Lynn Parramore: Why the Rich Are Sending Pets on a Diamond-Studded Trip to the Afterlife

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Yves here. Two NC themes, animals and income inequality, in one post!

By Lynn Parramore, an Alternet contributing editor. Cross posted from Alternet

I live in Manhattan, where signs of the New Gilded Age scream from the windows of deluxe pet spas and boutiques hawking crystal-studded dog collars.

The trend of celebrity-style pet pampering is one the rise, producing ever-greater demand for freakily fancy products and services. You can fly dear Fido in high style on a specially outfitted pet airline. Whiskers can relax in gold-plated splendor at Disney’s recently launched Best Friends Pet Care luxury dog and cat resort. An attentive "certified" camp counselor will care for his every whim.

But the biggest emerging trend of all? That would be giving dead pets the star treatment. Even in a sluggish economy, companies are making a fortune from the rituals and services sought by grieving pet owners. Clever marketers are finding new ways to give adored pets a glamorous send-off into the afterlife.

Egyptian royalty started their journey accompanied by mummified cats sporting gold earrings. Why not today’s 1 percent? 

The obsession with furry friends knows no bounds, reaching beyond the excesses of kitty wigs, haute raincoats and pet perfume right into the Great Beyond. The modest backyard burial has given way to the professional ceremony, complete with lace-trimmed casket and religious readings. If you’ve ever seen documentary-maker Errol Morris’s indelible Gates of Heaven, you know that pet cemeteries have been around for a few decades. But the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories in Georgia reports that pet funerals are dramatically increasing.

In the U.S., costs for a pet funeral starts at around $800 — and sky’s pretty much the limit from there. The "Royal Pet Casket," boasting three layers of foam and waterproof materials, is sold on the PetHeavenExpress Web site for $458. The elegant "Gold Cherry Blossom Hour Glass Cremation Urn," available from Perfect Memorials, comes in at $499.95. Does all that seem a bit cheap for Precious? Then go Nile-style and have your dog mummified for $30,000. Freeze-dried preservation is a less expensive option, but it will still run you several hundred dollars.

Perhaps you’d prefer to wear your dead pet. You can do that by having the corpse rendered into a synthetic diamond with a company called LifeGem. For realz.

In 2004, the first stand-alone pet funeral home opened in Indianapolis. Today, there are over 750 pet funeral homes, pet crematories and pet cemeteries across the country. And the trend is global. Luxury pet resting places are popping up in China. According to a recent press release from, the UK market for pet "bespoke" coffins, caskets and urns soared 467 percent last year. Brits are apparently taking pet love "to the next level" with "increasing demand for funeral and remembrance products."

The rituals of death are not limited to funerals and caskets. You can have your dead pet whisked from your house on a special "pet removal cart" designed to offer a dignified mode of transport for pet remains. Pet industry related "death-care items," as such accoutrements are called, range from garden sculptures to musical memorials — including a special ringtone to remind you of your lost pet. Pet psychologists offer individual and group therapy for the bereaved.

In this era of late capitalism, we live in a top-heavy society where the rich are flush with far more cash than they know what to do with. That development has merged with a post-war trend in which pet owners increasingly view animal companions as surrogate children and even mates. The anthropomorphizing tendency seems to be speeding along full-tilt, with owners choosing human-sounding names for their pets and insisting on bringing furballs along to bed and even to the dinner table. Developments in medicine — and the profitability of the health care industry — have increased the means by which pets can be kept alive, and have, perhaps, made owners less able to accept the inevitability of death. A neighbor in my apartment building in New York once rang my bell, distraught over the liver failure of her 15-year old dachshund. She wanted to know if I thought she should put the dog on a respirator at a cost of several thousand dollars a day. Veterinarians of the less ethical variety know they can rake in big fees when distressed –and deep-pocketed –pet owners break down at the idea of saying goodbye. Such grief is real and potent. But when does it become excessive? Or even cruel?

Emotion-driven humans are prone to perpetual folly. And capitalists, it seems, are everlastingly ready to take advantage of them. Greed, alas, springs eternal.


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  1. Middle Seaman

    We really shouldn’t occup ourselves with what people do with their money. We do have 3.9 million long term unemployed individuals. Foreclosures are high, etc.

    If we acheive full emploment at decent salaries with decent benefits, the rich can treat their pets like supreme court justice, I couldn’t care less.

    1. Lambert Strether

      But you’ve got to flatten the inequality curve to do that, so the pet foufra goes away. And that’s a good thing, because there’s nothing productive about that at all.

