Pets are like family members. When one passes away, it’s only natural to want to say goodbye. Celebrating the life of a beloved dog is a beautiful way to honor your pet, remember the good times you both shared, and help children (as well as yourself) through the grieving process.
In fact, pet funerals have been around for centuries.
Ancient Greeks and Romans built tombs with elaborate mosaics depicting their dogs. Similarly, animals mummies and coffins have been discovered all over Egypt, proving that just like today, our love for pets is eternal.
When planning a dog funeral, you will have many decisions to make. The loss of a furry bestfriend is never easy. Memorials.com is here to help you navigate how to plan a dog funeral service so you can begin healing, and look back upon your dog’s life with a smile.
Below is everything you need to know.
Burial or Cremation?
Saying goodbye to your dog is an emotionally taxing experience. It’s important that pet parents feel knowledgeable and supported through this difficult time. That’s why the team at Memorials.com has created a step-by-step guide on How to Plan a Dog Funeral Service to walk you through every decision, no matter how big or small!
First, when a dog passes away, owners will need to decide between burial or cremation. There are pros and cons to both options. Statistically speaking, over 90% of pets are cremated nowadays.
It comes down to a few different factors. Cremation services for dogs are affordable, environmentally-friendly, quick, and convenient in that pet cremation is available year-round, no matter the season. People can choose between the following:
Also known as a private cremation, this occurs when a pet’s remains are cremated by themselves, so ashes remain 100% pure. This can cost anywhere between $150 – 250+ based on size and weight of the dog.
Alternatively, when several animals are cremated together in the chamber, we refer to this as a communal cremation. In this case, a pet’s ashes will be mixed.
A burial can also be a touching gesture. Burials are good for families who have access to land, plan to live close by and visit their pet’s grave marker regularly, or who for religious / spiritual reasons do not want a cremation.
Ultimately, it is a personal preference. Whatever you decide, know that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to caring for your pet after death.
If you do choose to have your beloved pet cremated, then you will also need to decide whether you will be keeping the pet’s ashes (for example, in an urn) or scattering them. Urns are a fantastic choice for people who want to keep their dog close. That way, if you move houses or relocate, you can bring your pet with you.
Conversely, scattering a dog’s ashes is permanent.
Think about where your pup was happiest. Did they love splashing through the water? Hiking in the forest. Chasing after rabbits and squirrels in your garden or local park? Those who decide against pet urns or burial will find scattering the ashes of their furry friend to be a beautiful and final tribute.
Where to Hold a Pet Memorial Service?
Next, choosing a location to host a pet funeral service will depend upon what you decide to do with your pet’s body. For example, do you want to bury your dog at your own home? Or would you prefer a cemetery? Either way, it’s a sweet idea to hold a pet memorial service.
What is a Pet Memorial Service and How Does it Work?
Before diving in, let’s answer the question, “What exactly is a memorial service?”
Basically, a pet memorial service is a special commemorative event that takes place when the body is no longer present. It is a symbolic way to honor the life of a dog. That’s the “what” of a pet memorial service. In terms of “where,” these events can be held anywhere you like! For instance, at a pet funeral home.
Pet funeral homes are experts in death aftercare.
In some cases, families choose to also plan a visitation beforehand. This is where a pet’s body is laid out in a casket and lovingly presented one last time. In situations where a dog had to be euthanized at the veterinarian’s office or who died suddenly, visitations at a pet funeral home can bring peace to grieving families. A pet’s body will be wrapped in a soft blanket and displayed with dignity.
Once a dog passes away, people still need an opportunity say say their final farewells. Memorials that take place following a pet’s death can be held anywhere, including:
- Private Residence
- Outdoor Space (like a dog park or beach)
- Church Garden
- Event Venue
What is a Pet Cemetery?
Just as it sounds, a pet cemetery is essentially a cemetery dedicated only to pets.
Not interested in pet cremation? Having your dog buried is the alternative.
