Attending a pet dog's cremation is something that you may be offered from the cremation company after your dog's death. Although it may feel like a daunting experience, there may be some benefits in attending a pet's cremation, but of course there also may be some drawbacks. Knowing what to expect is important. Following are listed several pros and cons of attending a pet dog's cremation service along with a personal story from two dog owners who have witnessed their dog's private cremation from start to finish. Forewarned is forearmed goes the saying so to make an informed decision of whether to witness a dog's cremation.
Why Attend a Pet Dog's Cremation Service?
As if dealing with the loss of a pet wasn't enough, attending a pet dog's cremation service may feel like a daunting task that not surprisingly is turned down by many pet owners when offered.
In several cases, this option is not offered at all; however, with more and more people opting for cremation of their pets, more and more crematories are now offering pet owners the ability to attend the cremation service. The same is being done for human cremations where families are given the opportunity to witness the casket entering the cremation enclosure.
In human cremation, there may be several reasons why people may decide to attend cremation services. One main reason why people may want to witness cremation is for religious purposes. In particular, Hinduism has the ritual of attending the cremation with one family member pressing on the cremation machine. Other religions such as Sikh and Jainism faiths view being present during the cremation process as an important part of their faith and traditions. There are other reasons though people may choose to attend cremation services that go beyond religious traditions.
Until recently, most American crematoriums for humans and pets weren’t suitable for accommodating family members wishing to attend the cremation. Nowadays however, many crematoriums have been updated so to purposely offer this option. Some of them also offer live video stream from a private room. Pet owners have several good reasons to want to attend their pet's cremation but there are advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Making Sure You Get Your Dog's Ashes
The main advantage of attending a pet dog's cremation service is knowing that you are getting your dog's ashes. Although there are many reputable and ethical cremation companies out there, there are always chances for fraud in this line of business. Unfortunately, a simply Google search brings up an abundance of proof of things going awry.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reports cases of crematoriums dumping pets on farms or mass graves rather than cremating them. A Freakonomics pet-cremation test, carried out to test the ethical practices of pet crematoriums, involved using fake cats and getting them stuffed with hamburger meat and then having them sent off to three pet crematories in the New York area. The outcomes revealed some severely suspicious fraudulent practices.
An article on the Denver Post mentions several stories of pet cremations gone wrong including dog owners opening the urn and finding the wrong set of dog tags, instances of mistagging, and boxes of ashes weighing much more than the actual pet itself (e.g getting ten pounds of ashes back for a five pound dog). This of course is something no grieving pet owner wants to endure, especially after specifically paying for a private cremation. Stories of fraud found on the Internet are sadly though not too uncommon.
How can dog owners be really assured that they are truly getting their pet's cremains back? Microchips are unfortunately totally useless. While in life a microchip is a great way to identify a dog, during a cremation the microchip, being in plastic, ends up totally burning up.
Another option to ensure one gets their own pet's ashes would be to weigh them. Allen Rutherford, manager of Pet Cremation Services in Wheat Ridge, claims that an average 50- to 65-pound dog produces 1 to 2 pounds of ashes; while in pets of other sizes, the ratio is usually about 2 percent to 5 percent ash to body mass.
Some companies now add a bit of fur with the urn so to provide pet parents a physical remembrance and as "proof" that indeed the ashes are of their beloved companion.
Of course, there are countless ethical cremation companies out there and they take steps to prevent human error. A further step to prevent confusion during cremation involves the use of a tag. A stainless-steel tag with a tracking number is attached to each dog and stays on during the cremation. The tag is then provided with the ashes once the cremation is complete.
As of today though, attending a pet dog's cremation service is the best way for dog owners to ensure they are actually getting back their dog's ashes. Of course, the other option is getting the body back and doing a private burial or using a pet cemetery.
"One reason fraud can be committed with little fear of prosecution is that the pet-cremation industry is largely unregulated, other than for environmental reasons."Stu Bykofsky, The Inquirer
More Pros and Cons of Attending a Pet Dog's Cremation
For dog owners who are willing to witness the cremation, attendance can help provide some closure. It can feel comforting seeing the pet one final time. Dog owners can sort through pictures, share stories, cry and laugh at their pet's antics while viewing the whole process. The process can be perceived as overall peaceful and spiritual.
At the same time, viewing the cremation may also help demystify something that wasn't understood in the past. Now, pet owners can know exactly what happens before picking up that box of ashes.
Of course, there are also several disadvantages to consider. Many dog owners may feel uncomfortable attending a cremation service. While some may find that attending gives them closure, others may feel that it may be a traumatizing event to witness and may even get post-traumatic stress. Perhaps this is the main reason why witnessing a pet dog's cremation is not that common. This is OK, everybody grieves differently. Closure can be obtained by just giving grieving time.
Then, one must consider logistics. The area where the cremation is held may be hot and not as appealing and welcoming as the cremation areas designed for people willing to attend human cremations. Most pet cremations are held in industrial-like rooms with just the essentials. This is an area that should be improved, hopefully in the future there will be more welcoming environments so that a dog's cremation is offered in a dignified space. On top of this, the process overall is rather a mechanical process. The body is unceremoniously placed into the chamber and then the chamber is turned on by pushing on a button.