      A society that can turn a pet into a diamond and can’t build a tunnel under the Hudson when everybody knows the existing tunnel will fail

  2. Christophe

    Oh, the shame of it all! Not the shame of the rich, mind you; they know none. But the shame of all those poor pets. The humiliation of being strapped into a rolling posterior sling when the hindquarters give out as nature intended. Or the disgrace of being dressed up like Yoda or a ballerina once each fall. Or the mortification of being carried to the dogrun under the torturous stare of all the able-bodied canines in order to “do your tinkle-tinkle.” Followed by the crushing degradation of having “your bumy-wumy” wiped, contrary to all natural laws. Must a tamed beast give up all the dignities his feral cousins enjoy? And now, even in death! Et tu, Pluto?

  3. sissy

    I’m surprised the Airlines haven’t figured out a way to make us all stand up, like those things at the county fair, the ride where you stand up and it rotates. Kitty wigs, that’s hysterical Yves. Why don’t we just put party hats on them and give them those things that blow out with a feather at the end of it? I have two rescue kitties and I would never put hats on them. Maybe a tiara for my cat cotten. She’s like Ms. Pitty Pat in Gone with the Wind, I fully expect her to ask for her smelling salts and fainting sofa.

    1. mary

      Min got there first but just as a follow
      up: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh and
      The American Way Of Death (both editions)
      by Jessica Mitford.

      1. mary

        Oh and who can forget the chimp’s funeral
        scene with Gloria Swanson and Eric von
        Stroheim from “Sunset Boulevard”?

  4. Michael Fiorillo

    I am a lifelong resident of Manhattan, still holding on to a rent-stabilized apartment by my fingernails, and have been agog for years at the excesses of its lumpen-bourgeois dog owners (and I say this as a lover of dogs, but not the culture of American pet ownership).

    But no one should be surprised: after all, the name “Manhattan” comes from the original Lenape word, Manahatta, which translates as “Island of the Expensive Little Dogs.”

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The rich, the 1% lavish in their pets.

    There is a lesson here.

    But first, let’s ask how animals evolved to become pets

    1. They have been selectively bred to lose their aggressive needed to survive in nature.

    2. They have evolved to look cute

    Now why are some humans cute and some ugly?

    Well, the cute ones possess that ‘I depend on strangers kondness’ cuteness gene

    The ugly ones have that ‘I can survive on my own’ gene.

    Both are valid survival strategies, obviously; otherwise we wouldn’t have cute people today.

    Now, this is what the rich are saying, non-verbally communicated, of course, is this:

    1. Lose your independence, be like my pets

    2. Only those in the 99% who evolve to look cute will have enough resources given to them to survive.

    One positive way to look at this is this – the surviving 99% will all be cute, if you are into that kind of things, superficial things, that is.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There are exceptions of course.

      Once in a while, you will see ugliest pet contests.

      It’s not unlike emperors keeping dwarves at their courts. They will say this shows that their kindness knows no bounds. And it’s true, people do care about the less unfortunate (such as those with physical deformities).

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In a world where everyone knows Bill Gates, for example, one is out of ordinary not knowing him.

          One might say it is not easy NOT knowing widely known pop cultural names.

          With the perspective I guess I should take pride admitting not knowing a thing about him.

          But the sad fact is I know few names, popular or obscure.

          My dram is one day to know no names. Lindsey Lohan? Who?

          That would be the highest mental state for me.

  6. Tom Crowl

    A remarkably appropriate illustration of the Altruism Dilemma!

    i.e. the inescapable truth is that me, you and most everybody else will be more heartbroken by the death of our dog than reading about the death of millions of people on the other side of the world…

    That’s a necessary truth related to natural cognitive limits. Its also a fatal problem for scaling human social groups unless rigorously addressed and continuously monitored.

    (It’s inherent nature makes it a dilemma rather than a problem because it really can’t be solved… but only managed)

    The point is that this dilemma…

    (and its about a lot more than dog funerals… if we’ll face up it we have to see our own roles in this… its not that different than when we buy an I-phone but know the workers that made it have few rights)

    is why we’re still unable to build that idealized “Star Trek Federation” and seem bound to end up as “Borg” in some hi-tech nightmare future if we can survive at all.

    And these distortions eventually destroy civilizations.