Oftentimes, people move houses. Perhaps they rent or live in a high-density apartment building without a backyard and zero greenspace. Of course, a dog’s remains cannot be buried on public land. Bylaws and local authorities also might prohibit you from burying a pet on your own private property as well.
What to do instead?
One good option is to contact a local pet cemetery.
This gives pet owners a safe, dedicated place to honor their pooch and visit anytime they like. When planning a dog funeral, research local cemeteries and ask your veterinarian and dog loving friends if they have any suggestions regarding where to bury your pet.
Are Pet Cemeteries Popular?
There are famous pet cemeteries all over the world! The most famous pet cemetery is Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park. Located in California, the five acres that make up this lot hold the remains of over 20,000 pets – wow! To the east, The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in New York is America’s oldest pet cemetery. It was established all the way back in 1896.
Nowadays, people can find pet cemeteries everywhere. From little plots in gardens and orchards to vast fields and rolling hills, many towns and cities will have a local cemetery they can recommend.
How Much Does It Cost to Bury a Pet in a Pet Cemetery?
The cost of planning a dog funeral can quickly add up. How much you spend will depend upon a couple of factors, including the plot size of their grave.
The average benchmark for a dog is $300 – $500.
On top of that, pet owners will want to select a headstone engraved with their pet’s name and other beautiful words to put on a headstone. Memorials.com offers a wide selection of granite and bronze headstones built to last. Additionally, you can bury an urn. This is a more affordable option, as the plot size required will be minimal.
Inviting Guests and Family
The next thing to do when making pet funeral arrangements is invite guests.
Who knew and loved your dog? Is there anybody who would appreciate being present?
Remember, a dog’s funeral service offers people an opportunity to say goodbye. It can be a small affair with immediate family only. If you remained close with your dog’s breeder, walker, groomer, etc. then you can always mention you will be holding a pet funeral, and give them the location, date, and time. For people expecting a larger crowd, RSVPs can be helpful (either by mail, phone, email, or social media).
It’s totally up to you how intimate you want the ceremony to be.
Guests are there for three reasons:
1) To grieve the loss of a pet
2) To help celebrate the dog’s life
3) To support the family
Create a Viewing Area
At a human funeral, we always include pictures of our loved ones. The same rituals and routines can be carried out at a pet’s funeral, too. Setting up a viewing area is a key part of planning and hosting a funeral service for your dog because it provides a space for your guests to reflect on all the happy memories they have of your pooch.
Luckily, creating a viewing area can be accomplished in a few easy steps.
Most likely, you will want to share memorial photographs and video footage.
Start by flipping through photo albums. It’s customary to have pictures present that depict the happiest moments from your pet’s life. For instance, the day you brought them home as a wiggly puppy! Perhaps any trips you and your four-legged friend went on together. Assemble your favorite 5 – 10 images into a photocollage wall, table arrangement, or PowerPoint presentation.
Can’t Gather in Person? That’s Okay! Plan a Virtual Viewing Area
Distance. Bad weather. Health issues. Work schedules.
No matter how carefully you plan your dog’s funeral, unfortunately not everyone will be able to attend in person. But thankfully, we have technology. When the world shut down in 2020, funeral directors learned how to be creative, and ta-da! Virtually streamed funerals, memorials, and viewings were born.
The same can be done at a dog funeral.
Host a Zoom, Skype, WeChat, etc. call to livestream the event. Or, build a website where loved ones can browse favorite photos and also post memories and messages about your sweet pup’s life.
Prayers, Readings, and Poems
Understandably, dealing with the death is a pet is an emotional time. You may not feel strong enough to speak. A pet funeral is an opportunity for you to do whatever feels best (through the smiles and tears). For most people, that means sharing a few words, prayers, readings, and poems.
What Should You Say at a Dog Funeral?
We suggest beginning with some opening words. Talk about the very first moment you set eyes on your adorable puppy. Invite your guests to tell stories about your dog. For example, what were their favorite toys? Did they have any silly habits? If they lived in the household with multiple animals, what were those relationships with fur siblings like? Share memories and focus on the good times.
Writing down your speech ahead of time can be helpful.
