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There are two ways to feel about Jennifer Aniston and her ex-husband Justin Theroux reuniting for an elaborate funeral for Dolly, their 12-year-old, pure-white German shepherd. The first is to splutter at the photos of billowing incense, and the dog’s corpse laid respectfully on white linen strewn with rose petals, before quacking something about bloody self-indulgent Hollywood celebs who value a pet’s life more highly than a human’s. The second is to be momentarily wobbly-lipped, recalling small friends now departed of one’s own. Four paws; waggy tail; many, many eaten slippers – our own personal idiots, taken too soon. OK, wobbly-lipped, but at the same time fascinated by this new turn in pet-owning culture. Because, are pet funerals a thing now? Dog eulogies? Post-cat official mourning periods? Is this the new normal? Should I begin saving for elaborate closing ceremonies for my current menagerie: two cats, a labrador and a collie? Also, is it now the done thing to tell your ex if the pet has passed away? Is that the Californian, well-adjusted, zen thing to do? Can you no longer just let them find out from Facebook, condemning them to spend the next decade showing the animal’s picture to people in pubs, and ranting: “She didn’t even tell me about the dog!”?Of the two reactions, I am firmly in the second camp: empathic and fascinated, as well as being overjoyed that the human race may be becoming less ashamed of pet grief. It is OK not to be remotely OK; normal to mourn this like a human death – or, in some cases, more so. This is, after all, a living being, with an abundance of nicknames and preferred bedtimes, and a unique “Ace! You’re home!” welcoming dance. I was thrilled when Theroux posted to his 693k Instagram followers that Dolly was “our most loyal family member” – he did it with pride, and the response was largely positive.Clearly, none of us could say the “loyalty” bit with a straight face about a cat. Your average cat will move in two doors down overnight without a backwards glance if you downgrade their Iams duck in jelly pouches to tins of Lidl Coshida, or buy a new Hoover, the sound of which they don’t care for. Yet, I still love my pair of sociopathic arseholes.Love is love, and that is the thing I feel. “Oh, but when you have a baby,” I’ve been told, many times, “that’s when you know a new level of love.” About which I always think: “Then I’m fine, thank you.” Because I’ve loved living things with snouts and whiskers, many times, and the price we pay is terrible. “So, eventually,” the kind vet said back in 2005, trying to find nice words for knackered kidneys, “Clark will have more bad days than good days. And when that happens, we should re-evaluate. We should talk about our options.”Clark had moved into our home uninvited; a ginger tom with pink lips who announced his entry into rooms with an entitled squirrel-like chirrup. He liked prawns, the occasional Dorito and kneading visitors’ bellies with his soil-covered paws while drooling. He loathed bluebottles, rocking chairs and the washing machine on spin. “What would you like done with Clark’s body?” I was asked, by the vet, some years later, as Clark lay on the surgery table, eyes open, yet no longer breathing, lifted mercifully away from his misery.“Um, cremation,” I mumbled, ticking a box on a list. The memory is blurry, but I recall taking one last look at him lying, face down, alone. I told no one how upset I was. Nor did I pick up the ashes for two years, which still sit in a box in my house, and, let’s be honest, are probably the back foot of a carthorse mixed with two other people’s hamsters. It was ridiculous. Yes, mourning a dog or a cat more than a man down the street you only half knew may sound macabre to some. But when Aniston and Theroux responded to Dolly’s death with an evening of spiritual blessing and high melodrama, I saw this as entirely relatable.During the summer months, one of my cats, Geno – after the Dexys song, since you ask – is resolute that 4am is the prime time to get the house up and moving. It begins with a claw in my nostril, at about the time the birds start chirping. Then he takes a seat on my pillow, his anus just short of my forehead, to begin vigorous fur-washing. When swatted away, he moves under the bed to commence what cat-lovers on the internet term “singing the song of his people”. Just like the Terminator, Geno can’t be bargained with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse. He will not stop until you are awake. This is not behaviour one would tolerate from anything other than a loved one. Or a dictator. When he goes, I plan to mourn him like Aniston and Theroux mourned Dolly. Clear the diary, light the incense – this time, people will know.Source: www.theguardian.com
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