What to do when your pet dies.
The death of a pet can be a difficult experience. For many of us our pets are companions and
part of the family. Older people often feel the loss of a pet as that of losing a friend so it is important to allow ourselves an opportunity to grieve. Those who rely on their pet to help them, guide dog owners, for example, experience a significant loss and change in their lives It is important that we don’t allow others to make us feel that our grief isn’t valid. Comments like, “It was only a dog.”, are not helpful.
The process of grief is highly individual and you shouldn’t feel that you have to hide your feelings because others don’t understand. It is OK to cry and mourn the loss of your pet. For children, too, it can be very upsetting – a pet dying is usually their first experience of death and loss and they need to know that it is fine to cry and feel sad.
During this emotional time it can be difficult to make a decision about what to do with your pet’s remains. When an animal dies at the vet’s surgery the vet will often offer to dispose of the remains for you and for many people this is the best option. If you want to bring your animal home or want longer to say goodbye there are other choices. Some pet cemeteries and crematoria offer a full aftercare service, similar to a funeral director, including collection, storage, interment or cremation.
Burial at Home
Lots of us choose to bury our pet in the garden of the family home. It can be a comfort to owners that their pet is still nearby and offers the family a chance to gather and perform a ceremony where they can mourn together. The place of burial can be marked with a plaque or memorial stone. The size of the grave should be deep enough that it will not be disturbed by another animal, away from any water source and the pet should be placed in a box or casket made from a natural biodegradable material.
Burial in a Pet Cemetery
Garden burial is not a viable option for everyone, especially those in rented property, flats or those who move regularly. You can choose to have your pet, or their ashes, buried in a pet cemetery. Some private cemeteries offer a ‘green burial’ where a shrub or tree can be planted on the burial site. It also allows families the opportunity to ‘visit’ their pet and place flowers or other items.
There are pet crematoria all over the UK and many offer a wide range of services. Collection, storage, individual cremation service, companion cremation, memorial urns and caskets. Some have a book or wall of remembrance for plaques and photographs or online memorials.
Individual Cremation – This is when the animal is cremated on it’s own and the individual’s ashes can be returned to the owner. Some pet crematoria will allow owners to be present for the cremation. You can then choose to keep the ashes at home or scatter them.
Companion Cremation – Your pet will be cremated with other animals and the combined ashes will be scattered in a garden of remembrance or ‘token’ ashes may be kept in a repository. Some crematoria will allow memorial plaques to be placed in the garden. This service is a less expensive alternative to individual cremation. Ashes are not usually returned to the owner but a reputable crematoria will provide a certificate to confirm the cremation.