Saturday, October 26, 2013

Forever Homes Together

Most of us who have adopted a pet from a shelter are familiar with the expression “forever home.” It’s the ultimate goal for every rescued animal—to become part of a family where they will be loved and cared for forever.

When the time comes for them to leave us, we may have our four-legged children buried in a pet cemetery. It’s also not unusual to have them cremated and the ashes returned to us to be kept in special commemorative urns and boxes.

Less often, we make plans to keep them with us after we’ve likewise headed into the sunset. I read about a woman who wanted her pet buried with her despite a local ordinance that prohibited it. She had the cat cremated and she sewed the ashes into the hem of her wedding gown. She had instructions to bury her in that gown, thus ensuring that she and Fluffy would be together forever.

One of my friends had several months to prepare for her departure from us. She was buried in the Jewish tradition, wrapped in cotton in a plain wooden box. Before she died, she found a sympathetic rabbi who allowed the ashes of her dog, who predeceased her, to be slipped into the coffin next to her. They’re now in their forever home together; knowing this was pre-arranged gave my friend comfort in her last weeks.

Recently the New York Daily News ran an article about a successful court challenge to a related regulation. Pet owners in New York State were prevented from having their ashes interred in pet cemeteries next to their family companions. The niece of a NYPD officer brought the suit on behalf of her deceased uncle. The man’s wife had already been buried next to their dogs in a Hartsdale pet cemetery.

It’s not clear whether the cemetery had been ignoring an existing statute, or whether the prohibition was newly enacted into law. Either way, hundreds of deceased pet owners were already resting there with their Mittens and their Scouts. The niece won the suit and her uncle’s ashes are now interred next to his wife’s and those of their three pooches.

This has me wondering about my own future disposition. I plan to be cremated, as does my husband (after the medical school at Brown University has finished studying him). Neither of us has decided what should happen to our ashes, except to be scattered somewhere. I suppose we should be blown away as a family, even though that would involve storing the cremains of one of us until the other catches up. Now I’m thinking that our girls and Luke (still purring) should be tossed out with us.

I commissioned custom pottery jars to hold the urns with the ashes of my first “girls,” Daisy Hyacinth and Tulip Wisteria. The front of one jar has a molded daisy, the other a molded tulip. The lids have those flowers etched into the undersides. (If they’re looking up, they’ll know they’re in the correct jar.) I have these on a shelf in the sunroom. Most visitors have no idea what’s in them.

The ashes of my second two, Pansy Gardenia and Lily Magnolia, are in cedar boxes. (The vet used a different cremation service and my potter was no longer potting.) The boxes are tied with ribbons that have antique floral pins—a pansy and a calla lily—attached. I keep them on the dresser in our bedroom.

So, what to do with all these cremains (ours included) when the time comes? Sprinkling them into the ocean or a lake isn’t a good idea. Cats don’t like water. We could run an ad on Craig’s List. “Wanted. Service to scatter ashes of family of 7 from top of mountain somewhere in Northeast.” Or maybe book a hot air balloon ride for a friend who loves pets and could sneak a large satchel of dust into the passenger basket.

One of my more creative ideas is to mix us with Elmer’s glue to make trinkets that would get stuffed inside a large piñata. There must be some fresh air camp with kids who’d benefit from releasing their pent up aggression. Or we could pre-arrange a picnic in a park and sell tickets to take a swing at us. Lots of folks would pay good money to whack me with a stick. (Proceeds to a local shelter, of course.)

Somewhere in here is an idea with legs. And even if not, we should have quite a few years before we need to figure this out. It won’t matter where our forever home is as long as we’re together (sing along now) side by side.

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