Pet Care Corner: Coping with the loss of a pet
By Jennifer Duran
The hardest moment of my life was last year: my vet simply said “there is nothing we can do, he is too old (17) and the cancer is too wide-spread.” Even now, while I write this, I can barely see the screen through my tears. I crawled into the kennel and curled up next to Mulder. My border collie/beagle, he had gone through labor with me, helped teach our daughter to walk and was a light in my life; and there was nothing I could do. The next morning, the vet was at our house; we placed Mulder on his blanket and sat on the bed with him—my husband, daughter and two cats— it was all we could do. Then we brought him to Best Friends Pet Crematory. I work there, but now I was on the other side. In my 20 years as a Funeral Director, I have held my composure, holding back tears and shaking off the urge to break down. I have not been able to do this when it comes to the furkids.
Years ago, families were able to bury their pets on their property; now, however, we move around or zoning laws don’t always allow for us to do this. Currently in North Carolina, if you choose to bury your pet on your own property, it must be done within 24 hours after death. The grave must be a least three feet deep and a minimum 300 feet from a river, stream or public body of water. You may not bury on other private property without permission, and no burial is allowed in National Parks. Some cities will pick up the pet from the curb if it is wrapped in plastic and placed in a bag. Animal Control may also dispose of pets. Landfills will accept pets as well, but it is best to call ahead to verify their requirements.
I don’t believe we ever “get over it” and some people, even friends and family, may not understand why we are so upset over an “animal.” They don’t understand that this is a member of the family; they rescued us when we rescued them. They gave us love and support like no one else in the world and we hold their lives, like they hold our hearts.
I still have Mulder’s blanket; his urn is on my nightstand, his toys are still in the house. We adopted Herbie from Brother Wolf only a month after Mulder died, but I think Mulder would approve. So many people decide they don’t want to go through the pain again, so they don’t adopt another pet. I wanted to feel the joy again that makes the pain bearable.
Best Friends Pet Cemetery and Crematory offers a place for burial, a place to come back to, to visit and remember the good times and weep for the loss. Most often, families choose cremation; they want their pet back at home, or to be able to take them wherever they might go.
At the funeral home, we urge people to pre-plan, make the necessary arrangements ahead of time; this also makes sense when it comes to our pets. Our emotions are on a roller-coaster the moment we realize we have no more options, we have done all we can (though we will continue to question if we have done enough, run enough tests, tried everything) to save our critter. Their suffering and pain needs to end, but ours is going to continue, and we have to decide how to memorialize our pet.
At Best Friends Pet Cemetery we offer burial or cremation. The cemetery has a gazebo, a scattering garden and communal burial area. Families are invited to decorate a stone on the walking path, or write their pet’s name on one of the memory walls. For families selecting cremation, we offer an Individual Cremation. There is also a lobby where you can wait comfortably while the cremation takes place and even view your pet being placed in the cremation chamber, giving you the peace of mind that it is definitely your pet you are getting back. The Communal Cremation is also available, two or more pets are cremated together and scattered in our garden. We are available every hour of every day, and Individual Cremations are performed within 48 hours.