Pet Funerals, Cemeteries and the After Life - Articles Archive

 

 

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

 

Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you inheaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

 

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to Heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

 

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

 

 

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in Heaven.

Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love.

 

Love,

God

 

JUDY LAYNE | NS SPCA
Published April 9, 2017 – 1:04pm
Last Updated April 11, 2017 – 12:20pm

 My sweet Maddie on her favourite pillow.
My sweet Maddie on her favorite pillow.

 

So long, old friend
Service set in memory of lost pets

Losing a pet is losing a loved one. And for many people, the grieving process can take just as long as losing a family member or friend.

Offering a safe environment for people to mourn the pets that have brightened their lives is the idea behind the pet memorial service, Paws to Remember, 10 a.m. Saturday 8 May 2010 at Central Center in Centennial Park, 1028 E. Sixth St.

“There aren’t a lot of places for people to be open about the lost of a pet,” said the Rev. Taylor McNac, a veterinarian and hospice chaplain. “I’ve seen how a memorial can be a place of healing and encouragement from others — a place where you can find understanding.”

Taylor McNac has envisioned a citywide pet memorial for years and contacted the Oklahoma Animal Alliance to help organize the event. She is the creator of Pet Peace of Mind, a program for hospice patients and pets, and sees first hand the joy that pets bring to people with terminal illnesses.

“I knew that we are a significant pet-loving place in Tulsa,” she said.

The hour-long interfaith service, led by Taylor McNac, will include a candle lighting ceremony and a pet memorial
slide show.

“But it’s also a day to make a statement and stand up for pets with no voice,” said Jamee Suarez-Howard, founder and president of Oklahoma Alliance for Animals. “We also want to remember all the abandoned, abused and neglected animals, as well as pets that died in shelters and rescues that didn’t have homes. We can’t save them all, but we can show our support for them as a community of pet loving people.”

Often when someone is experiencing a pet loss they are afraid of being ridiculed.

“As a culture we are entering a new phase where pets are moving from being outside and distant to being family members — that’s changing,” Taylor McNac said. “But there’s still a significant part of our culture who doesn’t understand the bond of a pet to a person, and they might minimize the experience (of losing a pet).”

It’s important to find a safe place to express grief and loss, she said.

“Find a safe friend or family member who understands, and be wise about sharing with people who will criticize you,” she said.

Sometimes writing down your feelings helps, whether it’s through letters, poetry or blogs, she said.

“Just talking about it helps. Like with any other loss, they can become physically ill over time by not expressing it,” she said.

Therapeutics service dogs will on hand to provide support and comfort to attendees, as well as pet loss grief counselors.

Kim Brown 581-8474
kim.brown@tulsaworld

Posted By BENZIE SANGMA

What caught her eye drawing her to the road that spring day on May 3, 1979?

One would never know. But she never heard the sound of an automobile thundering down the road toward her. In a split second laden with sounds of screeching tires and a dull thud, it was all over.

Alice Mowat Whitney was dead.

The tragic news ricocheted through the hallways and classrooms of Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville as teachers and students busied themselves in the day’s routine. Shock and grief gripped them as they found out the details of the fate of their dear pet who had lit up their days with a wag of her black tail and a glance from her warm, friendly eyes.

Donna Fano was a teacher at SJW at the time of the tragedy. She was in her classroom that morning when news of Alice’s death was announced over the school PA system. While she heard the details of the news from another teacher, she recalled that the students from different residences heard of the accident at breakfast time in the main school cafeteria.

A crossbreed of Newfoundland water dog, which originated in ancient times before the Europeans arrived in Canada, and Labrador, Alice first came into the lives of the staff and students at SJW when she was donated to the school by Farley Mowat in 1972. In the following years, she became the school’s live-in mascot dog.

Delving into Alice’s family history, Fano found an interesting lineage that made the SJW mascot even more special.

Alice’s father, Albert, was born in the Newfoundland out port of La Poille, noted Fano.

“He was one of the last of the ancient Newfoundland water dog stock. His mate was Victoria, a mostly Labrador lady; and the pair gave birth to Alice and the rest of the pups in 1971, where she (Alice) was petted by Pierre and Margaret Trudeau during a visit and perhaps would have become their dog if she had not been afflicted with loss of hearing.”

Instead, her brother, Farley Trudeau, went on to live as a member of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s family for several years.

“Another brother travelled across the ocean as the companion of Premier Kosygin of the USSR. A third went to live with Canadian author Scott Symons, and another brother spent his adult life with Dr. Joe McGinnis, author and underwater expert and explorer,” noted Fano.

