I submitted this a while ago now. There are so many conferences that fell victim to COVID-19 and, while some of them will never go ahead, it is nice to see that others (like this one) are adapting to the online environment! I don’t know the particulars yet, but I am really excited to be included!
I don’t have a title for it yet – still deciding!
The time has come when humans need to engage in serious discussion about the purpose and place of a good death. This should not be focused concept as it applies to our own kind – but what a good death means and looks like for our companion animals. We might start by considering what we owe to them. These animals, who share our lives, and loves us unconditionally, often die often as they have lived: in service. So how can we companion them in their final moments? How can we mourn them adequately, giving voice to their influence, their impact, their memory?
Secondary to this, we may ask what we owe to ourselves, specifically by way of acknowledging the very real and often inarticulate grief that accompanies the loss of a companion animal, a best friend, a confidant, a pet.
All too often companion animal death is pushed out of sight, as though it were embarrassing to mourn the loss of a different species. In taking this approach though, not only do we dishonour their memory, but we also dishonour ourselves by failing to acknowledge the significance of our interspecies bond, and the necessity of the grief rituals which accompany such a profound loss.
This paper interrogates how humans honour the lives of our companion animals, both during end of life care and after their death, and questions how we might do this differently. Drawing upon on-going research into end of life care and animal preservation and memorialisation, it explores what a good death means for companion animals. In doing so, and with a heavy emphasis on the importance of creative outputs, it anticipates new ways we might embrace the death and mourning experience.