The size of China's pet market is huge. According to the 2018 White Paper on China's pet industry, the number of pet owners in Chinese cities has reached 73.55 million, 56.38 million of which are dog and cat owners. The number of pet cats and dogs in Chinese cities nationally has passed 91 million, while the domestic pet (cat and dog) products and care market has reached 170.8 billion RMB. Statistics show that 53.9% of pet owners surveyed would be willing to purchase a funeral service for their pet after its death.
In this issue, TMTPOST Image relates some stories of pet funerals. We will learn how people bid farewell to their beloved pets: a tough man breaks down completely in front of his beloved dog, a companion of 11 years; a pet undertaker performs dignified send-offs for the deceased in her highly ceremonial job. In this industry, business and emotion intertwine.
Funeral Service: 6,000 pets cremated in three years
In 2018, Mo Mo began to work as a pet undertaker. Before that, for six years, she had been a regular undertaker of people. What prompted her decision to change her job was, in fact, her husky companion of seven years. Seeing her beloved dog growing old day by day, Mo Mo wanted to bid it farewell in person at the time of its passing. Thus, she switched her profession to a pet undertaker.
The pet funeral service provider Pet Admiration where Mo Mo works has performed cremations for more than 6,000 pets in three years; they include tortoises, rabbits, raccoons and fish, in addition to cats and dogs.
"Providing a funeral service for a pet is a way to provide closure on a relationship," said Mo Mo to TMTPOST Image. She understands how precious a life is; thus, she believes strongly in the equality of all lives. "Pets don't talk, but they understand everything. They deserve to be treated kindly and cleaned before they pass on."
Mo Mo has realized that people are unfamiliar with the concept of pet funerals. Most people choose to bury their dead pets either in their suburban communities or in the countryside. "That's a mistake since burying dead pets will likely cause environmental problems and spread contagious disease. Cremation lowers pollution and also provides dignified send-offs for pets," said Mo Mo to TMTPOST Image.
After a little over a year working as a pet undertaker, Mo Mo has witnessed children overcome depression with the help of their pets, elderly people for whom their pet has become their sole companion and young single pet owners living alone in the big city.
"Pets have been their most loyal companions, their family. Every pet that has arrived here has its own unique story, the story of its relationship with its owner."
Bidding farewell: I've never cried so much in 10 years.
Mán Tou was a Golden Retriever who died of pancreatic cancer, aged 11.
Besides combing the fur, undertakers need to also clean a deceased pet's oral and nasal cavities and wash away urine and feces from its body, attempting to restore its appearance to its former clean self.
Mán Tou's deterioration was rapid, taking just 10 days from the onset of symptoms until the dog's passing. Neither medicine nor injections were able to halt the disease. Fox told TMTPOST Image: "In 11 years, Mán Tou seldom got sick. In the past year, he wasn't as energetic as before. However, we didn't pay attention at first since he was already 11 years old after all and we just assumed it was old age. We never thought it might be cancer."
"In the last few days when I called him to go out for a walk, he didn't respond at all. In the past, walking is what he loved most. I knew it wasn't that he didn't want to go for a walk. He was too weak to even move. We cooked all the dishes he liked, something new every day, but he didn't touch a bite."
During the decade-plus of Mán Tou's life, Fox's parents passed away one after the other. He also dated two girlfriends. Yet Mán Tou was the only one to have been by his side through this entire time. "After Mán Tou's passing, my last support was gone. When he was with me, my home was a real home. Now he's gone, suddenly my home is gone too." Fox was totally heartbroken.
"Mán Tou was a really disciplined and obedient dog, and was especially attached to me. He followed me everywhere I went. When I played games, he would lie under the computer desk. When I watched TV, he'd lie next to the couch. When I was sleeping, he'd lie beside the bed." After 11 years of companionship, Fox's mind is filled to the brim with memories of Mán Tou.
In the first week since Mán Tou's passing, Fox cried a lot. He hasn't cried so much in 10 years. Fox said that he will never have another pet. "I don't think I will ever have a dog better than Mán Tou."
Guilty choice: After 11 years of companionship, we finally chose to euthanize.
Nari was a Schnauzer who lived in Bei Bei's home for 11 years. Nari was a gift from a friend to Bei Bei. "He was just over a month old when he came and was smaller than a plush toy. I brought him home in my arms."
One year before Nari passed away, he was diagnosed with severe diabetes which then worsened due to the onset of pancreatitis. Following the advice of the pet clinic, Bei Bei's family decided to let Nari be administered euthanasia. "He suffered pancreatitis attacks and the painkilling injections would only work for several hours. I was watching him shaking in pain, passing blood and vomiting non-stop. It was so horrible. I couldn't watch him suffer."
The whole family still feel a sense of guilt from the decision to let Nari go by euthanasia. After sending Nari off, Bei Bei said she will not have another pet. "He is my first and only pet." Looking over Nari's photos and caressing his paw print made prior to the cremation, Bei Bei said, "It's been a year already, and we haven't forgotten you. We hope you won't forget us. I hope you will be my child in my next life and I'll take care of you again."
Pet cemetery: Some visitors come twice a month.
Besides cremation, pet funeral services also include pet cemeteries.
TMTPOST Image visited Peaceful Cemetery, a pet cemetery in Fangshan district, Beijing. According to the manager, the forest covers an area of four mu (roughly 0.66 acres), large enough to bury 250 pets.
At present, remains of more than 30 pets are buried in the cemetery. Owners of the buried pets visit frequently; the most frequent visit twice a month.
Besides tombstones, the cemetery also offers to bury pet remains beneath trees. Tags made from photos of the deceased pets, with owners' messages written on the back, are hung from the tree.