Earth’s Memorial to a Pet’s Passing
The American Pet Products Association estimates Americans collectively spent $69.5 million on our 235 million mammal, avian and reptile pets, as well as 158 million pet fish, in 2017. It’s not surprising that end-of-life planning for a devoted family companion is a solemn endeavor.
Burial in a box or blanket in the backyard used to be the predominant way to deal with pet remains. As people and pet populations have grown, many municipalities now have ordinances against the practice. Instead, good options exist that protect and preserve the planet these animals so enjoyed.
Kay Winters, a blogger at PawsAndPines.com, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, mothers a dog, Clover, and two cats, Chuckie and Mittens. “When they pass away, I plan to bury them in biodegradable mushroom bags,” she says. “It has mushroom and other organisms infused into it to help with natural decomposition, cleanse any environmental toxins in the body and nourish the nearby soil.”
Another biodegradable container is a pod that contains nutrient-rich soil, a seed and the pet’s ashes to nourish the resulting plant, tree or shrub. It’s a lovely way to remember the pet and replenish Earth’s greenspace.
Aquamation or Cremation
Veterinary offices commonly arrange for the pet’s body to be sent to a crematorium, with ashes returned several days later. Using temperatures from 1,400 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, these facilities impose a larger carbon footprint than other options.
At-home euthanasia may be beneficial for terminal pets. The animal can remain calm in familiar surroundings with family present. The veterinarian allows time for goodbyes, and when the family is ready, removes the body. “We always place the pets on nice stretchers with a blanket over the body and encourage the family to place toys or flowers with their pet. There’s no handing out brochures with photos of urns or upselling. It’s respectful of the pet’s life,” says Veterinarian Mary Gardner, of Yorba Linda, California, co-founder and chief technology officer at Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, a national network of veterinarians dedicated to end-of-life care.
Gardner is also building an aquamation (alkaline hydrolysis) facility in Boynton Beach, Florida. This alternative to cremation affects a far smaller environmental impact because the resulting alkaline water is safe to drain, containing no chemicals or DNA.
Elizabeth Fournier, the author of The Green Burial Guidebook, owns and operates Cornerstone Funeral Services and Cremation, in Boring, Oregon, where she periodically receives inquiries about pets. “I’ve received calls over the years for horses, donkeys, sheep and dogs. One family called me for their alpaca. I expla