Who shares your home? Who shares your life? If the answer has four legs and a tail, or even two and a beak, my guess is you likely love that critter-person more than you love most human-people. Am I right? I speak from experience. Let’s face it, most animals are just nicer than most people.
There is just one problem with critter-people, and it’s a big one. Unless your critter-person happens to be a tortoise, he or she most likely won’t stick around for as long as you. They have this horrible tendency to leave us behind before we are ready to say goodbye, with a broken heart and a huge hole in our life.
I am trying right now, without success, to put back together my own broken pieces. I walked into Manchester Dogs’ Home 16 years ago, and an hour later walked back out leading a sweet friendly pup.
Here is my darling girl Holly, on holiday with us in Cornwall.
I hope you won’t agree with the kid in the park that said, “That dog looks like a hyena.” I had to put my hands over Hols’ ears! No offence, hyenas. Of course you’re beautiful too in a hyena sort of way. Holpops’ vet did wonder if she would ever grow into those ears – and no, she never did.
Anyway the point is, from that day at the dogs’ home in 2001 until that heartbreaking Tuesday just 6 weeks ago, she and I spent every waking moment together. She would have slept in my bed too if the husband had allowed it. She did if he wasn’t around! There is nowhere I have been in those 16 years where she wasn’t by my side.
That Tuesday, as the final anaesthetic eased my beautiful baby into her journey over the rainbow bridge, I heard myself howling
“Don’t leave me!”
And so I joined the ranks of all of you who have gone through this searing grief.
Did you know – I didn’t until today – UK law permits us to make arrangements to have our darlings’ cremains included in our own burial? Or even, as in one Cornwall cemetery, have our loved ones interred and when our time comes, be laid to rest right alongside them. So it is possible for us to be together forever with our fur-&-feather babies.
Nothing could mark better the depth, the height, the strength of that bond we have with our beloved companions. How comforting it is to have that possibility.
Together in life. Together ever after.
“For many, the grieving process for a pet is no different to losing a member of the family”*
If you live in America, don’t fret. The U.S. is catching up. Just last month Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on Bill SO2582 that allows New Yorkers to include companion animals with them in their burial. Great news.
“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” said Governor Cuomo. Assemblyman James F Brennan agreed, “The pet/caregiver relationship is a very special one and I am happy that this relationship will finally be honored.”
And so am I. Isn’t it wonderful that something as hard and impersonal as the law can actually find a space for our deepest feelings?
That makes NY the fifth state after Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia to write this into the statute book. (But don’t worry if you live elsewhere in the States. It’s not unusual for funeral directors to sneak companion animals’ cremains into the casket with their carer.)
A law like this strikes me as momentous, and not just because it’s a comfort to us human-people. (Though that is huge.)
It’s significant because surely it must bring nonhuman animals a step closer to being recognised in law as persons. Anyone who has been close to an individual of another species knows that is what they are. This could take us a big step closer to recovering for all nonhuman animals, not just our companions, the rights that are innately theirs, just by virtue of their being a life.
As the good governor says, our companion animals are members of the family. And all members of a family have rights, even newborn babes. Even the unborn. So should, so must nonhuman family members too. And indeed all creatures – members equally with us of Earth’s great family.
If you agree, please sign the Declaration of Animal Rights here
And please share. It needs a lot more signatures.
*Vet Elaine Pendlebury
Owners pay to be buried with their pets – The Telegraph