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Sadly the price we humans have to pay for loving each other is the pain we suffer when someone dies. As anyone with a cherished pet knows, the same is true when you lose a pet.
I hadn't lost a pet since I was a kid. I had completely forgotten how utterly bereft you feel when face to face with loss. Unfortunately, a month ago I lost my cat Basil who I had had since he was 8 weeks old. He had been my constant companion, seeing me through most of my adult life so far, sadly dying a week before his 16th birthday.
Like most people with pets, I hadn't given much thought to losing him, convincing myself he would go on till he was at least 20 years old. Having got two kittens at Christmas though, it became harder and harder to deny he wasn't getting older, thinner and ricketier on his legs as the weeks passed.
When he stopped eating in early April, I took him to the vet assuming he had a tooth infection. Unfortunately, I was told that whilst I was correct, he also had a lump the size of a satsuma in his intestines and there was very little hope for him. Three weeks later I had to make the awful decision to have him put to sleep as he had begun to suffer.
Sat in the vets, I suddenly felt completely overwhelmed by the situation and thankfully made the decision to take him home and have him put to sleep a few hours later. I am so pleased I had that extra time to think about the fact that I was about to lose Basil forever. Nobody likes to think about dying and very few of us make plans for our funeral before we die. The same can be true with our pets. Unfortunately, when the time comes, we are often in no state to make appropriate plans and can end up making decisions we may later regret.
Years ago, I used to joke that I would have Basil stuffed when he died as I didn't want to let him go. Needless to say, I didn't even consider it when the time came, although I am sure there are people that do stuff their pets and are happy to do so for the comfort it brings them. Thankfully, a friend of my had made a passing comment to me about the Dignity Pet Crematorium not too far away from me, near Hook in Hampshire. Whilst we waited for the vet to arrive, my husband telephoned the crematorium and made the necessary arrangements.
When you lose a pet, you have a number of options open to you. You can let the vet take you pet away for disposal, bury it yourself in your garden, use a pet cemetary or a pet crematorium. Or have them stuffed as I said before. Have you ever really considered what happens to your pet though once your choice has been made?
Basil lived his life with dignity, died with incredible dignity and I wanted him to have dignity till the last. I knew that if an animal is left at the vet, it will be sent for mass incineration with all of the other animals. Usually collections from vet surgeries are only once or twice a week, so animals are placed in plastic bags and kept in a freezer. Hardly a dignified send off.
Not everyone is able to bury their pet in their garden as they may not have one. What happens when you decide to move, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are leaving your pet behind. I couldn't do that with Basil. We have only been living in our house for a few years and I felt his attachment to the area wasn't as great as it could have been if it had always been his home.
Pet cemetaries offer the perfect solution to those who wish to bury their pets in one piece but you have to bear in mind that pet cemetaries have no legal land rights. They can built on in years to come. Also, you have to bear in mind the geographical location and practically of visiting your pets grave. I didn't even know if there was a pet cemetary in my locality, so again it was not really an option for me.
So that just leaves the pet crematorium. I have to say that for me Dignity Pet Crematorium was the perfect solution. It was started in 1992 and is a family run business. They are one of the very few pet crematoriums in the country that guarantees individual cremations for your domestic pets. The family are the sole founders of the Association of Private Pet Cremeteries & Cremetoria and have a strict professional approach to all aspects of their business.
It is worth pointing out that some pet cremeteries carry out cremations with pets placed in numbered metal trays that are then incinerated all together. Whilst you get back your pet's ashes, the actual cremation is not truly individual. Some cremetoria give you back token ash which may not even be from your pet. However, with Dignity, you can be assured of a personal and very sympathetic service.
If you live within the local area, you can arrange for them to collect your pet from the vets. Alternatively, you can deliver your pet yourself and say your farewells in the Farewell Room. If, like me, you chose for them to collect your pet from the vets, all animals are collected in Volvo estate cars, with tinted windows. The animals are placed on beds and not in plastic bags so that their final journey does indeed have dignity.
Once at Dignity Pet Crematorium, your pet will be well looked after and you will be kept fully informed. Basil was collected the following day from the vets and Dignity telephoned me to say that "Basil had arrived safely and would be well looked after". I was told that Basil would be cremated in about 15 minutes time, so I could think of him. They also wanted to check that everything was still ok for them to proceed. I guess I could have changed my mind, so that was good of them to phone first. Whilst I cried down the phone, the chap on the other end was really sweet, patient and sympathetic.
Normally you can collect your pet the next day, as Basil was cremated on the Friday afternoon of a Bank Holiday weekend, I had to wait until the Tuesday to collect him. However, if you are travelling a long way to use their service, pets can be collected within 1.5 - 3 hours.
You have a variety of options for your pet's ash. You can them interred into the crematorium's Natural Woodland area and marked with an approved marker or have them placed into a purpose built container. There is a vast range of metal urns, wooden caskets, with or without hand painted flowers, photo frames with hidden caskets behind, clocks with hidden caskets behind or hollow ornamental cats made of wood or ceramic. The ceramic cats can be hand painted using photos to look like your cat. Coffins are also available for home burials.
Being a practical sort, I didn't want Basil in a ceramic casket as I was worried I would drop him at some future date or chip his ear off with the hoover. I also didn't want an urn or wooden casket that looked like it contained him. I chose the Wooden Sleeping Cat Casket which fitted in perfectly with my taste in furnishings and would sit on a shelf looking like any other ornamental object. Anyone coming to the house would have no idea it was Basil's final resting place.
Collecting Basil from the crematorium was hard. I went with my husband and ended up in tears when Basil was handed to me. The staff were so sweet though, softly spoken and ready with a large box of tissues. They are all pet owners and know exactly how you feel. Basil has been permanently sealed into his casket and a brass plaque was fixed to the underside with his name and dates. It is comforting to still have something tangible that you can actually sit and hold. No matter where I move to in the world in the future, Basil can come too. You can of course scatter the ash in your garden if you wish.
A small card was with Basil saying "These are the ashes of Basil who was individually cremated at Dignity Pet Crematorium on 28 April 2006. RIP." on the facing side is "Happiness in life, Sadness in parting, Love in remembrance."
I know I made the right choice for me but everyone is different. You need to make your own decision, I was going to say when the time comes, but that is one thing I have learnt, make the choice before you need to, so that you make an informed decision and not an emotional one. Choosing a pet crematorium is not the cheapest option. The whole service including the casket cost me £145 but for me, and the comfort it brought, it was worth every penny. I wouldn't hesitate to use Dignity Pet Crematorium again and recommend them to anyone.
More information can be found on their website www.dignitypetcrem.com.
Sorry about your loss, it's never easy. We've always buried our pets in the back garden under the tree.
kappaslappa 29.05.2006 17:27
Im sorry about your loss hon and thanks for sharing with us about places like this, ive always been intrigued....
COOOEEE 29.05.2006 12:22
We chose a pet crematorium when our lovely dog died and I'm glad that we did although afterwards we were handed a sympathy card from the staff and inside was some of her hair they had clipped thinking we would like some. It was more upsetting than anything as I wasn't expecting to see it. I loved the photo of Basil. He had lovely colouring and you must still miss him terribly. Big Hugs xxxxx