Having a pet pass away can be extremely emotional – particularly when it comes to burying them next to your compost heap with little to no ceremony.
But Metro reports for the people of Lancashire, that’s all about to change. This is Shirley Wakefield – the UK’s first ordained pet minister.
She holds blessings, funerals and memorial services for all kinds of domestic animals – and she even reads them their ‘last rites’.
The newly appointed minister runs Serendipity Spiritual Church in Lytham St Anne’s, and aims to bring comfort to people as they go through the stress of losing a beloved pet.
“What my work will entail is, say, if your pet’s very poorly, I will come to your house and do some prayers. It is comforting for the families who face losing their beloved pet” she says. “I will stay with their pet until it passes with prayers and love. It is like reading their last rites.”
If the animal needs to be taken the vet to be put to sleep, Shirley will also accompany the owner to the vets – or will take them herself if they’re not up to it. And of course, she’ll be presiding over garden burials – after which, she’ll offer bereavement counselling.
“An animal to a family or its owner can be like a child, lots of elderly people lose their partners and their pet becomes their only companion and a child burying its bunny rabbit has lost its whole world. It can cause quite serious mental issues and stress for adults and children alike.”
“For many when they lose a loved one, in that time of grieving it is most comforting for them to be able to turn to their minister but that hasn’t existed for lost pets before. Now it does.”
All of her services will be free of charge and can be adapted to any faith. Shirley lives with her husband Alan and their two pet dogs which the couple rescued from Spain.
She says that animals have always played a huge role in her life and that it was during her training as a priest that she decided to dedicate her ministry to animals.
“It was while I was training to be ordained that we held a pet blessing service, where people bring in all sorts of animals from horses to hamsters,” she says. “It was during that service that I realised, instead of doing weddings and funerals for people, I wanted to dedicate my ministry to working with animals.”
“When I have lost pets, I’ve always had someone there as support but I couldn’t imagine having to go through it alone and so many people do – it must be soul destroying. The vets are lovely and caring but it is not the same as having someone there to listen and provide spiritual support – to reassure you that they have gone over the rainbow bridge and are in heaven.”
(Story source: Metro)