Apologies in advance for the extremely maudlin and sentimental start of this post! Those who wish to skip the gushy part can just go on to the heading BACK ON TOPIC.
Last week, we lost the redcap that my youngest daughter has had for about half of her life. As it wasn’t convenient to hold a proper service at the time, Frisky spent several days in a plastic bag in our freezer, but this weekend we held the burial. Yes, I know the traditional funeral for fish is through the porcelain gates, but my children think that’s “yucky”. So our tradition is to do a backyard service, with everyone saying a few words in memory of the departed pet and setting a seashell or pretty stone on the gravesite.
This is the second time we’ve done this, and just like last time, I cried almost as much as the kids. I never used to be this sentimental—not to say mawkish! But I can’t help relating to my children’s feelings—these pet burials have been their introduction to the whole idea of death and grieving, and I do want my children know that it’s OK to grieve. Maybe dealing with a pet’s death will in a small way prepare them for bigger losses. Yeah, maybe that’s why I cry—to set a good example.
Or maybe there are permanent hormonal changes when one becomes a mother that make tears come so much more easily than they ever did. Shall I blame it on the hormones? No, overall I’d rather tell myself I’m doing it to set a good example.
(getting tissue, blowing nose…)
BACK ON TOPIC
Of course, it makes me wonder if Regency folk had funerals for their pets. I did a little googling on the subject and found little about “our” period, but some other interesting tidbits:
- In 2004, the “carefully interred remains of a human and a cat were found buried with seashells, polished stones, and other decorative artifacts in a 9,500-year-old grave site on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.” Complete article at the National Geographic website.
- The ancient Egyptians mummified dogs, cats, monkeys and birds.
- During the Medieval period, people who were too obviously friendly with their pets might have been suspected of witchcraft, so the idea of pet burial was frowned upon. People still did it, or tried to. “As one French cleric arranged a formal Christian funeral for his little dog, news of the plan leaked to his supervising bishop, who demanded he appear before a tribunal to answer charges of heresy.” More at http://www.petcem.com/pet_burial_history.htm.
- Queen Victoria grieved for the loss of her first dog, a spaniel named Dash, leading the way for Victorians to conduct elaborate pet funerals. But then, Victorians never seemed inclined to keep anything simple.
I didn’t find anything in “our” period, but I haven’t had time to search for long. My guess is people who were really into animals, like Frederica, Duchess of York, who kept a veritable zoo at the Oatlands estate, must have done something for the dearly deceased.
Does anyone know?
Anyway, is it ridiculously sentimental to commemorate a pet’s death? At what point does it get too OTT (Over the Top)?
Elena, off for some more Kleenex…
LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, a Romantic Times Top Pick!
Sympathies on your loss. Being able to show your children you have real human emotions is very important, plus they can make fun of you later on about it.
I’m assuming people have mourned the loss of pets ever since the concept of pets came into existence, so probably family pets were honored somehow. Maybe not with a funeral–because then the women couldn’t go, right?–but with some sort of ceremony.
Elena, I’m so sorry, and I sympathize completely. My experience has been with cats, and earlier, also with dogs and cattle when I was a child on the farm. It is so easy to love a living thing that is other than human…and when you do love them, they seem surprisingly human after all.
I may have mentioned before having my baby, Tojo, put to sleep in March. (This is a CAT, not a human child, BTW!). When I was stroking two of his successors today, I got tears in my eyes thinking about him.
Tojo’s remains are ashes, and I have them tucked in a terra cotta planter shaped like a cat curled up asleep. It’s the right color, orange, like he was, and I have a small photo of him in a heart-shaped frame tucked in the planter, too. The planter is way up high on top of the TV armoire with no convenient “jumping-from” points nearby. Wouldn’t want any of the current crowd of feline characters turning Tojo into a newest toy!
Hugs and sympathy, Elena. May little Frisky swim on in peace.
You got me curious so I started looking up some of the castles and stately homes I’ve been to in England and Scotland where I remember seeing pet dog cemetaries. It would seem that they date from the 1840s and 50s onwards. So it’s possible that honouring pets (or dogs in any case) came into fashion at the same time that death generally become the big thing it was in high Victorian times.
Elena, sincerest condolences on your loss, although like at all good funerals I had trouble keeping a straight face. It reminded me of the time Susan the hamster died when my daughter was off visiting her dad so I froze the departed until she (daughter) was home for the funeral.
I’ve seen Victorian pet cemeteries, complete with little headstones, but they were quite a bit later.
I’ve also heard, and this is pretty awful, that the huge amount of Egyptian cat mummies were actually produced as souvenirs at the temples–some cats being more sacred than others.
Ah, I found a reference on the Duchess of York. Here ’tis, from
“The Duchess of York breakfasted at four a.m. and spent her day with her menagerie, which included parrots, horses that were never ridden, and up to twenty dogs. Her dogs’ cemetery was situated near the Grotto and many of the surviving stones are set in the lawn on the north-west side of the hotel. A map of this cemetery and a gravestone to “Billey” are displayed at Weybridge Museum.”
The duchess was an eccentric. I’d agree pet cemetaries came into their own during Victorian times, but I also figure that if the duchess could have a pet cemetary, it’s quite likely less extreme pet owners might have held a simple burial in the garden somewhere.
Sigh… Frisky’s replacement is now in the freezer, after just three days. Thank goodness Speedy, whom we’ve had for several years, is still darting around as usual. So the tank and water don’t seem to be the problem. We are going fish shopping again, this time to the better petstore, which is a bit of a drive but hopefully worth it. Wish us luck!
I’m so sorry about your daughters’ pet, Elena! It’s so, so hard to lose our animal family members.
I remember last time I was in England, at Chiswick House, there was a memorial in the gardens set up by Harriet Cavendish (Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s daughter) to her late spaniel. I thought it was so sweet that I took a photo of it, but now I can’t find it to check the date!