E.B. Bartels has had a lot of pets—dogs, birds, fish, tortoises. As varied a bunch as they are, they’ve taught her one universal truth: to own a pet is to love a pet, and to own a pet is also—with rare exception—to lose that pet in time. But while we have codified traditions to mark the passing of our fellow humans, most cultures don’t have the same for pets.
In this conversation with Dr. Karen Fine, author Bartels (Good Grief: Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter, 2022) takes us from Massachusetts to Japan, from ancient Egypt to the modern era, in search of how we honor pets. She describes veterinarians, archaeologists, ministers, and more, offering an idiosyncratic, inspiring array of rituals—from the traditional (scattering ashes, commissioning a portrait), to the grand (funereal processions, mausoleums), to the unexpected (taxidermy, cloning).
The central lesson: there is no best practice when it comes to caring for your pet. Punctuated by wry, bighearted accounts of Bartels’s own pets and their deaths, this presentation gives space to talk about loving and losing our animal family.