Let me just offer my condolences right off the bat. You probably didn’t just stumble onto this article while looking for some light reading. You are probably dealing with the soul-crushing loss of your beloved pet.
Losing a pet is an agonizing experience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your grief, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Consider reading our quotes about pet loss or our advice on processing the loss of a pet if you need to work out your pain a bit more.
I’ve been there and understand the feeling too well. Unfortunately, even amid this bleak time, you’ll have to deal with a few important, time-sensitive issues.
For starters, you’ll need to figure out what to do with your dog’s body. Cremation is likely the most popular choice among owners, but there are a few other options, which some owners find more appealing.
Part of the reason that cremation is popular is that it’s generally pretty affordable and convenient. We’ll talk about the average costs of the service and explain some of the alternative options below.
The average cost for a dog cremation is usually between $50 and $150.
However, like any other service, cremation costs vary from one market to the next.
It’ll cost more to get your pet cremated in Manhattan than it in Topeka. Similarly, some crematoriums charge more than others, and there are also a number of cremation options from which you can choose, which will also influence the price of the service.
Additionally, many crematoriums offer add-on services, such as memorials or ceremonies, which can raise the price a bit. But, the vast majority of crematoriums have “low-cost” options for owners with tight budgets.
Understandably, a lot of dog owners are apprehensive about the cremation process. But it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the basics of the procedure, so that you’ll know what to expect after dropping off your pet.
Usually, the cremation process itself can be completed in a few hours or less, and you’ll typically be able to pick up your pet’s remains the same day you drop them off.
After having your dog cremated, you’ll receive a small package from the crematorium containing your dog’s remains. Different owners choose to handle these remains in different ways.
Some like to put the ashes in a vase, urn or similar container. If you think this is the option you’d like to take, see our suggestions on some beautiful pet cremation urns you may want to consider.
You could even create a small shrine for your pet by displaying the vase along with a few photos of your pet and other keepsakes.
Alternatively, you may wish to spread the ashes at your pup’s favorite beach or forest, or perhaps scatter them in some other place that has sentimental value for you and your pet.
Just be sure to follow all relevant laws and regulations when doing so, as some locations have rules about where you are and are not allowed to scatter ashes.
If cremation doesn’t feel right for you and your pet, there are a couple of other options available to you.
You can simply bury your dog if cremation isn’t within your budget or doesn’t seem appropriate for your circumstances.
You’ll need to research the laws in your area first to ensure that you don’t get yourself into trouble and be sure to follow all local ordinances in effect – especially those regarding burial depth and burial containers.
Many rural areas allow you to bury your pet on your own property, but this is rarely legal to do in urban areas. In such cases, you’ll need to find a local pet cemetery, which is designed specifically for such purposes.
Note that pet cemeteries will typically charge you for the plot space, so you may need to call around a bit to find a location you can afford. Burial plots usually cost between $400 and $600, and you’ll often be required to purchase a casket too. Caskets range in price from $50 no-frills models to exquisitely crafted models with price tags climbing into four-figure territory.
Keep in mind that while burial is more-or-less free (aside from the cost of a burial container) for those who needn’t buy a plot, it will take plenty of effort and planning to carry out. It’ll also involve lots of contact with your dead pet, and you’ll have to physically dig and re-fill the grave too. So it’s certainly not the easiest option on both a physical and emotional level.
If you do end up burying your dog, you may also want to consider adding a touching pet memorial stone on the spot where your dog is buried.
You could use one of these stones even if you didn’t want to bury your pet, and simply place the stone in a favorite backyard hangout your buddy enjoyed as a simple outdoor memorial.
If you aren’t crazy about the idea of keeping your canine’s remains, there are plenty of other ways to remember your pet.
You may want to consider keeping a photo of your dog in a beautiful frame, or even commissioning a custom portrait of your beloved pal that you can hang on your wall in loving memory. Some pet portrait services offer a variety of painting styles and designs that allow for creative, unique portraits of your furry pal you’ll treasure forever.
Custom photo books are another option – and they’re a great way to document and remember all the fun times you’ve had with your buddy over the years. Collecting and reflecting on the various photos can also be a helpful tool for processing your loss and letting yourself fully grieve.
Memorial jewelry is yet another option. Some Etsy artists will even laser cut a necklace charm with the silhouette of your dog, provided you have an appropriate photo you can send for them to use as a base.
Although taxidermy is more commonly used to display the trophy’s harvested by hunters and anglers, you can also have a pet preserved in the same way. Some owners may find this concept a bit macabre, but others find it the perfect way to honor their pet and keep them close for years to come.
I don’t want to explain the specifics of the procedure given the sensitive subject matter, but a taxidermist will essentially turn your pet into a semi-permanent “statue,” which you can then place in your home. Check out this link if you’d like to learn more about the actual process, but I implore you to use caution – it’s a bit graphic and may be very upsetting for those who’ve recently lost a pet.
Taxidermy is often a relatively expensive process, but the actual prices vary widely from one location to the next. Your pet’s size will also play an important role in determining the price. Figure that you’ll spend at least $500 having your pet preserved in this manner, and you may need to spend more than twice as much in some cases.
I lost a beloved pet about a decade ago – a chocolate lab mix who’d lived by my side for nearly 16 years. For a variety of reasons, I decided that burial was the best option for me and the best way to honor her. She now resides on a beautiful hillside overlooking her favorite stomping grounds, and I can visit her anytime I like.
But, while I’m happy I chose this option, preparing the site was physically and emotionally grueling. Some may find the process cathartic; I just found it draining. Despite being in relatively good shape, I was physically sore for a week after digging her grave. Undoubtedly, the pain originated in my heart, but my shoulders seemed to take the brunt of it.
We’d love for you to share your own experiences in the comments below. Dealing with a deceased pet is simply horrible, and your story may help others understand that they aren’t alone and that others have dealt with a similar tragedy.
Ben is a lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, trees, outdoor recreation, science and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com or @FootstepsForest on Twitter.