Anyone who has lost a pet knows the pain runs deep.
Keenan Knopke sees it all the time as president of Curlew Hills Pet Cemetery in Palm Harbor, one of Tampa Bay's few pet cemeteries.
Knopke, who's actually grieving the loss last month of his Shih Tzu, Precious, is speaking Saturday at the SPCA Tampa Bay on how to prepare for a pet's death and cope with the loss. tbt* called him for some tips.
Why do people choose a pet cemetery over burying their pet in their back yard?
They want to know that it's in a permanent place, that they can come and visit even if they may move. Many new owners, if you have a marker or some type of memorial there, they're going to take it out. They don't want to know about your Fluffy in their back yard.
Do people visit the graves often?
Oh, yes. They probably come more often than they go to human graves.
What are some effective ways to overcome the loss of a pet?
Talking about it. Years ago we used to think that people who grieved over a pet loss were wackos. Today, it's accepted. The worst thing you can do is not talk to anybody and keep it inside of you, because it will consume you.
Do people grieve differently for humans and pets?
If anything, they grieve harder and longer over pets. Keep in mind that with humans you have a relationship. You have up and downs with them over your lifetime. With pets, every day when you get up, they give you love and affection. You're everything to them, and you accept that responsibility openly and willingly.
Is it a good idea to go out and get a new pet after one dies?
Yes, if they can care for it. But they need to do it in a process that's orderly and planned, not a knee jerk to fill that void so you've got a dog to walk or a cat to clean their box. You'll end up hating or not really liking that animal because they aren't the one you've lost.
What do you think about stuffing pets?
I find that bizarre, personally. I guess that's a lot like stuffing a deer head. If that's what you want to do, and that's what makes you feel good, that's fine.
What about making diamonds out of cremated remains?
It's terribly expensive and, for the amount of money that it costs, you ought to go out and buy a real diamond. But for somebody who wants something very personal and very special, hey, I've got no problem with it. I know with my dog, my wife will end up with a necklace with a small amount of the cremated remains in it.
What's the most elaborate pet memorial you've seen?
In our cemetery, they are pretty simple. But in the Northeast, pet cemeteries are very common and very large. There's one up there where the man built ... an exact replica of his family's private mausoleum for his pet, and he spent upwards of $100,000.
What kind of pet was that?
It was a Lab, I believe.