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Mark My Words

Mark Pennington Bio

Mark Pennington's blog

Posted by Mark Pennington on December 1, 2016

  How often have you heard people talking about their pets as members of the family? How many zillion You Tube feeds focus on animal antics, or heroism? How many billions are spent on pets, pet products, vet services, and boarding? And, what about couples who feel their pets are their children? It’s not usual. We form powerful bonds with our 4-legged friends and we care deeply about them. 

  What role can you play in easing the pain a family suffers after losing their beloved pet? I know a funeral director who holds a Pet Memorial Gathering annually and invites the public to come and share stories. It provides people with a time and place to meet with others, talk about their pets and have the opportunity to express how important that pet was in their lives. Vets don’t do this, vets don’t focus on the dying. 

  This is where funeral service professionals can make an impact. More and more pet owners are shying away from batch disposal, it offends their sense of loyalty and, in some, creates guilty feelings. While they may not want a form of service, they want to “do right” by their pet. For some, that’s a personalized urn, others want an engraved plaque or other keepsake. Still others may wish to plant a tree, or have a garden statue. By allowing the family to make a decision about how they want to remember their pet, you show them how you’d care for a family member with dignity, sensitivity, and compassion. The emphasis has now become on caring, not disposal – and this makes a big difference in helping a family experience their loss. 

  Just a month or so ago, I read a story about a wounded veteran who lost both his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan. He relies on his constant companion, a Labrador/golden retriever mix, to help him adjust and thrive. He plans to attend college in the fall, and so will his dog. Can you imagine how critical this dog is to his sense of well being? And what about the hundreds of other “working” dogs who accompany the blind, and disabled. While we know that there is a long history of dogs serving in nursing homes and hospitals as therapy animals, here’s a new twist. My friend’s daughter has a “therapy” cat. It goes with her almost everywhere as a calming influence for her autism. Her cat provides a service that nothing else can. Aren’t these animals deserving of memorializing?

  By treating pets with the dignity they deserve, your actions reflect a clear understanding of the type of person you are and promote trust and loyalty. The huge numbers of families who love their pets could make a difference in your firm’s business. There is no reason why you can’t play a leadership role in providing dignified, personalized care in memorializing a loved “member” of the family. Years ago a forward thinking funeral director told me, “Take first class care of Fluffy and you just might get the service for Aunt Muffy.”


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