Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Lynne S. McNeill
Jeannie B. Thomas
Many individuals develop strong bonds with their pets, viewing them as close “furry” friends or family. When these beloved companions die, both their relational and physical absences are deeply felt. Lacking socially recognized rituals to mourn and memorialize their pets, owners turn to and adapt traditional “human practices,” primarily that of keeping meaningful or significant items of the deceased.
Using both personal experiences and perspectives from multiple fields, this thesis discusses the life-cycle of the human-animal bond, examines the types of items owners keep or create, and how these are used to facilitate both mourning (the outward expression of grief) and memorialization (the practice of remembering). I argue that because they allow owners to both literally and symbolically recreate the sensory experiences of pet ownership, material items such as hair, impressions, collars, cremains, and models are ideal ways to remember deceased pets.
As a result, this study adds to and deepens the understandings of the complexities surrounding the human-animal bond, in addition to how owners use and extend folkloric behaviors and principles, such as tradition and the material culture genre to include experiences and relationships with pets.
Koontz, Gemma N., "Death Ends a Life Not a Relationship: The Embodied Mourning and Memorializing of Pets Through Material Culture" (2019). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 7496.
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