Tag Archives: Pet Grief

Pet Cremation: Know Your Options Ahead of Time

Where will you go when the time comes to say good-bye to your beloved pet?  Most people will go to their trusted Pet Care Provider who will hopefully usher them through this crossroads of emotion and decision making with love, support and dignity.  It is important to know that Pet Care Providers are just that and may not know your preferences on the after life care you prefer for your beloved pet.

While pet cemeteries have been available in many communities, burial within a pet cemetery can be a very expensive option.   Many may still choose to bury their pet in the “back forty” but most communities now have very strict health department  zoning restrictions on pet burial.  Today families have become more mobile and may desire the ability to take their family pet’s remains with them if they re-locate.  All are reasons that more and more pet owners are choosing cremation and as many as 70 percent of those owners are choosing to receive their pets ashes after the cremation.  Just 10 years ago only 25 percent chose this option.

Knowing that cremation is your choice isn’t the last step in this decision.  Many pet owners do not realize that there is also a menu of options for the pet cremation.  Pet cremation usually falls within three main categories;  mass cremation, individual cremation and private cremation.

Mass Cremation – As the name implies this is the cremation of many animals at one time, within a single crematory session.  Pet crematories can be very large with a capacity of several hundred to thousands of  pounds of weight.  These animals come from a variety of clinics, animal shelters, etc and when the cremation is completed the ashes are gathered and taken away to be disposed of by the crematory company,  generally in their private landfill.  This option should be the least expensive option for the pet owner and is a sanitary and decent way to dispose of the pet if retaining the ashes is not desired.  It is important for pet owners to know that if they do not specify otherwise this is the option that will be chosen for their pet if they request that their pet care provider “just take care of it”.

Individual Cremation – The individual cremation is a source of some confusion for pet owners and can be very deceiving.  Individual cremation simply means that the ashes that are returned to the pet owner are intended to be only the ashes of their beloved pet.  Generally with an individual pet cremation, the animal is tagged with a metal tag and placed within their own individual metal “tray” in the crematory.  Depending upon the volume of the particular crematory there can be many animals within one session, however the animals are identified and separated.  When the session is complete, the ashes are processed, bagged,  and readied to be shipped back to the Pet Care Provider or individual pet owner depending on the circumstance of its arrival to the crematory.  Many pet owners believe that an individual cremation means that their pet was cremated in a single session by itself  and then given back to them as a guarantee that these ashes are their pets ashes alone.   The only way to make absolutely sure that is the case is with the following option and that is the Private Cremation.

Private Cremation – A private cremation provides the option for the pet to be cremated entirely alone within the cremation chamber ensuring that there are no other ashes mixed within the pets ashes.  Often there will be a tag with identifiying numbers that will be placed on the pet and will go through the crematory process with him and returned with the obvious characteristics of the crematory process on the tag as an extra assurance.  Many times the crematorium facilities will allow for a special blanket or toy to accompany the pet and some crematoriums now have waiting room facilities or facilities that allow for a witnessed private cremation.  Private cremations are becoming more popular as pet funeral homes are beginning to pop up across our landscape.  Pet funeral homes often can arrange for pick up of the pet at the private home or Pet Care Provider as well.  Sixty five percent of private cremations are from Pet Care Provider affiliates so it is important to discuss with your Veterinarian what crematory company he has an affiliation with and/or does he have a pet funeral home that he would recommend if what you require is the absolute assurance that a Private Cremation will take place.  The prices for these services should also be discussed in advance as they can vary greatly.

While it is a difficult subject to contemplate for every pet owner,  it is best to be prepared with as much knowledge as possible before the time comes.  Take the time to discuss your crematory options with your Pet Care Provider or with your local pet funeral home or crematory, make sure that you are clear on what it is they provide, have them describe their processes in detail and make sure that those services meet your expectations. 

As difficult as this can be, it is very important that pet owners are prepared with this knowledge before the agonizing time of the loss of a pet.  The loss of a pet is a very emotional and devastating time making these decisions all the more difficult.


A Promise Kept; his ashes are where he most loved to be…

 Benny Man was our first rescue dog.  He came to us from a breeder whose life had become more complicated and she could no longer care for him the way she should have.  He wasn’t for sale but when my husband and I met him and saw his condition we made her a very generous offer and she, knowing that she had over-used him as a stud and wasn’t giving him the care that he needed,  happily accepted our offer.  Benny was seven years old,  deaf and  emmaciated from a flea infestation which had compounded into a tape worm.  Our veterinarian was shocked by his condition and was able to remove many teeth which had caused the ear infections and, after months of tender loving care,  Benny was once again  able to hear and, to our surprise,   had a beautiful white coat!  We had thought that Benny Man was a cream colored dog but he had lived around so much cigarette smoke that his coat had become discolored and dull.

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The Moment After: Surviving Pet Loss

Rest In Peace Mrs. Birdsall a.k.a. "Birdie"

The world has just ended.  Your pet; your friend, your confidante, the companion who was always there for you-has died.  Dog, cat, horse, bird, hamster, ferret;  species doesn’t matter.  Age doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the huge hole that has just entered your life.  That, and the grief.    Conventional wisdom suggests that I devote this blog – call it “the moment after blog”- tips on how to start feeling better.  But, if your pet has died within the past few hours or days, you may not be able to even imagine feeling better.  You may be wondering how you can even survive.  You  may also not want to feel better.  Painful as it is, that ragged, miserable hole may seem all you have left of your pet and you may not want to get rid of it just yet.  The thought of “feeling better” too quickly may actually seem disrespectful.  You may feel that you owe your pet a period of grief, of pain.  “Feeling better” may seem a lot like “letting go”, and you may not be ready to do that yet.  That’s okay….

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My Rainbow Bridge

When I cross that “Rainbow Bridge” I am going to get knocked over with big wet kisses, many barks, a couple of happy meows and even some chirps!  I have had to say “good-bye, I love you, see you later” to 8 pets in total and, the fates willing, many more to come because  I will never live a life without pets,  they are too important to me,  they make me “whole”.

When I welcome a new pet into my life it is with a big inhale because I know that an unspoken promise that I make with my new companion  is  “I will feed you,  I will keep you safe,  I will keep you healthy,  I will love you, and if you need to pass from this earth before I do,  I will help you do so with as little fear and pain and with as much dignity as I can possibly control.”

It’s then with a big exhale as I watch them leave or hold what remains of their little selves.  What I have learned is that each time I say good-bye it is different.  Sometimes I have had a lot of time to contemplate the departure as I watch my little friends age and grow more frail, sometimes their time comes very unexpectedly.  What I do know is that what I have anticipated I would feel  is rarely how I end up feeling.  While sometimes I think I will be distraught and unable to function, I am able to move forward very sadly but with resolve; at other times I have felt I was prepared and have been quite literally knocked to my knees with grief.

I do, however, have great faith in that “Rainbow Bridge” and I know if I live long enough I will have a great many introductions to make when I cross to that other side.