September 9, 2012 is National Pet Memorial Day, so declared by the PLPA, the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance, a committee of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. To honor our beloved pets, today’s post, Day 24 of the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge, is about pet funerals.
Originally, this post was going to be just about the unique people-pet cemetery Best Friends Forever here in Albuquerque. However, my charming cat Caesar went outside on Thursday night, as he usually does, and my husband Dave and I haven’t seen him since. I’m hoping Caesar is simply getting spoiled in another family’s home and not the victim of some awful fate. This turn of events made me think about advice I’ve given regarding pet funerals and the elements that make them emotionally satisfying.
They’re the same elements that make people funerals emotionally satisfying. I call them The Four Rs: Recognize the death, Remember the individual, Reaffirm your beliefs, and Release the spirit. I don’t yet want to give up hope for Caesar’s return. I’ll tackle the second R and share some stories about Caesar.
He came into our lives in 2007 when he was already six or seven years old. Our neighbors down the street had taken him into their household when their daughter moved to Spain. But they already had several dogs and cats, and Mr. Caesar was getting pushed around by the others. He’d taken to wandering the neighborhood, and once we knew his name, he came to visit us on a regular basis. The neighbors said they were looking for some nice folks to adopt him. We asked all of our cat-loving friends if they’d like to adopt this lovely cat, but they all said no.
It was summer time, and we were grilling salmon in the back yard. Caesar came around, and I gave him a little piece. From then on, it was love. I’d been allergic to cats most of my life, but thought if I washed my hands after petting him, I might be okay. We walked down to the neighbors and said we’d adopt him.
The first day after he became ours, we were sitting on the patio reading the Sunday paper and having breakfast. He walked up with two young doves in his mouth (freshly killed) and dropped them at our feet. It was like he was saying, “Here’s a present for each of you. Thank you for being my parents.”
We really didn’t like that he was such a hunter cat. Yet at the same time, he was in great shape. He would stretch out on the carpet and I swear he was two feet long! I used to teach yoga classes at home, and he would go crazy on the shoes of my brother Mitch and my friend Gary – no one else’s. He loved to jump up in my lap while I was busy at the computer, curl up and stay there. He loved to have his rump patted, often quite vigorously. And often he would curl up next to me or Dave as we went to sleep – and then wake us at 2:00 a.m. to go out. He had a great purr and he could sense a can of tuna being opened from the other side of the house.
We miss him and we’re still looking for him. Hail Caesar!
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I went and visited with Vaughn Hendren, general manager of Best Friends Forever, the only cemetery in the Southwest that offers a final resting place for people with their pets. The cemetery was established in 2010, and it is one of the few in the country to offer side-by-side people/pet interment.
Check out what he had to say in this short video:
He provided a tour of the grounds, which is pet friendly. People are welcome to bring their animal companions to visit the spot where their other beloved pets are laid to rest. Just make sure you clean up after them!
One woman, Carmelita Gonzales, is already interred in a niche wall with the remains of 17 cats – at last count. As they die, more are added to her niche. There’s also the option of placing cremated remains in an ossuary. It’s a nine-foot-deep “wishing well” with a cover. Pets can be memorialized with a tile on a nearby wall or a sidewalk pavestone.
The first animal buried there was Dexter the guinea pig. They also have a sun conure named Sydney buried at Best Friends Forever. They do have space for the cremated remains of horses, which can weigh as much as 30 pounds – human cremated remains average 3-5 pounds.
Best Friends Forever actually had a burial there last week, but I missed it. A mother and son watched the burial of their family dog.
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- Spend a few minutes reflecting upon pleasant memories of your pet
- Contribute to an animal protection group
- Volunteer at an animal protection group
- Create a small memorial in a flower garden in your yard
- Plant a tree or a shrub as a living memorial
- Think about your late pet. Look at old photos. Talk about your pet with others who were familiar with it. Reflect on all the great memories you made with your pet. If you lost your pet unexpectedly, try to keep your thoughts positive.
- Visit your pet’s burial site. Make a tribute to your pet by decorating its burial site with something it may have enjoyed in life. Talk to your pet while at the burial site.
- Create a small memorial in your pet’s honor. Plant trees, shrubs and flowers to memorialize your pet. These things can remind you of your pet long after National Pet Memorial Day has passed.
- Donate money or time to a charity or organization in honor of your late pet. Choose an organization or charity based on your animal’s breed or a particular cause that is close to your heart. Animal shelters, rescue groups and humane societies all appreciate volunteers.
- Send sympathy cards to former pet owners. National Pet Memorial Day does not have to be a solitary affair. Include everyone who has lost a pet in your observance of National Pet Memorial Day.