How Americans Memorialize Their Dogs

Some American pet owners have chosen some exotic ways to memorialize their dogs.

Posted Mar 24, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills

 GAIMARD/Pixabay
Source: GAIMARD/Pixabay

It is a sad reality that no matter how much we love our dogs, our pets will not live forever. A new study conducted by Anthony Martin and other researchers at Choice Mutual has shown that just as we treat our dogs like family when they are alive, we also tend to treat them like family when they die. The research team looked at over 20 sources to uncover many of the ways that Americans memorialize their pets once they have passed away.

To begin with, like humans, the most common burial methods for pets are traditional burial in the ground or cremation. These choices may be partially due to tradition, but other factors, such as cost and practicality, play into them. Cremation is the more popular choice (for about 60 percent of pet owners), and that might be partly due to the fact that pet cemeteries are few and far between, and many owners don't want to have to travel to visit their companion.

Nonetheless, there are over 200 currently operating pet cemeteries in the U.S. Florida contains the most (17), followed by Pennsylvania (14) and New York (13). Here is a map of pet cemeteries by state.

Anthony Martin/Choice Mutual
Source: Anthony Martin/Choice Mutual

Burying your pet at home, in the yard, is the most affordable and personal burial option. However, each state has its own laws and regulations as to whether and how a pet may be buried. For example, California law completely prohibits burying a pet on its owner's property.

However, officials note that these rules are not often enforced in rural areas. Pet cemeteries have the advantage of giving owners a place to create some form of memorial for their beloved pet, where the family can visit. However, this all comes at a price since the average pet burial plot costs between $400 and $600, not counting the price of the casket and a grave marker.

Cremation is more affordable than cemetery burial, and it has the advantage that owners can take their pet's ashes with them if they move. Cremation runs about $130 on average, not counting the cost of an urn.

Given our heightened awareness of environmental issues, there are some greener choices available. One is "recomposition," where your dog's remains are converted into usable compost. The soil made from your pet is donated to reforestation projects, and a tree gets planted in honor of your best friend.

Another green alternative is "aquamation," also known as "alkaline hydrolysis." Aquamation is similar to cremation in that it leaves you with powdered remains. It's becoming more popular as an alternative to cremation since it doesn't emit as much carbon or greenhouse gases. Aquamation is not legal in all states, and you can only use this method if you live in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, or Wyoming.

If you want to keep a more lifelike version of your pet around, you can choose to have it taxidermied. This can be a bit pricey (starting at $500), and some states or taxidermy practices won't allow pets to be treated this way.

If you want something really exotic done with your pet's remains, you can utilize the ancient Egyptian practice of mummification. This can only be done in the state of Utah, and it is very expensive ($9,000, not counting the sarcophagus).

Anthony Martin/Choice Mutual
Source: Anthony Martin/Choice Mutual

Since cremation is the most popular alternative, it is not surprising that some people have found more avant-garde ways of dealing with their pet's ashes other than keeping them in an urn. These include creating a "remembrance stone," where your dog's ashes are turned into a memorial stone that can be placed in your yard or home. Along similar lines, some people choose to have a potter mix the ashes with potting clay and then have their pet turned into a ceramic piece. A somewhat more elegant choice has the ashes mixed with glass and used to make a stained glass piece.

While we are dealing with these artistic ways of memorializing your pet, you can have the ashes mixed with special paint and then used to create a painting or mixed with ink and used in a canvas print. If you're into body art, the cremains can be put through a sterilized process and mixed with tattoo ink which is then used to create a real tattoo of your pet's name or portrait on your body.

Among the most exotic treatments of your dog's remains is having the ashes compressed into a diamond. Starting somewhere around $2,200, you can choose the color, size, and type of jewelry you want to use it in, and you get to wear it in honor of your pet's memory. You can also have the ashes pressed into a working vinyl record. Here you get to decide which sound clips to include on it so you can listen to your dog's bark whenever you choose. If you've got $2,500 to spare, you can send your pet's ashes into space. Or, if you want to do something for the environment, you can have your pet's remains mixed into a substance similar to concrete and molded into an artificial reef that can support underwater life.

Anthony Martin/Choice Mutual
Source: Anthony Martin/Choice Mutual

One form of memorial for my own dogs that I tend to favor is a paw impression. It involves simply pressing the dog's paw into clay to preserve their paw print. If you're handy, you can do this for yourself; however, many vet clinics are willing to do paw impressions for you. From where I am sitting right now, I can glance up and see the framed paw print of one dearly loved dog of mine on the mantle, and it gives me a warm moment of remembrance.

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

References

Anthony Martin (March 2021). How Americans Are Burying Their Pets In 2021. https://choicemutual.com/pet-burials-2021/