While religious texts have numerous passages supporting kindness to animals, have religions kept pace – or rather, have theologians and people of faith kept pace – with more recent understandings of what it means to be an animal? Animals are not merely property or metaphors for something ‘bestial,’ we find many to be intelligent and emotional beings. The fields within the animal sciences have changed dramatically in recognizing this. It certainly explains why, despite cultural convention and theological misinterpretation, human beings can form such strong relationships with other animals.
How do today’s religions respond at the passing of a beloved animal, regarded as a family member? Can traditions allow beloved dogs and cats to be buried in our family plots? We are beginning to explore this with our new page focusing on religious practice.
Please share your religious practice for services and burials.
Sean Robsville’s Transcultural Buddhism website does not present a completely accurate perspective on the Abrahamic religions, yet does provide useful information for a Buddhist burial ceremonly for a beloved pet.
Here are two models for a burial service, one by the The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation’s “All-Creatures” program, and another by The Reverend Robert E. Stiefel, Ph.D.
A beautiful service with scriptural and other passages from Ritualwell.
Modifications: We would add the Mourner’s Kaddish, and would suggest referring to the female lamb in Nathan’s story to David as “she/her” rather than “it/its.”
Rev. Julian Stearns Cutler
You’re only a dog, old fellow;
a dog, and you’ve had your day;
But never a friend of all my friends
has been truer than you alway.
Rev. Julian Stearns Cutler (1854-1930) graduated in 1885 from the Theological School at Tufts College and served Universalist churches in Marblehead, Melrose, and Orange, Massachusetts; in Little Falls, New York; and in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. His occasional verse was published after his death under the title Songs of Cheer. One of his hymns, “Motherhood, sublime eternal,” written about 1910, was included in Hymns of the Church, 1917, and, in slightly altered form, in Hymns of the Spirit, 1937. – Henry Wilder Foote, DNAH Archives. Added 7/1/16
updated July 1, 2016