret not preplanning for my pet’s death because I put myself in a position to make a hasty decision–one I would later regret. We have options as pet owners, and it’s important to know what those options are.
If you choose to leave your pet with the veterinarian, make sure you ask your vet how he or she disposes of an animal. It could mean that your pet will be included in a mass cremation process or taken to a landfill. If this is not your desire, make sure to speak up.
Pet Cremation Cost
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, at least 17% of funeral homes in the U.S. now offer pet cremation services, and another 13% plan to do so. As of 2016, there were over 800 pet cemeteries and crematoriums in the United States, and the pet funeral industry continues to grow. 90% of pet owners choose cremation while less than 10% choose burial when their beloved pet passes.
Depending on your pet’s size and weight and the market where you reside, cremation costs can vary substantially. The price can range between $30 – $250. In addition, there are add-on services that can influence the price like memorials or funeral ceremonies. The good news is that most crematoriums have options that fit the budget of the owner.
Private or Individual Cremation
Private or individual cremation is the most costly option. Your pet will be placed in the cremation chamber alone, ensuring that it will not be mixed with other animals’ remains. Some people request to view the cremation of their pet to help with closure and provide comfort that the pet’s remains were, indeed, cremated individually. There may be an added fee for this service.
Semi-Private or Partitioned Cremation
During a semi-private or partitioned cremation, pets are cremated at the same time with other animals. Even though crematoriums do their best to keep the remains separated in the chamber, there is a chance that part pf the remains could be comingled or mixed together which makes this choice less costly. Some crematoriums may refer to a partitioned cremation as individual, so be sure to ask specific questions.
Communal or Group Cremation
Communal or group cremation involves the cremation of multiple animals in the same chamber at once. The remains cannot be separated, and therefore, will not be returned.
Practical First Steps
There is no right or wrong way to announce a pet’s death. Some people turn to social media and find comfort in reading comments and responses. Others send an email or post card notification to their closest friends. Still others prefer to keep the news private and limit an announcement to family and close friends. Today, anything goes.
In fact, as I’m writing this, the news is announcing the death of a celebrity’s dog. It has become socially acceptable to acknowledge the suffering and despair that accompany the loss of a pet. It’s important that the owner do what is most comfortable for them.
If an owner chooses to write a death announcement or obituary, they have creative freedom, as there is no prescribed way to compose a pet obituary. Including a picture of a pet, sharing a fond memory, or writing about a pet’s personality is common. However, the tone of an obituary can be sad, humorous, inspiring, or serious. Every pet’s personality is unique, and this can be reflected in how one tells the story of their pet’s life.
Organizing a Funeral Service or Ceremony
Holding a pet funeral is a cathartic means to gain closure after the loss of a pet. The funeral can reflect the pet’s personality or its owner’s. Funerals can be fun, quirky, serious, elaborate, or simple. From backyard ceremonies to procuring the services of a pet funeral home and cemetery, there are many choices that can adapt to your budget and taste.
People in the pet industry understand that losing a pet can be as devastating as losing a beloved family member; therefore, they are there to assist you. Not only do pet cemeteries and funeral homes offer burial and cremation services, but they also sell caskets, urns, and grave markers specifically created for pets.
As noted above, some traditional funeral homes are now providing pet services. Funeralwise.com is an excellent resource to search for pet cemeteries and cremation services in your area.
Choosing a Location
If you choose to have a funeral for your pet, the first decision to make is where to hold the ceremony. It could be at a favorite park, a beach, or a cat’s favorite place to sun itself. Choose a location that reminds you of spending joyous moments with your pet.
Ideas to Include In Your Ceremony
Below are some common features to include in your ceremony:
- Displaying photographs and videos to memorialize your pet
- Sharing memories with the attendees
- Reading poems and/or religious passages
- Offering prayers and blessings
- Holding a candle lighting ceremony
- Concluding and saying goodbye and thank you to guests
Some popular prayers include:
Pet Loss Prayer
Dear God, we bring our grief in the loss of (pet’s name) to you and ask for the courage to move through our grief. We bring you all our thanks for (pet’s name) who we were blessed to have as our precious pet. She/he gave so freely of his/her love to all those who she’d meet. We commit our beloved pet and companion into your loving hands. Surround us with your love and give us others to support us as we mourn.
