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Cremation and Pet Memorials: Options upon the Death of Your Pet


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01/16/2008

Four years ago I had to put my 15 year old Keeshond, Bogart, down. He had experienced several strokes, was incontinent, and ready to go, according to my veterinarian. When a person dies, most people already have the plans formulated about what to do. The funeral, cremation versus burial – all these things are usually already planned. Yet when a pet dies, most of us are simply not informed as to how to handle it. Do we buy a casket? Should we cremate and get a dog urn as a pet memorial?

When I was a child it was simple. We buried my dachshund Bitsy under an avocado tree up in the hills of Santa Barbara, California. When Bogart died, I knew that I wanted my pet cremated, but I was at a loss as to what would happen until the vet explained it to me. In the end, the vet gave me a telephone number for the pet crematorium. I paid them $90.00 (in California) and Bogart’s ashes were mailed to me in a plain little tin can with a blue velvet pouch and a copy of The Rainbow Poem.

In the 63 percent of households own a pet, equating to 71.1 million homes, which is up from 56 percent in 1988. (Source: National Pet Owners survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) in 2007-2008).

This is why today, pet memorials are gaining in popularity. Since people can go online to do their research, there are a number of ways in which we can choose to honor our pets, whether a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, reptile, horse or any animal. You will find a wide selection of pet grave markers, pet cremations urns, pet keepsake boxes, pet memorial jewelry, pet portraits, and much more.

One popular custom known as cremation dates back to the Stone Age when it was practiced in Europe and the Near East. Widely practiced by the time of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. to 395 A.D.) cremated remains were typically stored in elaborate urns, according to the Cremation Association of North America. In the past cremation was more common in Western Europe and than in North America, but the number of people in the and selecting cremation has increased significantly during the past few years. The process of cremation involves reducing the body to bone fragments through the application of intense heat. Once a pet has died, its body is placed in a cremation chamber where very high temperatures of heat is applied reducing it to ashes and bone fragments The cremated remains, known as "cremains" are then reduced in size so they can be placed into a small temporary container. The pet owner may choose more decorative urns for pet ashes, or build a grave and bury the dog urn, for example, with pet memorial stones or a grave marker.

“Many people today live in apartments, and do not have a back yard in which to bury a beloved pet,” said Colleen Mihelich, founder of Peternity.com. “One of the items that we find is gaining in popularity is our pet urns, an expressive way to preserve a loved ones cremains. Many people enjoy keeping the urns in their home in a special place long after their pet has passed.”

There are also other online websites like Peternity.com that offer grieving support so that people can find links to pet loss information and pet loss counseling to help them say goodbye to their beloved pet. This is particularly helpful for parents assisting children with the loss of a pet. -- Kristin Gabriel.

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