How to dispose of a dead pet: is taxidermy the very best option?

Have you considered having your dead dog stuffed? Or perhaps turning it into a rug? Or a drone? With no established way to mourn the loss of a loved animal, pet owners have turned to any number of curious methods. This year, a woman from Dundee posted an unusual ad for her dog, Snoopy, on Facebook’s Marketplace. The unusual thing about it was that the dog was dead. “Had our dog turned into a rug when he died,” the ad read. “Treasured family pet. Has to be sold as new dog keeps trying to hump it. Lookin for 100 pound ONO. Very cosy and unusual piece.” Cosy is questionable; unusual was an understatement. Snoopy’s flattened form and smiling face were considered so shocking that editors on the Telegraph and Argus and the Dundee Evening Telegraph put warnings at the top of their stories. By then the ad had already been howled off Facebook and the owner of the dead pet had backed away into anonymity. What do you do with a dead pet? What is the appropriate farewell to these creatures that psychologists call “self-objects”, so familiar they are almost a part of you, sighing sympathetically while you weep, cavorting idiotically, loving you uncritically. How do you cope without the pet whose lifespan encompassed long-outgrown childhoods and that your kids loved sometimes more than they loved their parents? And why, when we make desirable items out of leather, and admire stuffed animals in natural history museums and pass the mounted head of a stag without a second glance, why does turning this pet into an animal skin seem so … wrong? Psychologists can explain how we love the way a pet offers uncritical, uncalculating affection in an otherwise conditional world. They talk of pets as witnesses to our lives. I’m with them on that. More than a year after the second of our border terriers died, her earthly remains, along with her mother’s from a couple of years earlier, are still boxed up just as they came from the pet crematorium. They live under a chair, out of sight, but not in any way finished with. For a start, we have yet to summon the courage to say goodbye. And we can’t decide how to do it: burial in the garden, or scattering along the way of a favourite walk? Casual and informal, or with readings and tearful recollections? click to investigate This is what they call disenfranchised grief. Sam Carr, a psychology lecturer at the University of Bath who is interested in animals and attachment theory, says pets are “there in every page of your narrative. When you lose that kind of figure, there’s a trauma.” It is a kind of bereavement, which demands some formal response. But there isn’t one. “I’ve never met anyone who either skinned or stuffed their pet,” says Carr, “but I can imagine it offered some kind of respectful way of commemorating their life, maybe a tribute or a celebration.”

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