Should Friends Attend Pet Funerals?

May 24, 2012 | 1 comment

Basset HoundIf a friend invited you to attend a pet funeral service for their dog or cat, would you go?

That’s the question in the Social Qs column of The New York Times last week. It was titled “Burial for a Basset Hound.”

I personally buried our family’s basset hound by myself decades ago. It is an experience still vividly seared into my memory.

I was home alone, and my parents were out of town. Because I had a cold, I let Lady out, rather than walk her. She wound up getting hit by a car on a busy road near our house. A neighbor called to give me the news.

My penance was burying her body. I’m sure it was totally against local ordinances in Maryland. I transported her stiff remains, wrapped in an old comforter, by wheelbarrow to the back edge of our property. Digging dirt in freezing, nasty East Coast weather was hard work.

Still, the physical effort was a release for the emotional burden. With tears, sweat, and a runny nose, I buried her and placed a large rock to mark the spot. It was a comfort to see her resting place in the backyard, and seeing any basset hound still delights me.

I did the burial by myself. I don’t think having anyone there would have helped me feel better about what had transpired.

Here was the question in Social Qs column: My otherwise-sensible neighbors sent me an invitation to a funeral for their 12-year-old basset hound. They are going to bury the dog in the backyard and say a few words in its honor. They have no children, so this event is not to humor them. I had no relationship with the dog. What would make adults hold such a foolish affair? And how do I get out of it? H. L., Westport, Conn.

Here’s what columnist Philip Galanes had to say:

As I type this, I am gazing at an 8-year-old poodle that means more to me than 97 percent of the people in my Rolodex. (And that’s being generous to the Rolodex.) But you’re right: a funeral for a dog is unusual. So why not be a mensch and go?

We develop all kinds of offbeat relationships in our increasingly cyber lives: with pets and sweaters and shops around the corner, anything that’s real, and that we can touch (aside from our central relationship with touch-screen smartphones). Their loss is something we mourn.

So what’s the harm in a teary toast to a departed basset hound, or honoring your neighbors’ affection for him? (Especially if they have the good sense to hand out chilly glasses of Sancerre along with memorial cards to Spot.)

If you simply can’t squeeze yourself into your neighbors’ shoes, feign sympathy and claim another engagement. Be sure to be away from home at the appointed hour. But don’t come crying to us when your neighbors neglect to take in your mail during your next vacation.

So, what’s your opinion? Should family, friends or acquaintances attend their friends’ or relatives’ pet funerals?

A Good Goodbye