A Dog’s and a Cat’s Take on “Disenfranchised Grief”

Even though I was being made fun of, I was flattered that animal news writer Melissa Stoneburner mentioned my last week’s post about a pet ceremony in examiner.com, a blog that boasts  of having “20 million monthly readers.” With readership like that, I’d be hard-put to complain about my blog name getting in print, short of defamation of character. She characterized the ceremony, which some 40 dogs and one cat attended, with the headline, http://www.examiner.com/article/first-nyc-non-denominational-pet-blessing. She paraphrased me as saying, “if a person grieves the loss of their pet, the big term that other humans have given this is ‘disenfranchised grief.’ What? And what?”

Alright there, Melissa. You just brace yourself. My thirty-three faithful readers and I are all lined up ready to do battle. (At least I’m pretty sure that they are.)  Apparently you thought I was being pedantic. Harrumph! As champion of the disenfranchised, be they voters, restaurant chains or grievers, I hereby will now defend the use of the expression, “disenfranchised grief.” All you had to do is talk with any of the dozens of animals there. Buster for example would have told you, “You betcha that people grieving over pets is dismissed. Haven’t you heard people snicker over the idea of a pet cemetery? And when I mention there are pet hospices, most people think I’m all-out  kidding. And my biggest PET peeve, practically before our precious bodies have gone cold, is when they tell owners, ‘Oh, don’t be sad. You can get another dog.’ What are we, stuffed animals?” Molly then might have added, “OW! Meow! How would you like it if someone in your family died and your clothed-friends said, ‘Oh well, you can get another. With 7 billion humans, a replacement shouldn’t be a problem.’ Just put yourself in my paws and you’ll see why I’m so CATegorically insulted.”

Just you wait, examiner.com.”Disenfranchised grief” is merely offbeatcompassion’s  initial assault.  I and my minions will now overwhelm you with my impenetrable arsenal of other terms: “complicated grief,” “Conflicted mourning,” “high-risk factors” and “inhibited grief.” So there! And there! And there!

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A First for Buster, Max, Princess and Molly: Pet Blessings

Buster’s latest diary entry: My owner Stacey makes sure my life’s not dull. Yesterday it was a pet costume contest where I had to strut around in a suffocatingly hot Superman outfit. Ugh! Today it was a pet blessing ceremony. As usual, I had begun my fitness routine in a dog run in a city park, but I knew something was up when Stacey trotted on over to the nearby gazebo, where plenty of other doggies were milling around, plus one cat that doggedly remained seated on her owner’s lap. I’m like what’s up, and then some alpha human named Chaplain Daniel started talking and we and all our owners all settled down along the edges of the gazebo. The word that most stood out in my mind in that chap’s introduction was “treats,” so I figured if that was on the agenda it would be worth my while to sit still. The other dogs were just as smart, because they arrived at the same conclusion and didn’t interrupt overly often.

The ceremony was not half bad as human noise making goes, and a guitar in the background made up for some of the “for humans only” type of chatter. But man my ears went on triple alert when I heard later on I could get my very own individualized blessing. That was a doggie of a different color; almost as valuable as a treat–well maybe that’s pushing it. Anyhow, a great big line of dogs formed along with their owners to wait their turn for Daniel’s made-up-on-the-spot blessings. As I waited in line, I swear I couldn’t help overhearing what the other dogs’ issues were. I thought their blessings were gonna be things like, “May your bruised leg get better soon,” or “hope you get frisky again like when you were younger.” Nope. Most of the blessings were about emotional things like, “May your dog lose her timidity and come to enjoy dogs and people more and more.” Or, “Molly has been sad and not sleeping well. May she find her zest for life again and speed along the dog run with new-found joy.”  The blessing I got was pretty lame: try to give Stacey (my owner) more slack. Argh! as Snoopy would have said. I thought the blessing was supposed to be for us, not our owners.

By the way, pets that were absent were part of this deal. I don’t mean just that they were not there, I mean they were gone forever. When Chaplain Dan said, “Bless our cherished pets  who have left this world but not our hearts,” I almost whimpered with sad memories about my parents. The chaplain then paused for people to say the names of their lost pets, and I was astonished at hearing a whole pile of ’em. A cat owner even got up to read a poem in it’s memory, how about that? Later I heard Karen, another chaplain (Sheesh, how many chaplains do you need at one time, anyway?) go over to that lady and mention how often  humans can be so insensitive about other people’s pets dying and act like grieving over them is nonsense. The lady basically replied, “And how!”

Oh, and I almost forgot: the treats, including animal crackers and bone-like strips got 5 stars, according to yours truly.   Yours truly, Buster

(Editor’s note:) The fancy shmansy word for types of grief that society delegitimizes is “disenfranchised grief.” Pet owners, and even fellow pets that lived with a pet who has passed (that’s another story), have every right to grieve for their pets as they need to. Not only that, did you know there’s such a thing as pet hospices? It’s true. They are all over, and two of them are called “Pawsitive Passings” and “Compassionate Care Cat Hospice.” You can see for yourself at the website of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. Their address: http://www.iaahpc.org/