Our pets are a great comfort to us, especially in difficult or lonely times. During the pandemic, pets kept people sane, providing joy amid the crisis. According to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, pet ownership rose in 2020 among U.S. households from 67 percent to a record-breaking 70 percent. A survey among 5,020 American adults released by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA shows that 19 percent of households took in a cat or a dog as a pet from March 2020 to May 2021.
According to Statista, across various generations of Americans, about 70 percent spent more time in 2020 with pets due to the physical distancing requirements.
Pet owners expressed a variety of pandemic concerns, with 32 percent worrying over financial security, 25 percent worrying over the cost of veterinary care, 22 percent worrying over employment, and 15 percent worrying over shelter. Still, 87 percent stated that they will not rehome their pet.
Grief Over Losing a Pet
In The Atlantic, Deborah Copaken writes a heart-wrenching account of having her sick 13-year-old dog, Lucas, put down during the pandemic. She and her son were not allowed to go into the veterinary clinic to hug him during the procedure because of health protocols. They had to say their goodbyes outside. Afterward, she states that she felt it might be unseemly to grieve over her dog while so many people are dying, and yet she concludes that grief over a pet is just as deep.
Every pet lover who has lost a pet knows this. The death of any pet – a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a turtle – hurts just as much as any loss. This is why pet owners try to hold on to the memories of their beloved pets in many different ways.
Pet Memorial Services and Cremation
Some pet lovers hold a memorial service before their pet is cremated. Some cremation services have rooms like funeral parlors to hold such services in. There is a bed of flowers on a table where the pet is laid in a sleeping pose. The family may opt to create a video made up of video clips and photos of them with the pet and play this during the memorial.
After the cremation, many choose to place the pet’s ashes in a beautiful urn that they take home and put in a place of honor, usually beside a photo of the pet.
Some pet lovers cannot bear to have their pet cremated. They choose to have their pet preserved instead through a new technology that is better than taxidermy or pet preservation. It uses an advanced freeze-drying process that keeps the pet intact, lifelike, and with them for life. The pet can be posed with eyes open or closed and can be carefully hugged and carried around.
For others, even preservation is not enough. They want a living reminder of their beloved pet, one that is also a genetic double. Some companies already offer pet cloning, but it is still very expensive. Celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Diane von Furstenberg went public about cloning their pets. Streisand cloned her curly-haired Coton de Tulear Samantha and produced Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett.
The von Furstenberg couple cloned Shannon, their Jack Russell, and also created two puppies. Simon Cowell has three Yorkshire terriers and has stated that he intends to clone all of them even before they pass away.
Pet lovers who had their pets cremated have many other ways of remembering them. Some bury the ashes in their garden and put up a special headstone that bears the pet’s likeness and name.
Some retain a small portion of the ashes and place this into a special memorial locket so they can wear it close to their heart. Others have the ashes transformed into a man-made lab-grown diamond that they wear on a ring or a pendant. Less expensive options are jewelry made of silver with the pet’s image or name engraved on them.
Some get a custom-made stuffed toy that is a copy of their pet. Singer and actress Mandy Moore’s husband gifted her with one. Less expensive but also customized is a pillow or a fleece blanket with a photo of the pet. All of these are cuddly.
Some people have portraits painted of their late pets. Some create a collage of their pet’s photos and frame this. Some have the image of their pet tattooed on their body.
All of these are expressions of love and grief. They help pet lovers navigate the pain and live through the days without the beloved.