In my last post I talked about the most common ways to care for our beloved pets after they pass. I’m going to continue that conversation here, by talking about some of the less-common paths that a family can choose to follow in choosing their pet’s aftercare.
Every family, and every person, is unique in their relationship with death and in their choices with regards to body care. There is no one right or wrong path, and so many factors shape our beliefs, our wishes, and our decisions in this sphere – our previous experiences and those of the people around us, our faith, our culture, our bond with our pet and with other people in our chosen family, our thoughts and philosophy about the environment, and hopes and plans for the future. The most important things to keep in mind are that your wishes are worthy of respect, within the limits of the law, and that communication with your veterinarian is critical. If you have very specific wishes regarding your pet’s care after they pass, the earlier you are able to let your veterinary team know, the more likely they will be able to either help you accommodate them or, if they are not able, help you find someone who is able to realize these wishes.
With that said, what are some of the more specialized options available?
-Witnessed Cremation – I talked about private cremation in my last post. Most crematories will also offer, for families that choose this path, an option for the family to be present and witness the procedure. For some caregivers this can be a very sacred act of honoring their pet and bearing witness to their final transition from this life.
-Aquamation – Also known as “green cremation,” or alkaline hydrolysis. This is a procedure where the remains are reduced to ash by chemical breakdown, rather than by heat. It is often a choice pursued by caregivers who are concerned about the environmental impact of both burial and standard cremation. At this time, aquamation is not available in Massachusetts, but it is legal in Vermont and Connecticut; if this is a path you wish to pursue it is important to discuss it with your vet early in the process of end-of-life planning.
-Taxidermy – This can be an option for people who want to physically retain either all or part of their pet. The most important thing that I can stress, if this is a path that you choose, is to make sure that you find an artist who is experienced, skilled, and reliable; in Massachusetts the person in question also needs to be licensed by the state.
If you want to keep the likeness of your pet but do not want to pursue taxidermy, there are also businesses that will make plush replicas of your pet, such as Cuddle Clones or Grief Pets; these may be a way to keep a physical embodiment of your beloved pet without preserving their body.
Any list of options that I can make is going to be limited, of course, by my own experiences – ultimately, if you have a question, an idea, or a wish for your pet’s care after they pass, please discuss it with your veterinary care team. They will do their best to work with you to find the best possible way to honor your wishes, and to care for your beloved pet with respect and compassion.