Mulan’s ashes arrived back from the pet memorial park in a very nice cedar box. I took the box inside the house, and placed it on the counter next to my keys, whereupon my 4 year old immediately honed in and asked what was in the box. “Memories,” I told her, then whisked the box out of her hands before she tried to open it.
Right now Mulan is resting on top of the TV. It is the only place where she is safe from kid-hands and misplacement. I feel badly that I haven’t picked somewhere more permanent yet, but in life Mulan liked to be there in the living room best of all, so in some ways it’s rather fitting. I’m debating what to do from here. My last dog who I had to put to sleep, Nuke, arrived from a different crematorium in a crummy floral print tin and I was in a bit of a hurry to get him somewhere more dignified, so I buried his ashes under a pepper tree in our yard. Unfortunately, we ended up moving 2 years later and I am to this day consumed with guilt about abandoning him to strangers.
I am oddly (well, not that odd, I guess) defensive about dignified comportment of a pet. To me how we treat animals in death is just another reflection of the respect we had for them in life. I’ll never forget Charlie, a little dog we saw for the first and only time last fall. The owner was debilitated, so her sons brought the dog in for euthanasia. They could have cared less and were combative about my need to examine the dog before committing to doing the euthanasia. Poor Charlie was a total disaster, obviously in the end stages of some sort of (undiagnosed, untreated) chronic disease, and I agreed at that stage euthanasia was the best option. The sons complained about the price, but paid for the euthanasia with communal cremation, and left before the deed was done.
Imagine my surprise when, two weeks later, Charlie’s ashes arrived back at the clinic. Apparently, a staff member had checked the wrong box, and Charlie was given an individual cremation. Thinking that perhaps the owner would still like to have the ashes, we attempted to call them, but they had provided a false phone number. “Well, that stinks,” said one tech, and started to take Charlie over to the trash can.
I had what could only be described as “strong words” with the tech, and within a few moments Charlie was sitting on my desk. I wasn’t quite sure what would be right or fitting, not knowing anything about the dog, but I eventually decided on a small park by my home to be as good a place as any. So after work the next day, I headed to the bank of a tiny creek at the park, and scattered his ashes. In the end, did it matter? Not really. Not to anyone but me. But that is enough.
Mulan, on the other hand, wasn’t that fond of the park. She liked to be at home. Her, I know. We went out and bought a maidenhair tree, because the little yellow leaves remind me of her ears. When we plant it, I will mix some of her ashes in the soil. It still feels like not enough, though.
My sister insists that when she dies, she wants to be turned into a Life Gem. When they first came out, you used to have to ship the whole body to the Life Gem place- augh- but now they have refined the process so you can get a diamond made out of a lock of hair, which is so much better. The thought of wearing my sister- my whole sister- and constantly living in fear of losing her down the drain is a bit creepy to me. If you have the money to spend (and it isn’t cheap), they do offer the service for pets too.
Much as the idea of wearing Mulan as a cheery yellow diamond is appealing, in these times of recession it isn’t going to happen. I kind of like these little lockets that hold a bit of ashes in them. Is that creepy? I find them appealing, actually. Keeping your pet close to your heart as they have been for so many years. I will tell you the one option I never considered: Freeze drying my pet (warning, link contains photos). As much as I love Scrubs, the fact that JD and Turk have a freeze dried dog in their house is a constant source of discomfort for me when I watch the show. Yuck. Who would do this? Really? That makes turning someone into a gem look positively dignified. Thank God my sister isn’t asking me to do that. I can picture my daughter, circa 2045 in therapy: “Well, it all started the day Auntie K came back from the freeze drying place…”