Good-bye Prayer of a Beloved Pet
We gather today joining hearts as we honor the loss of our beloved pet (pet’s name) who made our days and our lives more enjoyable. Someday we hope to meet with you again (pet’s name) in eternity with hugs, kisses and tears. We miss your daily presence and unending love in our daily lives. Death ends a life but our relationship still lives on in my heart and in my memory of times we spent together. You are now free running the fields where we will meet again. You are restored to complete health. You are in God’s loving care forever.
Prayer for a Candle Lighting Ceremony
We honor the memory of our precious pet with the warm light of this candle, sending to all our beloved pets a message of peace and love. We, as pet caregivers, bring our loss and sorrow to this place and together we ask that day by day our grief will be lessened. Each day let us continue to see how the relationship we had with our beloved pet still impacts our lives today.
Additional popular poems and prayers
Below is a further list of popular poems and prayers:
- Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace (St. Francis)
- Come with Me (Anonymous)
- Time to Say Goodbye (Annie Dougherty)
- The Rainbow Bridge (Unknown)
- Lend Me a Pup (Unknown)
- A Prayer for Animals (Albert Schweitzer)
- A Dog for Jesus (Rudyard Kiping)
- Forever Free (Unknown)
8 Pet Memorial Ideas
The final farewell to a pet can be simple to elaborate.
It could be a verbal, “Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed.” While other people may choose to complete the ceremony by releasing lanterns, butterflies, or even setting off fireworks. One could even choose to give away a favorite book about a dog or present a heartwarming movie like “A Dog’s Purpose” to their guests. The celebration of a pet does not have to end with the funeral. It can be everlasting with a permanent memorial.
Suggested Read: Establishing A Permanent Memorial
1. Offer Donations
A charitable way to memorialize a pet is to offer a donation to a preferred animal shelter or rescue. I love the idea of holding an annual party in your dog’s name where friends and family are asked to bring blankets, treats, or food to offer as a donation.
2. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Another philanthropic way to remember a pet is to offer your time at a local shelter. Volunteering can help relieve the pain that accompanies a pet’s death. It is difficult to be sad when you are bringing joy to other animals.
3. Framing The Rainbow Bridge Poem
The Rainbow Bridge poem is a beautiful reminder that your pet lives on after their earthly life. Framing it can provide comfort and reassurance that one day you will be reunited with your pet again.
4. Plant a Memorial Tree
Planting a tree or flowers to remember a pet will keep their memory alive; however, I like the idea of putting a beautiful plant or picture of a pet in their favorite indoor spot.
5. Add Memorial Stones to Your Garden
A mosaic portrait stone for the garden is another beautiful way to memorialize a pet, or commissioning an artist to paint a portrait of a beloved pet is another way to pay tribute to a loyal companion.
6. Incorporate Their Memory into Jewelry
There are many ways to incorporate jewelry into memorializing your pet. There are charms, bracelets, rings, and pendants that can hold remains, incorporate paw prints, or be imprinted with photos.
7. Create a Stuffed Animal
Companies exist that will create a stuffed animal from a picture of a pet. This is a comforting way for a child to remember a cherished pet.
8. Get a Tattoo
Finally, tattoos are becoming a popular way to memorialize both people and pets. A person can ink a pet’s paw print, name and/or date of birth and death, or a full pet portrait.
Pets greet us with enthusiasm, love us unconditionally, and are able to overlook our greatest flaws. Even when we are irritable and cranky, they still want to snuggle up next to us. I think this is why we mourn these loyal companions so deeply when they pass. The bond we share with a pet is the one relationship we can count on day in and day out. When our world falls apart and human challenges befall us, our pets are right there to provide comfort.
Our human relationships can be complicated and difficult while the relationship we have with a pet is seemingly simple and easy. For these reasons, it is important that we allow ourselves to mourn these beautiful creatures. In fact, grieving the loss of a pet in a way that makes sense to us is an act of kindness we can do for ourselves during this very difficult time.