by Nancy Liles
Animal lovers see their pets as family members, and the loss of a pet can feel overwhelming. Things have changed for the better in the last few decades, but there was a time when grief over the loss of a beloved animal was not met with a lot of sympathy from co-workers, teachers or friends.
A big change came to the way Americans view the animal-human bond when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. We watched as people refused to accept rescue efforts if it meant abandoning their pets to perish. We learned about individuals who had no one else in their lives but their pets, and it moved us. Now, first responders are trained to take pets to safe havens that are set up for disaster relief.
There is celebration when a new animal enters our lives. People throw puppy and kitty showers, bring new pet gifts to friends and family, and send out congratulatory cards. We put pet photos on our social media pages and pull out our cell phones to show off their latest antics.
There is also support when we are forced to face the final days and death of a pet. Grief counseling and final care arrangements are available to help us through the loss. Everybody grieves differently, but it is important that each honors their grief process in a way that helps them move through the pain and into the phase of transitioning forward with precious memories.
When a pet dies, the immediate obstacle is what to do with the body. The time has come when most services offered for humans are available for pet owners. Some people have pet graves on their property, but living in condominiums, apartments, or rental housing is a challenge. Also, a lot of communities will not allow the interment of deceased pets, even on private property. Pet cemeteries and cremation are options. Caskets designed for various sizes of animal and numerous cremation urns are readily available. There are also memorial items such as jewelry that hold cremated remains or reduce an actual paw print of the pet on a charm, ring or other items. The choices are almost limitless.
It is wise to check out where such services are located in your area while your pet is still healthy so you don’t have to begin the search when the inevitable happens. For now, while your precious pet is with you, enjoy each treasurable moment you share together. We know in advance that we are likely to outlive our pets, but when we give our hearts and proper care, the moment of grief can be regret free.
Nancie Liles is the Director of Pet Cremations of Western Carolina, A Shuler Family Service.