My town’s daily newspaper is now inviting the publication of obituaries—for pets. We do not live in Boulder, Berkeley, San Francisco, or some other community where New Age is old hat and people who have pets are considered "guardians" rather than "owners." This is South Dakota, for Pete’s sake. Farming and ranching still hold a sizeable place in the economy, and most of us still eat meat with relish (with ketchup or steak sauce, actually) and a clear conscience.
I suppose I should be grateful that these "pet tributes" are being solicited as paid inserts in the classified section. The obituary page, thankfully, is still—so far—reserved for human beings.
Of course, there is a bright side here. The obituary page has traditionally been the training ground for entry-level journalists. Pet obits could add a new level for those novices—the sub-basement, as it were. If I wanted to break into the newspaper business, I might aim for that level by submitting some sample tributes such as the following.
Rex, Labrador retriever, age three. His greatest love in life was fast cars. Unfortunately, he finally caught one.
H.D., border collie, age six. He rode to his first Sturgis Rally on the back of a motorcycle when he was just a pup. At what would turn out to be his last Rally, he learned that it’s not a good idea to try to herd Hell’s Angels.
Corky, golden retriever, age eight. He loved walking in the rain. He learned too late that it was a mistake to leave his mark on a fire hydrant during a thunderstorm.
Ringo, blue heeler, age ten. He spent his whole working life as chief cow dog of the K Bar J ranch and was dedicated to the cattle business. He never would have sunk low enough to kill a sheep. The only wool he ever got in his teeth came from chasing one of them mangy little cocklebur collectors out of his pasture. He died a hero, and the sheep-shearing SOB who shot him had better be watching his back.
Fluffy, gerbil, age 18 months. She had the heart and soul of a great explorer. Her last expedition took her inside the wall of the family room. Our memories of Fluffy will last forever—or at least until the smell goes away.
Madame Pomp-Adore, toy poodle, age two. She was a little sweetheart who spent her short life bringing pleasure to others. This was true even in her last moments; witnesses saw a look of great satisfaction on the face of the mountain lion that ate her.
Long John, boa constrictor, age unknown. Poor John ended his life by means of a hangman’s noose made from his own tail. He was assumed to be despondent because his fellow stage performer for more than 40 years, Ms. Boom-Boom LaDouce, had announced her retirement from show business.
Okay, this may not be great journalism, but even Woodward and Bernstein had to start somewhere. At least one thing is clear—there’s nowhere to go but up. Today, pet obits. Tomorrow, a Pulitzer.