The good thing is that, with most chambers, you cannot see inside what is happening as the body burns, but at times the door must be opened to check on the remains and the remains may need to be re-positioned and this may be hard to watch. However, there is always the option to step aside when this takes place and return.
"There is no shame in wanting to be a part of your loved one’s final disposition. It is not weird or freakish to want to watch a cremation, and I can almost guarantee it will be something you never forget. It’s a sobering experience to come face to face with a dead body, a cremation chamber, or an open grave; and I think people in our rat-race culture should do it more often."~Caroline McGill
Attending a Pet Dog's Cremation (Warning Graphic Details)
After reading about several fraudulent practices, when my beloved dog died, hubby and I decided we had to attend the cremation services because we could never come to terms with the doubt of not getting our dog's ashes. This was not an easy decision, but we felt that the assurance was worth it. Who wants to stare for years at a box with another pet's ashes or fake ashes?
When we showed up for the cremation, hubby went to see our beloved dog's body being put into the chamber. Her body was kept overnight in a refrigerator nearby the chamber, but now she was placed on a stretcher ready to be placed in. I didn't attend this part because my dog died at home and I wanted to remember her how she was at home rather than in this foreign place. To be honest, I was also afraid of seeing her in rigor mortis or in a deteriorated state.
I sort of regret now not seeing her though one last time (we always have to regret something, don't we?) because hubby instead said she looked beautiful. Apparently, the attendants had closed her eyes and tucked her pale tongue (which was hanging out when she died at home ) back into her mouth. It looked as if our beautiful girl was peacefully sleeping.
After taking a glance of her one last time, next hubby watched them place her in the chamber, close the door and then press a button to turn it on. I was sitting in the waiting room at a distance and heard when the chamber was actually turned on. It sounded sort of like an air conditioning running. I waited for some time, and then the attendant asked me if I wanted to join my husband. Being squeamish, I asked first if I would see anything. The attendant assured me that no, I wouldn't see anything because the chamber had no see-through windows so no, I wouldn't see anything disturbing.
The room was hot, but the entrance door was open so to keep some air circulating. The attendant provided us with some chairs. He was a bit surprised that we were going to attend the whole process considering that most people just watch the body being put into the chamber and then leave. We just wanted to be 100 percent sure we got our baby back.
There was a slight smell of burning at times, but it wasn't overpowering. Sometimes we smelled burnt plastic. This was likely her microchip or maybe the plastic tag they had placed on her leg the day prior when they picked her up from our home. Hubby also presumed it was the purple blanket we provided to be cremated along with her. She had slept on that blanket countless days and we felt it was nice to have it with her.
On the side of the chamber was the paper I had signed when they picked up her body and a metal tag that I suppose was meant to be attached to her during the cremation process to prove to us we were getting her, but I guess wasn't needed since we were physically attending.
We were told the process takes about 2 hours and then another hour or so for the cooling of the ashes. We were left alone during this time as we shared memories of her and cried. Around an hour and a half later, the attendant came back and told me that he had to open the door to see "at what point our dog was." I left because I didn't want to see anything disturbing.
As I stepped outside, it was nice to breath some fresh air and take a break. I looked at the building from a distance and saw the chimney with some clear smoke coming out. A highly spiritual sensation prevailed as I imagined her essence drifting upwards in the sky. I imagined her free and happy.
Hubby remained and told me that at that point, there was very little of her remaining, just a few bones, sort of the size of a "chicken carcass." The attendant then came a couple more times to check and I left every time and hubby said there was always less and less of her. Every time I came back, there was smell of burnt, but again it wasn't overwhelming.
Finally, it seemed like the process was over. I left again at this time because I knew it was time to pulverize the bones. Ashes are not produced straight from the chamber. There are little bones produced about the size of small twigs. These small bones were cooled down with a fan and then placed in a grinding machine to produce the ashes. Since the bone fragments are fairly dry and brittle, this part of the process is quick.
The attendant had accidentally dropped a small bone fragment on the floor and hubby made him notice that. We didn't want to leave any parts of our beloved dog behind. Finally, her cremains were placed in a poly-film bag and then in a temporary cardboard box with a ribbon and were handed (on the spot) to hubby.
When hubby handed the box to me, the box was warm. Albeit I am normally squeamish about things like this, it actually felt reassuring to feel the warmth considering that the day prior when our beloved dog had died she obviously was cold. "This is the last time her body would feel warm," I thought. We traveled home and the warm box stayed on my lap between my hands for the whole trip.
I finally placed the cremains on the shelf and the box soon reached room temperature. I will be getting soon a decent urn to accommodate her with her name on it.
As tough as attending parts of our dog's cremation service was, we can at least rest assured with 100 percent certainty that what we have is 100 percent her and she is back home where she always loved to be and this to us is totally priceless.