    The solution isn’t banning dog funerals… but creating a system producing a more recognizably fair distribution of wealth and influence… (note: I didn’t say ‘equal’)

    Issues in Scaling Civilization: The Altruism Problem

    Its not really difficult to understand. And in a way maybe that’s the problem… like the nose in front of our face we tend to ignore it… until it gets clogged up and we can’t breathe.

    Issues in Scaling Civilization: The Altruism Problem

    And on a related note: my response to OCC re my foreclosure is up as a blog post.

    Response to OCC: TBTF and the Housing Collapse

    If only I’d invented some new sort of naked credit default swap I’d be fine… I’m clearly too focused on the wrong kinds of innovation.

    1. Maju

      Not true: I’ve lost pets and relatives and, for me at least, it’s not as bad as the oppressive feeling that all-pervading injustice produces. In fact, I sometimes catch myself envying the death because they do not have to put up with this Hell of selfishness and greed anymore.

      When you lose someone, including pets, it’s hard but also something that you know can’t be avoided in the long run. There’s sadness and maybe other emotions but it is part of the natural order of things. Injustice is not and that drives mer really angry and towards existential despair.

      1. skymodem

        What slight thing do I praise
        this unlit hour?
        Being lost to you
        and myself.
        my prayer?
        my pledge?

        To what darkness have I come,
        sweetest one?
        When all is overdone,
        and mere

  7. Wolf Filled Fraudclosure

    Dog meat is sold in Vietnam and other places. Horse meat makes a greasy burger, and should be available here in the USA for discriminating consumers. Don’t be confused, the “Humane” Society is more concerned with getting pets destroyed as opposed to adopted. The confusion also avails the casual observer to assume curing cancer is the primary motivation of the Komen Syndicate. More evidence suggests homeless or poor people are more abused than animals! Ironically, the animal abusers will face criminal justice more reliably than human abusers will. Dogs in fact, can have it much better than people, especially in times of blatant yet obscured feudalism.

    1. Catercorner

      Re. Dog and cat meat…–caged-cats-China.html
      Dogs are crammed so tightly together into tiny metal cages they cannot even bark. Yards away the blood-spattered carcasses of others lie on the ground.
      This is Three Birds’ Market in Guangzhou, China, officially described as a poultry market.
      But, as these exclusive pictures show, many traders on the 60-acre site are doing brisk business selling dogs and cats to restaurants for slaughter and human consumption.

      1. LucyLulu

        I assume you’ve seen the stories on some of the puppy mills. They aren’t any better. I also disagree that those who abuse animals are more likely to receive justice than those who abuse humans. Having been in the horse world most of my life and also knowing many who have dogs as well (most who have horses also have dogs), I’ve known far more people I’d consider abusive to their animals than people. And this even though I’ve worked in a field that brings me into contact with many people who have suffered abuse. The bar for what is considered abuse to animals is set higher. Somebody who beats the crap out of their horse for misbehaving won’t get their horse removed from them (unless perhaps (s)he leaves his/her horse obviously bloodied) whereas a parent who does the same will. Ditto for a dog. I’ve ended up with both types of animals whose behavior demonstrated they had been on the receiving end of abuse in the past and I’m quite sure their prior owners never had complaints filed against them.

  8. Glen

    Funny, our local Petsmart looks dead, reduced items on display, reduced employees, no groomers anymore, and a paltry handful of customers walking around.

    Guess I’m living in the loser part of the country in our new Gilded Age. Funny, most everybody around here is a conservative, I hope they enjoy getting reamed by rich people – they keep voting for it. We haven’t started eating our pets yet, but if this trend continues, who knows?

    1. chitown2020

      Our manufactured demise will be their demise. Why did the Roman Empire fall….? GREED…

  9. Observer

    Another example of the “jobs” created by the 1%. And are those ashes really Fido? I am reminded of the Atlanta area crematorium owner who made national news when it was discovered that he was tossing grandma and grandpa into the back 40 instead of cremating them as his customers thought. Turns out he couldn’t afford the electricity to heat the oven.

    1. Nalu Girl

      I love my dogs, but I know that they ARE dogs, not furry children. They have good lives, but when they are unable to enjoy it, we will go with them to the vet and cuddle and pet them as they are put to sleep. (we have had to do this before)
      They do not have costumes, tiaras, designer food and water, but they do have love and attention and they give it back.
      We are at an age where all of our parents have died. They were creamated, and my husband made beautiful hardwood urns for the ashes (he has also done this for friends) it was, for him, a labor of love and respect. Much better than paying an inflated price for an inferior product from the funeral industry.

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