Burying a dog or cat is an important part of the grieving process for many people. It certainly was for me. So as someone who advises it, and has done it, I was annoyed to see “Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard” featured on my ABC.
It’s the classic case of sitting in an ivory tower making the rest of Australia feel guilty for doing what comes naturally. It also says some fairly silly things. So before I give you some simple tips for a proper home burial, let’s clear them up.
The dog breeds famous for short lifespans are the giant breeds like Great Danes and Wolfhounds. I think that the diseases they are known for (bone cancer and dilated cardiomyopathy) take them while they are still in the prime of life. If we look at the large breeds, like Golden Retrievers for example, it’s not at all clear that they live any shorter lives than small dogs.
When Is A Dog Considered Old?
British is an Airedale terrier who inspired this blog. By the old method, he’s 63 years old and even the new way says he’s 57. Most importantly, in his head, he’ll always be a teenager.
Dogs are only as old as they feel. I don’t think we should talk about ‘old age’ in dogs the way we do about people being retired or pensioners. True, knowing the equivalent human age is helpful in thinking about healthcare but it says nothing about their state of mind.
When I wrote about how to know when to go to the vet I said all change is meaningful. Old age is just the sum total of separate diseases. If we keep them under control our dogs can feel and act young right up to their senior years.
Lebeau, A. (1953). L’âge du chien et celui de l’homme. Essai de statistique sur la mortalité canine. Bulletin de l’Academie Veterinaire de France, 26, 229-232. The matching of human and dog ages in this visionary study from 1953 has stood the test of time and become the basis for modern approaches to assessing dog age.
Going through the grief of losing my beautiful old cat made me understand how we shouldn’t go through this alone. To avoid thinking about the death of our pets is natural but it leaves us terribly unprepared when the moment arrives. I know these discussions will be unwelcome to many and understand if they create feelings of anger or distress, for which you have my sincerest apologies.
Here are my suggestions to help you or others through this terrible time. Remember that everyone’s individual experience of grief is different and not all these will apply to each case. And it will get better.