How to Bury a Beloved Pet
If your beloved pet has passed away at home, or if you've put him to sleep at the veterinarian's office but can't face the idea of leaving the body behind, you're going to need to bury him yourself.
As a child, I'd buried hamsters and gerbils, but I'd never buried an animal that I'd been particularly close to until a week ago when I had to bury my kitty cat. This article is going to cover the practical aspects which sometimes go unrealized during our grief, but it will also cover the spiritual benefits you will reap should you decide to bury your pet yourself.
Losing a pet is very difficult for anyone whose loved one, but I've found that laying mine to rest myself was the best thing I could have done for myself and for her. That's not to say that not doing so is the wrong choice — everyone and every pet is different. This is just my personal experience.
Reasons Why You Should Bury Your Pet Yourself
I honestly wasn't sure I'd be able to handle doing this myself, from an emotional perspective, but I decided that I owed it to my cat. I was also pretty sure I'd have a lifetime of nightmares if I just left her body behind at the vet. I am so very appreciative of the decision I made to bury my cat myself and these are the reasons why:
It's an emotional outlet.
I was, of course, rather hysterical during the moment she was euthanized, but during the ride home I went incredibly numb. I had a very, very heavy heart and I periodically burst into uncontrollable tears due to the feelings I was having. The physical exertion I underwent -- carrying her body out to the woods, digging the hole, filling it up again -- this was a very appropriate form of energy release for me. I felt 1000% lighter by the time it was done. I wasn't happy, of course, but I was in a much better position to cope at that point.
It brings closure.
Ask any shrink and they'll tell you how often people torture themselves over lack of proper closure. Putting the body of your pet to rest yourself is, for lack of a better phrase, something that feels right once it's done. As I stood there looking at the grave when it was finished, I knew I'd never have gotten that type of closure any other way.
Where to Bury Your Pet
- If you've got a garden or backyard, you may want to bury them at home. I have a beautiful national park across the street and I decided to bury my cat there.If you do this where you live, make sure you are not violating any rules in doing do.
- Choose somewhere you can visit easily. It may be a lovely thought to bury your pet at the top of the highest hill, but that will likely prevent you from visiting as often as you'd like to.
- Choose somewhere that makes you smile. Don't choose some dreary location that will depress you every time you visit. I chose a place I with a lovely view for her, and even though that may sound strange, I like to think she appreciated it.
- Some places have restrictions on burying pets in public places. I'm fortunate that this country only dictates that you have to be a certain distance from a water supply. If you think it may be illegal to bury your pet in a public park, you should contact your parks and recreation office to determine what you're allowed to do.
What You'll Need
Firstly, you're going to need a pet casket of some sort. You can make one yourself out of a box, or you may want to invest in a professionally hand-crafted pet casket. I didn't have the second option, but I was quite happy with the one I made myself. You do not need to buy one, but they are there for those who feel drawn to them.
Secondly, you're going to need a proper shovel that you can stand on whilst digging. If you're burying a very small box, and if the ground is very soft, you might be ok with a small shovel -- but if I'd only had something small I'd have been digging the entire day.
Thirdly, you're probably going to need a second person. This hadn't even occurred to me and I'm lucky that I had a friend who volunteered to help me. In my case, I had to walk and carry my cat into a National Forest -- by the time we got to the place of my choosing, I could barely lift my arms. I would never have been able to carry the shovel; this is why I say you should plan to have a second person if it all possible.
Lastly, you need to be prepared for a long and strenuous dig. This is another reason you may want to have a second person with you. In my case, I picked a spot that I was drawn to, and after 10 cm or so of digging, the earth was very hard, rocky and full of tree roots that had to dug through. I was determined to bury her in that lovely spot, and it took me 3 hours to dig an appropriately sized hole. If you're digging somewhere else, you may not have that problem. But all I can tell you is that it was very hard and I wish I'd brought water with me, because I was exhausted by the time it was done.
How to Create a Memorial for Your Dead Pet
You may want to create a headstone, or you may only want to place a medium sized rock at the location. If you've got children, I recommend creating a memorial stone with them, but you may prefer to purchase a memorial headstone. Or you may not want to put anything there at all, if you can remember where it is. But don't be afraid to put flowers there once or twice a year, perhaps on your pet's birthday or Christmas, to remember him or her. If you've got children this can be a very good method of helping them to feel like they are still connected in some way.