At the time of her death, Alice had become a familiar and beloved part of the school and was especially dear to all at the school for the deaf because she, too, was deaf.

Fano thought that Alice might have been the only deaf dog in North America to have been owned by a deaf school.

“The deaf students all thought it was so cool to have a deaf pet. Not very often would they be permitted pets in the residences,” recalled Fano. “She was very loving and affectionate, friendly and so agreeable.”

In an article published in The Intelligence in February 1976, a Mrs. Ryer, a counselor with whom Alice lived during the holidays,was noted to have observed:

“She learns more quickly than other dogs who hear,” she said. “Alice understands and obeys sign language to sit down, come here, lie down and let’s go for a walk.”

Alice was buried in Hodgson Woods located behind the present Sagonaska School.

“Students and staff grieved at the death of their school pet. The now-deceased Dr. J. Demeza gave the tribute at the dog’s funeral at the woods then the students and staff lined up to sprinkle soil on the grave,” recalled Fano.

A new tombstone was unveiled at the site of Alice’s grave on Oct. 20, 2009 at SJW.

“The first tombstone, made of cement, was made by Bruce Gomes, a student in the vocational shop in 1979 and was set up on Alice’s grave.” said Fano. “The tombstone lasted almost 20 years before it broke into sections from the weathering and was moved to the school archives and kept there until 2006. The current Manufacturing Technology teacher Norbert Irion had plans to replace the tombstone with a metal cage housing a slab of marble with sandblasted lettering on it but the school birthday committee decided to replace it with granite for more durability.”

The project, she noted, was made possible with support from the OSD/SJW Alumni Association, Belleville Association for the Deaf, SJW Student Parliament, Bert ‘N Ernie’s Café (staff lounge snack bar), and SJW students and staff. The ceremonial event was the highlight of the 139th birthday anniversary celebrations of the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf.




 

Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased After a loved one dies, most people see ghosts

By Vaughan Bell Carlos Sluzki’s cat died a while ago now, but he still sometimes visits. Now more of a shadow cat, the former pet seems to lurk at the edges of Sluzki’s vision, as a misinterpreted movement amid the everyday chaos of domestic life. All the same, the shadow cat is beginning to slink away and Sluzki notes that as the grief fades his erstwhile friend is erasing himself from the world of the present and receding into the bittersweet world of the memories of the loved ones. The dead stay with us, that much is clear. They remain in our hearts and minds, of course, but for many people they also linger in oursenses as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences.

Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to bereavement but are rarelydiscussed, because people fear they might be considered insane ormentally destabilised by their loss. As a society we tend to associate hallucinations with things like drugs and mental illness, but we now know that hallucinations are common in sober healthy people and that they are more likely during times of stress. A Common Hallucination Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularlycommon, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing.

As a marker of how vivid such visions can seem, almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experiences. In other words, these weren’t just peripheral illusions: they could evoke the very essence of the deceased. Occasionally, these hallucinations are heart-rending. A 2002 case report by German researchers described how a middle aged woman,grieving her daughter’s death from a heroin overdose, regularly saw the young girl and sometimes heard her say “Mamma, Mamma!” and “It’s so cold.”  Thankfully, these distressing experiences tend to be rare, and most people who experience hallucinations during bereavement find them comforting, as if they were re-connecting with something of the positive from the person’s life. Perhaps this reconnecting is reflected in the fact that the intensity of grief has been found to predict the number of pleasant hallucinations, as has the happiness of the marriage to the person who passed away.

There are hints that the type of grief hallucinations might also differ across cultures. Anthropologists have told us a great deal about how the ceremonies, beliefs and the social rituals of death differ greatly across the world, but we have few clues about how these different approaches affect how people experience the dead after they have gone. Carlos Sluzki, the owner of the shadow cat and across-cultural researcher at George Mason University, suggests that in cultures of non-European origin the distinction between “in here” and “out there” experiences is less strictly defined, and so grief hallucinations may not be considered so personally worrying.

In a recent article, he discussed the case of an elderly Hispanic lady whowas frequently “visited” by two of her children who died in adulthood and were a comforting and valued part of her social network. Other case reports have suggested that such hallucinations may be looked on more favorably among the Hopi Indians, or the Mu Ghayeb people from Oman,but little systematic work has been done. And there, our knowledge ends. Despite the fact that hallucinations are one of the most common reactions to loss, they have barely been investigated and we know little more about them. Like sorrow itself, we seem a little uncomfortable with it, unwilling to broach the subject and preferring to dwell on the practicalities “the ?call me if I can do anything,” the “let’s take your mind off it,” the “are you lookingafter yourself?”

