11 Short Readings for a Beloved Pet’s Funeral

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Anyone who has ever grown attached to a beloved pet knows that a pet can be a genuine member of the family. Thus, when a pet dies, the experience is not unlike losing a close loved one.

This is why it’s not uncommon for those who’ve lost pets to plan funerals for them. These can be informal affairs that only close family members attend, or they can be more elaborate. Regardless, if you’re arranging a funeral for a pet, you may want to include certain rituals and traditions that you would include if you were planning the funeral of a person. 

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An example of such a detail would be funeral readings. Reciting poems, song lyrics, religious verses, or any other such material could be a gentle way to pay respect to your pet while also comforting those in mourning.

If this idea appeals to you, but you’re not sure what type of reading would be appropriate, this guide will help with a list of several pet funeral readings you may consider.

Pet Funeral Readings for a Dog

Dogs have earned the moniker “Man’s best friend” due to the unyielding loyalty that many dogs have for their owners. If you’ve lost a dog who embodied this quality, pay your respects with one of the following pet funeral readings:

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1. “The Way We Said Goodbye” by Mark Vinz

Warning: This poem is devastating. But then, most poems about losing a pet are.

That said, you might still want to consider this option if you believe both you and others attending your dog’s funeral will be able to handle the deep sadness it expresses. While the poem is mournful, it also expresses gratitude for the lessons a dog can teach someone while they are still alive.

2. “The Rainbow Bridge Poem” by Anonymous

This poem is a very popular option for a pet’s funeral reading. It describes a happy place across a “Rainbow Bridge” that animals travel to when they die.

“The Rainbow Bridge Poem” can technically apply to any type of pet. However, the way it describes an animal’s behavior when it gets to the other side of the Rainbow Bridge is very suggestive of a dog’s behavior. 

(Note: There is more than one version of this poem. Numerous people have adapted it to better suit the type of pet they have lost. Check out our guide on Rainbow Bridge poems to find one that speaks to you.)

Pet Funeral Readings for a Cat

Cats may not have the same reputation for friendliness that dogs do, but those who have forged close relationships with their pet cats know that cats can be just as loving as any dog when someone is willing to put in the effort. To honor a cat during its funeral, you might deliver one of the following readings:

3. “The cat’s song” by Marge Piercy

This poem does not directly address the death of a cat. Instead, it perfectly describes the impressive, confusing, mysterious, and altogether beautiful qualities and behaviors of a cat, with final lines (“I will teach you to be still as an egg / and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass”) that somehow conjure up the sense of a cat’s spirit drifting away to another place just as gracefully as a cat quietly sneaking about our world.

4. “A cat has absolute emotional honesty…” by Ernest Hemingway

This is the beginning of a longer quote by Ernest Hemingway, who famously adored his cats. It touches on a quality that is unique to cats: The fact that they do not hide how they feel at all. This trait is one of the many reasons cat-lovers feel such affection for their pets.

The quote itself may be too short to serve as a complete funeral reading for a cat. Still, you might use it to preface a funeral reading.

Pet Funeral Readings for Another Animal

Poems about losing a pet and other types of pet funeral readings can be about any type of pet. If you’ve lost a pet other than a cat or dog and you want to choose the best reading for their funeral, one of the following may be precisely what you are looking for:

5. “Horse” by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

“Horse” is not a particularly happy poem, as it describes a horse conveying to the speaker of the poem their discomfort and asking the speaker to run along and leave them be. That said, a funeral reading for a pet doesn’t always need to be a happy or uplifting selection. It can instead convey a sense of pain in an honest but respectful manner.

6. “Heaven” by Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke’s famous poem about fish and the lives they live explains that for fish, the dream of Heaven must be a dream of a world where there “shall be no more land.” The poem’s content is somewhat on the heavy and serious side, so anyone looking to keep the mood light when delivering a pet fish’s funeral reading light may decide on another selection, but if you want to celebrate the glory and beauty of a fish, this could be the ideal choice.

7. “To a Skylark” by Percy Shelley

This is one of the most famous poems about birds in the history of English literature. It has remained a classic for years due to the nearly perfect way it captures the essential beauty of a bird in flight.

As such, it may be an option to keep in mind if you are selecting a reading for the funeral of a pet bird. The striking imagery could give you the sense that your pet is now happy and is flying off to a place where they can be free to soar to their heart’s content.

8. “Turtle” by Kay Ryan

Upon first beginning to read this poem, someone might not think it’s the best choice for a funeral reading honoring a pet turtle that has passed away. Most of the poem consists of the speaker explaining why no one would choose to be a turtle, given that turtles face so much difficulty in their lives due to their inherent slowness and vulnerability.

However, the poem does end by reminding us that turtles are almost perfect symbols of patience. This may be the very quality that makes someone want to own a turtle as a pet in the first place. A turtle’s patient nature can remind us to be patient as well when facing life’s struggles.

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9. “Snake” by D. H. Lawrence

Similar to the above entry, throughout most of this poem, it does not sound as if the speaker is actually praising the poem’s subject. They are describing a chance encounter with an unexpected snake that at first seems to frighten them.

Also like the above entry, this poem changes at the end. The speaker drives the snake off out of fear, but immediately regrets doing so. He explains that he wishes the snake would return, and describes the snake as being a “king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, / Now due to be crowned again.”

You might find this description comforting if you have lost a pet snake. While you might regret the fact that you did not have more time with your pet, you could also think of your snake as a grand royal figure who has now traveled to a place where it will receive the reverence it deserves.

Funny Pet Funeral Readings

The impulse many have when choosing a pet funeral reading is to choose something serious and mournful. This is understandable.

However, it’s worth remembering that sometimes bringing a little levity to the table can be a helpful way to make the experience of saying goodbye to a beloved pet easier than it might otherwise be. Funny readings for a pet’s funeral include:

10. “‘Quick! Quick!’” by Anonymous

“Quick! Quick!” by Anonymous is a very short and humorous poem describing a less-than-pleasant situation many cat owners have found themselves in from time to time.

The content of the poem is a little on the “icky” side, so it may not be ideal for every audience, but if you think everyone attending your cat’s funeral will have a sense of humor about the fact that cats aren’t always known for caring about whether they ruin the carpet (or furniture, or bed, etc.), it might get a laugh, helping everyone forget about their pain, if only for a moment.

11. Selections from “I Could Chew on This” or “I Could Pee on This” by Francesco Marciuliano

I Could Chew on This is about dogs. I Could Pee on This is about cats. What do they both have in common? Both are books consisting of imaginary poems that a dog or cat would write for its owner. All are hilarious. There’s a good chance you could find multiple selections in either of them that would make for the ideal pet funeral reading if you want to get some laughs during an otherwise painful occasion.

Pet Funeral Readings Offer Peace & Healing

Choosing the ideal funeral reading for your pet is one of many ways you can help yourself and your family after what is sure to be a very painful loss. To learn more about organizing a pet’s funeral, check out our guide on pet funeral planning.

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