Parson to Person: “About Our Animal Friends,” July 10, 2020

During this time of sheltering in place, sometimes our pets become even more important than usual–especially for those of us who live alone. (In fact, I have read that pet adoptions have gone up about 100% since COVID restrictions have been in place.) In the last 2 months I have become aware of at least two of our members losing a beloved pet of many years.

 

I just wanted you to know that if you (or your children) have lost an animal–or if you or they lose one in the future–I’d be happy to help you memorialize your pet with a celebration of their life. (Yes, we’re talking about pet funerals here.)

 

Why?  you may ask. Because both children and adults frequently need to grieve the loss of a pet. Being told “Don’t cry–it’s only an animal” ignores the deep feelings we often have for our animal companions (who are, in many cases, members of our family). And being told “Just get a new one” ignores the fact that pets are more than objects that can be “replaced.” (It’s true that getting a new pet can be a good thing, for you and the animal–but it does not magically erase the grief you feel at a pet’s death.) So, having some kind of remembrance ritual honors not only the pet that has died, but the feelings of the people who grieve that loss.

 

We sometimes make jokes about our pets. (Like: “Cats are like Baptists; they raise hell, but never get caught.” Or comedian Rita Rudner’s quip: “My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child. We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpet or ruin our lives.”) But I do think animals–cats, dogs, birds, mice, rabbits, etc.–make significant contributions to the lives of many of us. (I once performed a wedding where the bride came down the aisle with her dogs. It was a light moment in the service–but a thoughtful one too, for these dogs had been an important part of her life, and her husband was taking them into his life as well as her!)

 

So if you have a pet that you care for, I don’t think you ever need to be reticent about your feelings. Human beings have lived with animals for thousands of years. Respecting and being attached to another life form is not a sign of immaturity or childishness. It is, rather, a parable of how we might all learn “respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.”

 

peace and unrest,

tony

 

P.S. I found a little poem on the subject of mice–specifically, a church mouse–that I thought you might enjoy.

 

“To a Church Mouse,”  by Erika Pont

 

O Mouse!

Do you realize whose house you live in?

‘Tis the house of God

And you stick out your tongue?

Surely it’s blasphemy.

Ah, but you are so lucky to be

the Unitarian Universalist Church’s  mouse.

For here,

Before getting a cat to pounce on you,

They will discuss the question for months.