Day 5: Pet Funerals

Oct 4, 2011 | 2 comments

Day 5: Pet Cemeteries and St. Francis

The historic Aspin (sic) Hill Memorial Park in Silver Spring, Maryland, north of Washington, D.C., was started in the 1920s, when the area was predominantly woods and farmland. While suburbia has grown up around the cemetery, it still stands as a silent testimony to the love people hold for their pets.

More than 15 statues of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, are scattered throughout the tall grass. October 4 is St. Francis’ day, and a blessing of animals usually occurs on or near this day.

President Herbert Hoover’s dog – King Tut – is buried here. The German Shepherd went with Hoover on the campaign trail, winning votes across the country. Besides being cute, King Tut made the candidate appear friendly and down to earth. King Tut was a favorite with photographers. An autographed image was sent out to thousands of voters.

Herbert Hoover and his dog King Tut

Once in the White House, King Tut had the run of the house and grounds. He was the President’s constant companion, leaving him only to patrol the fences of the White House at night to make sure everything was secure.

Decorated Dog Grave

Decades of dogs and cats are buried here and memorialized with moving epitaphs: “Too well loved to ever be forgotten” “Missed By Everyone” “Our pride and joy” “Princess: Out of our sight forever / Out of our hearts never / Our little rag muffin” “Rusty: Good Dog / Wait Here for Me / Your Friend Rose” “Poor Alphie – Faithful to the end.”

Tammy Minature Schnauzer Monument

There was a large monument devoted to Tammy Miniature Schnauzers, listing dozens of dogs. The inscription at the base read “A piece of our hearts went with each of you – We’ll meet again at Rainbow Bridge.”

The sections went back decades, and the names change in each section that dates further back in time. Contemporary names such as Sassy, Scruffy and Muffin yielded to the 1940s names of Timmie, Jiggs, Blackie, Mac and Dooley. There was “Mrs. Thomas N. McLaughlin’s Pet – Mar Jongg.” And “Skippy – In fond remembrance of our pet 1927-1936.” The oldest marker was “Boots Snook – 1906-1921 – Dear Old Pal.”

Skippy the dog monument

And today, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Best Friends Forever pet cemetery offers an option for humans to be interred with their pets. Both human and pet would be cremated first. It’s one of the first commercial cemeteries to offer this option to pet lovers.

Should you do a funeral or memorial service for your pet? Some kind of ceremony that recognizes the loss is a valuable undertaking, especially when children are involved.

However, you may want to keep it a small immediate family affair, with those who were closest to the pet. Some people don’t hold pet death in the same regard as the end of a human life. They can brush aside your feelings with “It was just a dog,” and do you serious emotional harm.

Many of the elements that provide comfort in a human funeral apply to a pet funeral.

Recognize Reality: Acknowledge that the pet has died, talk about how it came into the family, lived a good life, and was loved by those gathered around.

Remember: Share stories about the pet’s antics or personality traits, actions undertaken on the pet’s behalf, and treasured memories. You might gather photos, toys, and other memorabilia related to the pet.

Reaffirm Beliefs: If you believe your pet has gone to a better place, say so. If you believe you will be reunited with your pet when you leave this world, say so. If you believe the love of an animal companion is a valuable thing, say so.

Release: Close by gently saying goodbye. Cover the grave with earth and set any memorial marker or tributes in place.

Our beloved pets’ spirits live on in our hearts forever.

One stone in the Aspin Hill Memorial Park read “God made dogs, when our faith grows dim, to show us the trait that leads to Him.”And lastly, this marker:

Bless All Thy Creatures

A Good Goodbye