Only a minority of people reading this article are likely to experience grief without re-experiencing the dead. We often fall backon the cultural catch all of the “ghost” while the reality is, in manyways, more profound. Our perception is so tuned to their presence thatwhen they are not there to fill that gap, we unconsciously try to mold the world into what we have lived with for so long and so badly long for. Even reality is no match for our love.

Written by Javier Ortega javier@ghosttheory.com

Pet cemetery offers final resting place for beloved animals

Hinsdale Animal Cemetery lets humans memorialize their furry (and scaly) companions

 

About once a month, Carl and Ann Christoff visit the cemetery where Mindy and Buttons are buried.   As Carl clips and sweeps grass around their graves, his wife uses vinegar to wash bird droppings off the marble headstones. Before they go, they leave decorations: flowers, an angel statue or a small Christmas tree. This is no ordinary burial ground. Mindy and Buttons, two Shih Tzus who died in 1990 and 2005, are among more than 15,000 pets — including dogs, cats, deer, lizards, turtles, rodents, monkeys and a 3-foot shark — buried in Hinsdale Animal Cemetery in Willowbrook, one of the nation’s oldest.
To the Christoffs, of Oak Brook, these were no ordinary pets. “At one time, every one of the animals meant so much and brought so much joy into one’s life,” Ann Christoff said. Just how much they meant to their owners is evident from the epitaphs. “Our Dear Pet,” “Gentle Giant” and “Loyal Friend” are common headstone inscriptions. A mausoleum adorned with a dog sculpture reads: “He gave up his life that a human might live. Greater love hath no man.” “You walk through and read the inscriptions on the headstones and some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and some will make you think,”said Bill Remkus, whose family has owned the cemetery for four generations. “You can almost understand the story.”
Michael Schaffer, author of the book “One Nation Under Dog,” said he has noticed the messages on pet epitaphs have evolved over time, reflecting how many people have promoted their pets to “full-fledged members of the family.” “If you visit old pet cemeteries, the oldest headstones might say ‘Here lies Fido, a loyal servant,’ or ‘Here lies Fido, man’s best friend,'” said Schaffer. “Nowadays it’s ‘My little girl,’ or ‘Mommy and Daddy miss you.’
People have developed a conception of their pets as children. That is quite a dramatic development.” Remkus said he did not think the feelings people have for their pets have changed, but instead, modern society has become more accepting of people who love their pets and consider them family. “Years ago, if you buried your pet in a pet cemetery it would be seen as eccentric,” he said. “That’s not how it’s seen today. Now it is just another way to memorialize.” Hinsdale is not a celebrity pet cemetery, although guide dogs for blind author Bernice Clifton of Oak Park, who died in 1985, are buried here. Rather,the cemetery that began in 1926 is a memorial to many pets who faithfully serve their owners. The cemetery offers a variety of funeral packages. For about $50, pet owners can purchase a “memorial cremation” — in which a pet’s ashes are mixed with those of other pets and scattered across the cemetery grounds. For about $2,000, they can buy an oak casket with a vault and marble headstone.
Despite the recession, business at Hinsdale Animal Cemetery has remained steady, although Remkus’ son, Jonathan, has noticed more “memorial cremations,” which he said are “a more economical way for a pet to still be taken care of in a reverent manner.” Still, when it comes to finding a proper burial for man’s best friend, money is usually not a factor. “People who are going to take care of their pets are going to do so, whether or not they are employed or unemployed,” Jonathan Remkus said. Or if they just spent more than $7,000 on medical bills trying to save their pet’s life, as Ernie Yamich did this summer.
Despite the highcosts of sending Bogart, his 11-year-old German shepherd, to the emergency room, Yamich said he did not think twice about spending $2,100 on funeral arrangements for “my first born.” “He was our baby,” said Yamich, 30, a heavy equipment operator in Chicago. “You wouldn’t do any less to a human, even in a recession.” While some owners are content to simply bury their pets at the cemetery, others go further. Several people have been buried with their pets at Hinsdale Animal Cemetery. And a few people who did not have pets buried there simply chose the cemetery as their final resting place “because they felt it was a happy place,” Jonathan Remkus said. Carol Szabo of Naperville spent $160 for a private cremation to ensure the ashes she received belonged to Teddy, her uncle’s beloved Shih-Tzu. Her family planned to mix Teddy’s remains with those of her uncle, Raymond Beranek, who died recently, then bury them at St. Casimir Catholic Cemetery in Chicago. “I’m trying to do right by my uncle and do right by the dog,” she said. Sometimes, it is easier to do so for the dog, like when it comes to cemetery maintenance, some owners say. When Joyce Koziel of Frankfort visited her grandparents’ graves this summer in Alsip, her brother had to use a weed whacker to uncover their gravestones, she said. On the other hand, the graves of her Labrador and a Labrador/terrier mix,Sweetness and Brandon, are in immaculate shape at Hinsdale AnimalCemetery, she said. “What gets me a little angry is the pet cemetery is in better shape than where my family is buried,” she said. While the owners of Hinsdale Animal Cemetery can be credited for this, the pristine condition of many headstones also may be due to regular visitsfrom people like the Christoffs, who view washing the headstones of Buttons and Mindy as a way of giving thanks. “This is the reward they get from their owners for being great companions,” Ann Christoff said. gfsmith@tribune.com