Is finding the words proving troublesome?
Not to worry!
There are dozens of eloquent, short, and lovely poems perfect for a dog funeral. Three popular poetry readings include:
- “Rainbow Bridge” – anonymous
- “A Good Dog Never Dies” – anonymous
- “We Have a Secret” – anonymous
Songs to Play at a Dog Funeral
Alternatively, you can play a favorite song.
It’s a proven fact that music is healing. When the pain of losing a pet robs you of words, the calming sound of instruments paired with gentle music is a wonderful way to express how dearly you loved your pup, without have to speak at all.
Consider playing any of the following songs at a pet funeral:
- “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole
- “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
- “All of Me” by John Legend
- “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
- “Stay” by Rihanna and Micky Ekko
Candle Lighting Ceremonies
White candles are a popular way to comfort grieving dog owners. The soft glow of the flame sets a tranquil mood for a ceremony. And in many cultures, candles are thought to light the way for departed spirits into the afterlife…pets included!
Votives are good because they burn quickly and won’t drip wax. Glass containers are also safer. Another idea is to light one large memory candle. Place your dog’s collar, tags, or toys on the table to share your pet’s personality. One family member can go around the room and light each individual pillar candle for a quiet moment of prayer.
After the pet funeral service ends, guests can take the candles home. Reburning a candle in private is a nice way to remember the life of dog.
Other Symbolic Ways to Celebrate a Dog’s Life
Looking for a creative way to celebrate your pup’s life at their funeral?
Here are two inspirational ideas:
1) Plant a memorial tree
Go to the garden store and select either a young sapling or flowering bush to plant wherever your have your pet buried. Oak, maple, and crabapple trees are hardy and long-lasting. For those who prefer the blooms of a flowering plant, lilacs and hydrangeas smell wonderful.
2) Do a butterfly release
Did you know?
The ancient Aztecs believed that butterflies were responsible for taking warriors’ soul to their final resting place. Interestingly, dozens of Indigenous cultures tell similar stories. Butterflies are symbols of transformation and hope. This is why many dog parents plan to release butterflies at a funeral.
Websites sell memorial butterfly release packages that can be shipped right to your door.
How to Dress for a Dog Funeral
At a human funeral, it’s customary to wear black.
But what should you wear for a pet funeral?
When planning a ceremony to mark the death of a pet, here are some general clothing etiquette guidelines. First, somber colors (black, grey, dark blue, green, purple) are more appropriate than bright flashy colors (pink, green, yellow). That being said, if you are the one hosting the service, it’s your call whether or not to implement a dress code.
Use common sense. A ceremony at a sandy beach will be different from a more relaxed home burial. When it doubt, it is perfectly polite to ask.
Ways to Help Children Deal with Grief After Losing a Pet
Finally, when planning a dog’s funeral, be mindful of children’s emotions. Losing a pet is hard. Even more so for little ones (who don’t yet have a grasp on the meaning of death). The most important thing is to comfort your child. They might be sad, angry, frustrated, and confused. As a parent, it will be your job to help them cope with grief.
Use Words They Understand
Start by communicating openly in age-appropriate terms. Explain that death is a natural part of the life cycle. Be open to their questions. Whenever possible, try to prepare children ahead of time.
Participate as a Family
Child psychologists recommend involving kids in the funeral planning process. Suggestions include having them draw pictures, share funny stories, help choose grave markers, etc.
When a dog passes away, it can be emotionally devastating. After all, your life was made infinitely better by the presence of your four-legged bestfriend! Even though it can be tough, planning a funeral for your dog is a loving way to say goodbye. A funeral is an opportunity to celebrate years of wet kisses, tail wags, and “paw-some” memories you shared.
Hopefully, this guide answered all of your questions.
Want to learn more?
At Memorials.com, our staff are here to help with every aspect of planning a dog’s funeral.
We offer the world’s largest selection of headstones, grave markers, urns, caskets, keepsakes, memorial gifts, and so much more. Visit our online store today. We would be delighted to help you plan a beautiful goodbye tribute for your dog.