I've lost a few pets in my lifetime...my childhood guinea pig, the dog I had as a small child, the cat that was with me most of my school years. However, I'd never been responsible for figuring out what to do with a deceased pet, and even so, the choices were relatively easy. We had a large yard in which to bury small pets, and my parents would handle any larger problems. Until yesterday, that is.
Our 15 year-old cat has been getting old very quickly, and we knew that the end was probably near. Of course, I had been thinking that for at least three years, so maybe my judgment isn't great. This time, we were right. She had a seizure on Thursday, spent a lot of time at the vet that afternoon, and came home with us on Thursday night. She never quite came out of the mild sedative given at the vet's office, and she died in my arms on Friday morning. Once we got past telling the kids, we found ourselves with another big dilemma: what to do with her?
Because we live in a rented house, and overseas, our options were obviously limited. We couldn't bury her in the back yard with a nice little marker, and that was the only choice that was truly going to make me happy. We checked with the base veterinarian's office and were presented with three possibilities: a) give her to the vet, who would give her to the hospital to be incinerated with the other medical waste, b) take her to a civilian crematorium and get the ashes back, or c) take her to the local pet cemetery. The pet cemetery seemed like the most respectful, but also a little ridiculous. We're not likely to be coming on pilgrimages back to this country to visit our pet's grave site. Although that option might have helped the children with the grieving process, it just didn't make a lot of sense in the bigger picture.
We briefly joked about having the cat cremated, then going on a voyage to scatter her remains in all the six places that she had lived, but that was a little overboard. Especially since those locations spanned the globe. And, well, she was a cat. Once we'd eliminated the big trip idea, we were left with the prospect of moving cat ashes every time we PCSed. I wasn't sold on that idea - what would we do with them? Put them in an urn on the mantle? Add them to our "treasure" box of baby clothes and other trinkets? Or put her in the storage closet with all the other unpacked boxes?
We finally decided for the most pragmatic choice and my husband took the cat to the vet's office for disposal. It wasn't an ideal choice, but we couldn't think of anything better. In the end, it is OK, but it got me thinking. Military families face this dilemma on a regular basis. Are there any creative ideas for memorializing a pet? Is there another solution that we didn't consider? How have other military folks dealt with this situation?