Saturday, July 6, 2013

Petiquette. Lassie Come Home!

Supposed You Planned a Funeral and the Guest of Honor Disappeared?

Pet owners face the inevitable passing of their beloved companions. For many it is like a death in the family. Veterinary clinics, pet cemeteries and crematoriums provide options for handling the remains of the deceased. Things normally go smoothly, without a hitch. On rare occasions the wheels fall completely off the wagon and chaos ensues. Names have been changed and the locale omitted to prevent further grief and embarrassment. For my friends in N.W. Georgia, breathe easy. This event occurred in the “Shallow South”, that area close to the Mason-Dixon Line and Washington D.C. where Yankee infiltration is highly possible and proper southern gentility is corrupted. The story is bizarre AND true. It raises thought provoking questions concerning proper petiquette and pet funerals.

Our story begins with “Mr. B” who owned five pets. One, a collie I’ll name Lassie, died. Mr. B visited the local pet cemetery and bought five plots, one for Lassie and four to be used by his surviving pets. Together in life, they would now be side-by-side eternally. Unhappy with the selection of caskets at the facility, Mr. B visited a funeral parlor (the human kind) and found something more suitable there. The vet clinic storing Lassie in its deep freeze was notified to bring her out, chip off the ice crystals and prepare her for transport to the cemetery for her viewing (you read that correctly) and funeral. A quick search produced an alarming discovery. The dead collie was no where to be found? How far a dead dog could wander off is anyone’s guess, but Lassie wasn’t just dead; she was dead and GONE!

The most likely answer short of a dead dog-napping - the dog was mistakenly tagged for mass cremation and shipped off to the local facility. A quick call to the crematorium confirmed their worst fears. There was no record for an individual cremation for a collie named Lassie from that clinic. If Lassie had been sent to them, and not wandered off somewhere or gone home with someone else, she was now long gone.

As a former pet owner I know how hard it is when they die, however, when I heard this story I laughed ‘til I cried. Why? Who in their right mind has a viewing for a dog? Furthermore, what rules of petiquette come into play when planning and hosting a pet funeral? Inquiring minds want to know! Should one post a obit in the local newspaper announcing all the particulars or are invitations with R.S. V. P. cards more appropriate? In my locale it’s not unusual to provide light snacks at a viewing. In view of special dietary needs, should the host provide a range of low calorie, gluten free, macrobiotic, organically and shade tree grown, free-range, bird friendly snacks? Most pets would stick their paws down their throats and gag before eating that over priced cardboard; they’d opt for regular finger foods.

I wonder if cats and dogs stand around at viewings and ask each other the $50,000 question: “Doesn’t he (or she) look like himself?” In the case of the missing collie this was a mute point unless a stunt double was secured and then there would be a real topic for discussion. Should services conform to local leash laws or should freedom of expression be encouraged to assuage grief? At funerals, we’ve endured long winded eulogies and tributes. Should interpreters be provided so the attending pets can be as bored to tears as the humans?

            Because we love our pets, the door is wide open to crafty entrepreneurs eager to separate our money from our wallets in time of emotional upheaval. How about cryogenically preserving Fido for potential future resuscitation? Sending our dearly beloved into space to an inter-galactic pet cemetery provides opportunities to chase asteroids and dodge NASA’s space junk. Grief counselors, with specialized training could help surviving pets find “closure”. How they managed for hundreds of years on their own without help is one of those great mysteries of life. Finally, since according to Hollywood All Dogs Go To Heaven, and Hollywood never lies, studies should be funded at tax payer expense to find out what happens when cats, gerbils, hamsters, birds and so forth pass on to their final reward.

Here’s a thought. When preparing for a pet’s demise, stop and think? If they were in your shoes, what would they do? Would they go through a lot of expensive nonsense to bury you? I don’t think so. They'd opt for a trip to Hawaii or a cruise to Alaska to restore their emotional equilibrium. Sounds good to me.

photo credit: <a href="">ThreeDee912</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. That is hysterical! Your comedic touch is excellent!

  2. Wonderful, Mary! I laughed and cried!

  3. Mary, you witnessed the viewing of the cremains of the late, great Bun E Rabbit by Willow and DixieLynnTrippycat! Did you not see the concern and bewilderment as they looked around for the spirits and food that should have been provided? It's all about the closure!