USA TODAY • May 8, 2010

NGS — When Chiquita Isom’s German shepherd, Silla, died of a fast-growing heart tumor last year with almost no warning, Isom was inconsolable. 


She knew she needed to do something to honor the loving dog she always called “my girl.” Days later, the Rev. Pat Boone, in black robe and long shawl patterned with dogs and cats, arrived at Isom’s home. Near an altar with pictures of Silla, her leash and toys, Boone conducted a funeral service before more than a dozen people — many of whom had met Silla and Isom at the park they frequented. Boone quoted Scripture, read poems and spoke of the unconditional love pets provide and the importance of saying goodbye. “It helped me with closure and with the support I needed to get through the loss,” says Isom, a nurse practitioner.

Devoted pet owners are increasingly holding ceremonies that pay tribute to pets and provide the humans with an endpoint that celebrates the good times and helps them reframe their grief. In Atlanta, pet owners pay from “$495 for a casket, viewing, burial and headstone to $2,000 or $3,000” for various additional services, fancier caskets and the like, says Keith Shugart, the second generation of pet funeral tenders at Shugart’s Deceased Pet Care Funeral Home.
The family, headed by a licensed funeral director, has laid animals to rest for more than 40 years and has grown to three locations, with chapels, cemeteries, gazebo and other accoutrements to comfort the pet owner. There’s even one area where pets and humans can be buried beside each other. Some of the funerals Shugart has handled consist of “a man, wife and child saying goodbye to their pet,” Shugart says; some draw 100 or more attendees. “People might bring a chaplain, or their own music and balloons. Some do readings. Each is unique. “We bounce ideas back and forth with the family to make sure they get exactly what they want.” In June, Shugart’s will open what’s billed as the nation’s largest pet funeral facility, including two chapels, a viewing area, a euthanasia room and an entrance foyer with fish pond and aviary.
Most ceremonies tend to be low-key. When Princess the poodle died last year in Jamestown, Ohio, her owner and 20 friends gathered at the pet cemetery, spoke lovingly of the dog and covered her casket with roses. The arrangements were handled by Michael Storer of Pet Dignity.  “Most people like the ceremony to be simple,” he says. Of the 80 calls Storer handled last year, most involved simply transporting a deceased pet to a crematorium ($165 and up) or placing it in a casket ($299 and up), then returning the remains to the owner for burial on the property or at a cemetery (about $100).
But about 10 percent involved a parting ceremony. In those cases, Storer always reads “The Rainbow Bridge,” a well-known anonymous poem that promises pet and person will be reunited in death. Sometimes pictures are displayed; often people offer tributes. “Pets are with their people day in and day out, and the relationships are very meaningful,” he says. “It can be very important to some of them to have a service.” Casual funerals — usually conducted on the beach or another outdoors locale — are common on the Outer Banks, says Chris Stoessner, a licensed funeral director. He launched Outer Banks Pet Funerals and Cremations as a side business in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., in 2006.
Much of his business consists of picking up and transporting deceased pets to a crematorium two hours away, then delivering the remains in an urn to the family ($309 to $349). But for a fee, usually about $100, he’ll also tend to details of a ceremony, including hauling a podium to the site, setting up seating and placing the flowers. “Even in this economy, some people want to go the extra mile to commemorate their pet, and we do whatever helps them,” Stoessner says. Emotional release can come with a proper goodbye, Boone says: “The photo I have at the end of Silla’s service shows everyone smiling.”