The Brookville Church in Glen Head is offering a special blessing of pets at 10 a.m. Sunday in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, whose feast day is celebrated on Oct. 4. This week’s clergy discuss how pet parents can cope when those blessed and beloved animal family members are no longer with us.
Chair, board of trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions
Losing a pet is surely a sad event. A pet always becomes part of the family, engendering love, care and affection toward them. Their loss is disturbing, even more so as we do not know how painful their death was because they cannot speak to us to tell us how they were feeling. But with all passings of a soul, whether animal or human, the transient nature of our existence is central to Jain philosophy. Nothing will last forever, and we all are just a medium of support to each and every soul that comes in contact with us. We should carry on the memories of a soul, but never feel sorry for our pet, as the soul has only moved on to another life and is celebrating its existence there. When we are born, we do not remember where we came from and who suffered grief after we left them behind. When a pet’s soul moves on to the next life, we should recall the happy times we spent with them, and not be saddened. Because the relationship has been one of love and affection, there is hope that we will meet this soul in some other form in the future and continue to build on the bond.
THE REV. VICKY L. EASTLAND
Pastor, Brookville Reformed Church, Glen Head
When my family lost our beloved Jack Russell terrier in 2018, a friend passed along to me a book she had been given when her dog died. “For Every Dog an Angel” by Christine Davis was comforting for me to read. I was given the book with the request to pass it on to someone else in need of comfort. Not long after that, I knew the perfect person to pass it to. My friend lost what she labeled her “soul dog,” and when I asked her recently what brought her comfort, she said the healing began once her family adopted another dog. She said loving another dog that needed rescuing truly rescued her. Everyone grieves differently and what brought me or my friend comfort may not be what brings another comfort when their pet dies. I believe in the end, all things will be restored, and that includes animals. But as a pastor, what I believe theologically about what happens to our pets after they die is less important than meeting the grieving where they are and letting them take the lead in sharing what is in their hearts. It is best to leave our theology at the door and more important to listen and offer support.
RICHARD L. KORAL
Clergy-leader, Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, Garden City
It is one of the tragedies in life that dogs and cats have much shorter lives than their human companions. I have outlived several beloved dogs and cats in my lifetime and their loss has been deeply felt each time. Those who don’t have pets in their homes might find it difficult to appreciate how deep the bond can be. Having a close relationship with a dog can show that non-verbal communication is rich and fulfilling. When we see how dogs can read our emotions and even sense the onset of seizures or heart attacks in their owners, it is apparent that they have much more insight into our state of being than we admit. It should be no surprise that humans can come to deeply rely on their companionship and their presence. They assume a place in the family. Losing a furry family member causes trauma. It’s been four years since my terrier Presto died, and I still sometimes think I see him from the corner of my eye. When someone loses a pet, we should respect their grief and allow them to mourn fully.