Chinese pet lovers share how they bid farewell to their furry friends

By He Keyao Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/30 18:18:40

Wu Mao plays with Yuanshuai. Photo: Courtesy of Zhao Xin

Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when you are used to doing fun activities with them every day. It's no different with pets. 

Often viewed as members of the family, or even as a replacement for kids in some households, pets hold a special place in their owner's heart, and when it comes time to say goodbye, it can be heart-wrenching.

So, what is the best way to bid farewell to your pet? Metropolitan spoke to some pet owners who lost their furry friends to try to find the answer.

Pet cat Qian Xiaopang poses for a picture. Photo: Courtesy of Eric Pan 


Qian Xiaopang lays in the memorial hall at Joypets. Photo: Courtesy of Eric Pan


Wu Mao runs with family dog Yuanshuai. Photo: Courtesy of Zhao Xin

Ending their suffering

"No matter where you are, we will forever love you and our hearts are forever with you," teary-eyed Zhao Xin said to her 14-year-old beagle named Yuanshuai in the operating room of a pet hospital recently.

The dog had terminal cancer. He was also blind, in great pain and unable to move. After a series of medical checks, the doctor suggested euthanasia to end the animal's suffering.

Zhao raised Yuanshuai from he was two months old. The dog was her best friend and also a family member that witnessed her life change from being a girl to a wife and now a mother.

"He was smart and considerate. He cared about everything in the family and always tried to help," Zhao said.

When Zhao was recuperating after giving birth to her son, Yuanshuai would keep watch over her and find a family member to help her every time she needed to feed her child. As her son grew up, Yuanshuai became his best friend as well.

"Brother Shuai often played with me, and I miss him very much," said Zhao's five-year-old son nicknamed Wu Mao. The name means he ranks the fifth in his generation among his "brother and sisters," all pets older than him. In Zhao's family, Yuanshuai was no different from a person.

So, when it came time to say goodbye, Zhao was understandably heartbroken. Euthanasia was the best choice for him, but it was hard to let him go. Zhao could not make her decision without first talking to Yuanshuai.

"The best thing to do is to treat [your pet] well when he was alive and let him suffer less when it was time to go," she said. "He seemed to understand my decision. I know I've made the right choice."

Zhao had Yuanshuai cremated and wears some of his ashes in a cross necklace every day.

Two carrots mark Little M's burial site. Photo: Courtesy of Huang Rong

Little M Photo: Courtesy of Huang Rong

Together to the very end

"Qian Xiaopang was very human in nature, and he waited for our company before taking his last breath," said Eric Pan.

Xiaopang was his pet cat, who died of illness months ago. The story of Pan and his cat started three years ago when Pan and his partner were having a hard time and thought getting a pet might help strengthen their relationship. The cat brought much love and fun to their life.

"Every time we had a quarrel, the cat would act cute, asking for a rub or scratch, which made us forget our displeasure quickly," Pan said.

The couple treated him like their son, and Pan thought the cat brought them good luck.

"He was like an angel who came to us at our most difficult time and left right after we achieved the economic conditions to offer him a better life. We owe him a lot," Pan said.

Xiaopang was diagnosed with incurable disease in September. After struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis and the inevitability of his pet's death, Pan started to write a diary for him. He posted the diary, which chronicles everything up to the cat's last moments, online.

"Xiaopang slept on my chest the whole night for the first time the night before he died. I didn't expect that it would be the last night he stayed with me," said Pan.

The next day, he came home to find Xiaopang under a table. The cat's body had already started to stiffen, but he still waited another more than two hours for Pan's wife to come home. The cat died in their arms.

"I told him if he passes away one day, it has to be in our presence. He kept that promise," wrote Pan.

The couple cremated his body and put his ashes in a cinerary casket that they keep in their bedroom.

"This is the only way that Xiaopang can continue to be with us," Pan said.

A ritual send-off

For some pet owners, a ceremony is a must when saying goodbye. Huang Rong, a PhD student, is one of them.

"My way to say goodbye has a strong sense of ceremony. I need those complicated rituals to help me accept the fact that my Little M is gone," Huang said, recalling the funeral she had for her pet rabbit.

The rabbit had approached her while she was walking on campus one day. It then jumped onto her legs when she squatted to observe him. After failing to find his owner, Huang decided to keep the creature and named him Little M, the smaller version of her roommate who goes by the nickname Big M.

"It was very quiet and soft. It just sat next to me and offered company all the time whenever I studied or worked," Huang said. "It made me feel warm every time he greeted me enthusiastically when I returned home."

Little M died of food poisoning, and Huang wrapped him in his favorite blanket and buried him on a small island in the middle of a man-made lake on the campus.

"That island is the perfect place. It has flowers in spring, cool breeze in summer, red leaves in autumn and the fragrance of plum blossoms in winter. I hope he rests in peace," Huang said.

One of her regrets is that she didn't take many photos of him. Now, she takes tons of photos every time she sees a cute animal. Losing Little M has taught her to cherish the moment, she said.

Liang Min also buried her pet.

"We buried him under a tree near our house so that I could visit him often," said Liang.

She had a pet dog named Fu Wang years ago when she was a middle school student. She was afraid of the dark at the time, and the dog offered her warm companionship and made her feel safe.

The dog would also seek her out at school, which often embarrassed her in front of her classmates, but now that kind gesture is one of the things she misses the most.

"The most important thing in saying goodbye was to realize that every life needs to be respected. Not only in treating your own pet well but also to be kind to other animals in the future," Liang said.

The pet funeral industry

As pet owners pay more attention to their pet's funeral affairs, a growing number of people are turning to professional service providers, and cremation has become an increasingly popular choice among owners.

"Cremation is cleaner and more environmentally friendly than a traditional burial. It allows the pets to leave the world with dignity and is gaining growing acceptance among the public," said Li Chao, the founder of Joypets, a pet funeral service provider.

According to Li, the standard pet grave must be at least 1.5 meters deep, which is hard for most people to achieve. Also, if one's pet died of disease, its body, as well as the clothes and accessories buried with it could pollute the environment, which is why burial is not suitable in highly-populated communities and cities. By contrast, cremation poses less harm to the environment and owners can collect and keep their pets' ashes as a memento.

Some owners use their pet's ashes to make necklaces or diamonds so that they can take their pet with them wherever they go, Li explained.

Some service providers, like Li, also offer cleaning services so that pets can leave with dignity. A simple ceremony is also in high demand among pet owners.

"The sense of ceremony gives a complete conclusion to life, and it makes people face and explore the true meaning of life and company," Li said. "A ceremony doesn't need to be complicated or follow certain routines. It only needs to be sincere."

Newspaper headline: Saying goodbye


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