“If you want to highly insult a dog owner, don’t ever say ‘It was just a dog’,” said dog lover Yvonne Blevins. “For most true pet owners, it is very devastating when they lose them.”
Yvonne and her husband Roger have the cremated remains of four deceased pets in their own memorial rose garden in the back yard of their home. The couple, who have no children and consider their dogs as family, have sandstone monuments etched with the name of each pet, their nickname, years of life, and a picture. The Blevins did their own personal memorial services for their dogs, different for the personality of each animal. If they ever move, they will take the cremains, which are in boxes wrapped in plastic, and the headstones to their new home.
Pet owners can process their grief in many different ways, starting with disposal of the body. What you do with your pet’s remains can vary widely, depending on where you live, how you feel about the remains, how other members of your family feel about “what to do with Fido,” your budget, and other factors. Here are some options to consider:
1. Let the vet handle it. If an animal companion dies while at the vet’s or is euthanized in the vet’s office, they will offer to dispose of the body. In the midst of grief, this is an easy way to deal with your pet’s remains. This service may or may not have an associated cost. You may not have a say in how the body is disposed of, and you may miss a sense of closure.
2. Get the remains cremated. Options for cremated remains abound. You can keep Fluffy in a special container and create an altar to her memory with her photo and cat toys. This is a viable avenue if you rent or live in an apartment or condo. You can scatter the ashes in your yard or a special spot where your pet liked to play. You can bury ashes in your back yard and place a memorial marker.
Pet cremation costs vary based on the size of the animal, and how the cremation is handled. Best Friends Pet Services in Albuquerque offers two individual cremation options, one where the pet is by itself during the cremation, the other where it is separated from other pets in the retort, using ceramic dividers. The remains are returned in a ceramic urn. With a third option, communal cremation, a group of pets is cremated and the remains are not returned, but scattered on private land in the mountains.
3. Bury the body in your yard. This gets a little trickier — cities and municipalities have a wide range of zoning ordinances regarding burial of animal and human remains. You can check with your local land planning and zoning office to find out the rules for your area. In rural areas where folks own lots of land, this isn’t as much of a concern. Either way, remember to dig deep enough so the remains are not disturbed or become a health hazard. Check with all family members first to see if they are okay with having a “body” in the yard. All it costs is your own muscle, sweat, and tears. You can pay for a memorial stone if you wish.
4. Bury the body in a pet cemetery. While a formal cemetery burial for a pet can be an expensive option, they can be some of the sweetest resting places for a beloved animal. You get a sense of the love that others lavished on their deceased pets, and it’s comforting to be among other pet lovers when you visit your pet’s grave. Prices for services and perpetual care can vary widely. Braemarr Pet Cemetery in Santa Fe accepts all kinds of animals, including horses. They provide biodegradable coffins, a marker, grave opening and closing, a short service if the owner wishes, and maintain the high desert landscaped grounds. Prices can range from $345 to $670, depending on the weight of the pet. You can find an online listing of pet cemeteries and crematoria at the web site for the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
5. Check with your local humane society. If you don’t have a place to bury a pet or the funds for disposal fees, your local humane society may be able to receive and dispose of animal remains for little or no charge.