There is something very bizarre about keeping the ashes of dead animals (or people, for that matter) in your house. But I do it anyway–at least for a while.
In the last 10 years, I’ve lost five pets, and three of them, I kept their ashes. When you have a pet euthanized, you basically have three choices. You can take the body home and bury it; you can have it cremated en masse with whatever other dead animals happen to be around; or you can have it individually cremated and get its ashes back in some sort of decorative container. Obviously, the last choice is the most expensive. Not just because you’re paying for the container, but possibly because they have to fire up the crematorium just for you. I’m not sure about that, because I haven’t looked into it that deeply. I suspect they could put your animal in some sort of container which would protect its ashes from being mixed with those of Fido or Fluffy. Like it really matters.
In any case, you pay a premium for it. The two animals that I did not have individually cremated (I did the en masse cremation thing), was not because I loved them less. It’s more about my emotional state at the time, and how much money I had at the time.
So all this is a lead-in to my New Year’s Eve plans. (See, this is how my brain works. It takes twists and turns that even I have a hard time following.)
The first pet I had individually cremated was my dog Troy Russell (long story how he got that name), who died in 2005. In the summer of 2007, my friends Lebron and Brenda, and my sister, buried TR’s ashes on the beach at St. George Island. Which according to Lebron is illegal, so we were very furtive about it. I don’t really get that, but I take Lebron’s word for it. I mean, it isn’t like TR died of Black Plague, and even if he had, I can’t see how you could get it from ashes that were subjected to thousands of degrees of fire.
So the very next year, in 2006, my dog Hansel died. And I still have his ashes, in a very nicely carved wooden box. TR’s ashes came in a very beautiful blue ceramic urn (which I still have), and it was sealed with wax. After cutting the wax seal, I was surprised to find that TR’s ashes were in your basic Ziploc bag.
So I assumed Hansel’s box would be sealed as well, and I never tried to open it until yesterday. That’s almost 6 years. The box was not sealed after all. But inside, his ashes (in your basic Ziploc bag) are enclosed by a black velvet draw-string bag. Quite elegant.
The point is…I decided it’s time to let Hansel go. He isn’t doing me or the Universe any good by “living” (so to speak) on my fireplace hearth. I’ll bury his ashes as close as I can get to TR’s, if I can remember where that is. Not that it matters. Like TR, Hansel’s ashes will nourish a sea oat, or blow out to sea, or scatter in the wind to the skies. And it will be on New Year’s Eve. A new beginning. For both of us.
That will leave me with only one dead animal in the house, my cat Erin, who died in 2007. (’05, ’06, and ’07 were very bad years for the Fakename family, one loss per year.) Eventually I will either bury Erin’s ashes in my yard, or scatter his ashes there. The beach is a fitting place for TR and Hansel–they loved the beach. Erin would likely have had a nervous breakdown at the very idea of that much water all in one place. My yard was his home turf. His base of operations. He needs to stay here, even if I end up elsewhere.
This is the terrible dilemma of pet ownership. You may choose not to have them, to spare yourself the pain of losing them, but in making that choice, you also deny yourself the joy of them. I pick joy.