They provide comfort in times of distress, laughter in moments of gravity, love during spells of loneliness. They are, to paraphrase writer Edith Wharton, a heartbeat at one’s feet.

Pets are our best friends, faithful companions and family members. And not even death, it seems, can break that bond between animal and human.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the increasing number of pet obituaries springing up on the Internet, in some newspapers and on social media sites.

On websites such as Doggy Heaven and Immortal Pets, on blogs such as the Orange County Register’s Pet Tales, on countless personal Facebook pages, grief-stricken pet owners funnel their sadness into heartfelt, often heart-wrenching tributes.

The obituaries — accompanied by photo montages, poems, and notes of condolence from friends and fellow pet owners — are part therapy and part memorial, a way to grieve and a way to immortalize.

The sites also testify to the coveted place pets hold in American culture. About 62 percent of households, or 71.4 million homes, now include pets, according to the American Pet Products Association. Pet owners spend an estimated $48 billion on food, supplies, medical care and grooming for their animals.

“It’s a reflection of the social fabric,” says Samantha Gowen, who writes the Orange County Register’s Pet Tales blog, which regularly includes obituaries sent in by readers. She notes that most pet owners are aware that they will likely outlive their animals, which gives the relationship a special poignancy.

“There’s a great sense of empathy when it comes to pets and their lives,” says Gowen. “Pet owners are all connected by their pets and death.”

Online obituaries offer pet owners a way to tap into that network, find support and channel the pain of losing a pet. Kristin Tomyn, a 39-year-old real estate agent from Indianapolis, was distraught after the sudden death of Dakotah, her 12-year-old Siberian husky, and was searching the Internet for consolation when she stumbled across Doggy Heaven.

The site’s home page, with a sky-blue background and a logo of a dog collar glowing like an angel’s halo, appealed to Tomyn. As did the Doggy Heaven mission statement: “All dogs go to heaven. Doggy Heaven is a place of solace and joy where you can honor the memory of your departed canine companions.”

Tomyn immediately began writing her elegy for Dakotah.

Posting the obituary, Tomyn says, helped her get through early feelings of shock and nearly inconsolable loss. “It was part of the healing process,” she says.

Doggy Heaven, which began operating about two years ago, now has a database of more than 1,200 dog obituaries. The site is free, searchable by pet names and breeds, and allows owners to post photos and information such as nicknames, favorite toys and favorite games.

The site has been a labor of love for its founder, Joann Cencula. “I got the idea when I was walking through a cemetery, and realized how the presence of headstones, markers and dates showed that the person was loved by somebody, that they belonged to a family,” says Cencula, 59. “I thought: There ought to be something like that for dogs.”