The Dead Pet Paradox

People appear to be WAY more affected by the deaths of their animals than the deaths of their humans. 

Example: A woman comes in to pick up the ashes of her dead mother. She calmly picks up the remains then, noticing the paw prints on the shelf, exclaims, “Oh God, you do pet cremations, too? Oh, that makes me so sad!”

Example: Families I meet with to discuss pet cremation are literally sobbing and hiccuping, while human arrangements lean stoic, tense, gently misty, or detached.

Example: Me wincing whenever a horse gets shanked in a war movie.

Are animals our people? 

Are they easier to mourn because they are far less complex? 

Or do we project our deepest despair on to them because our brain cannot compute losing a walking, talking, kissing, and hugging human? 

Perhaps the lack of ritual is to blame: No one is giving you paid time off for a doberman funeral. 

Or maybe people traumatize us so deeply that we cannot grieve them as purely as animals. 

My sister thinks it’s the loss of the unconditional love we receive – adoration without strings or favors.

My dear friend, Amy, thinks we assign the most tender parts of ourselves to our pets.

So long as people ugly-cry when handing over their frozen guinea pig, I’ll wonder.