How Obituaries are Now Mentioning the Pets of the Deceased

In recent times, a notable trend in obituaries reflects the deepening connection between humans and their beloved pets. Animals who are considered family members, emotional support companions, or faithful friends, are increasingly mentioned in the final farewells of their human companions.

Traditionally, pet funerary practices, such as burial, embalming, or cremation, have provided dignified ways to honor these cherished creatures.

The recent excavation and relocation of over 600 animals from an Oakville, Ontario pet cemetery underscore the importance of a respectful resting place for our animal companions.

However, the evolving nature of the human-animal bond is now evident in obituaries. Once reserved solely for human remembrance, obituaries increasingly feature mentions of the deceased’s pets.

This shift reflects the profound impact animals have on our lives by recognizing them as valued family members.

Changes in How Obituaries are Done

The practice of writing obituaries was once reserved for society’s elite. Over the years, it has undergone democratization which allowed more individuals to be memorialized.

Obituaries serve various purposes, from practical announcements of a loved one’s passing to invitations for funeral services. However, their significant role lies in providing the bereaved an opportunity to narrate the story of the departed – delving into their identity, interests, and values.

A study conducted by the Nonreligion in a Complex Future project focused on Canadian obituaries over the past century, revealing a notable trend. The inclusion of animals in obituaries has seen a steady rise, reflecting changing commemorative practices.

In 1990, not a single one of the 53 Saturday-published obituaries in the Toronto Star mentioned pets. However, by 1991, a shift occurred, with Harriet being “sadly missed by all of her friends and animals.”

Similarly, in 1998, Berton was “sadly missed by his ‘good boy Scamp.'”

Analyzing obituaries from the mid-2000s revealed that approximately one to four percent mentioned pets. Since 2015, this figure has surged to as high as 15 percent. While the numbers may not be overwhelming in a sample spanning 1980 to 2022 (3,241 obituaries with 79 mentioning animals), the upward trend signifies a transformation in how people approach the composition of obituaries.

The Inclusion of Pets

There is a noticeable trend towards increased attention to animals. As these remembrances become more detailed and extended, it has become more common to include mentions of someone’s pet or their love for animals.

The passages not only reveal the pet’s name but also provide insights into their character – whether they were a “hoity-toity poodle,” a “loyal companion,” or simply “the best dog ever.”

Occupational highlights have also found a place in obituaries.

For instance, Mary, who passed away in 2019, was celebrated for her career at Nestle Purina, particularly for her role in inducting heroic pets and service dogs into the Purina Hall of Fame. This professional dedication was complemented by her personal life, where six black Labradors found a home with her.

The expanding scope of obituaries extends to hobbies and interests. Details such as Bobby enjoying moments in his garden with his dog, Chloe, and finding entertainment in his beloved parrot, Pookie, now find a place in these final narratives.

In lieu of traditional condolences like flowers, a notable shift is seen in the closing lines of many obituaries, urging donations in memory of the departed.

Unsurprisingly, organizations like the Humane Society, the Farley Foundation, and various nature conservancy groups are gaining popularity as preferred choices for memorial contributions.

This shift not only honors the deceased but also reflects a growing societal emphasis on meaningful and lasting impacts beyond the immediate grieving period.

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