Helping your dogs or cats cross the Rainbow Bridge is by far the worst — and, unfortunately, an inevitable — feature of pet ownership. Complicating matters is the wanting reality of our post-mortem options. You could bury your loved one, though you’ll need to own your own land, dig graves of a certain depth, and say goodbye all over again should you ever decide to move.
Others opt for a more economical, but also more environmentally-damaging, cremation, which demands significant amounts of energy and pumps harmful toxins into the air. (Even burials, the relatively greener option, emit methane gases).
Fortunately, some socially-responsible animal lovers have developed ways to remove the environmental sting from this painful process. This third option, Alkaline Hydrolysis — aka “Aquamation” – uses a churning bath of warm water and minerals to process your pet’s remains, yielding a sandy residue on par with what you’d expect from standard crematorium in about 20 hours.
Aquamation is legal in (at time of writing) in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon, and – for pets, but not humans – in Washington State. By mirroring nature’s natural methods of decomposition, it’s also the most sustainable, earth-friendly way to honor your late pet.
According California’s Peaceful Pets Aquamation, the process requires only 1/20th the energy of a typical cremation, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in both natural gas and carbon emissions, 66 percent less electricity, and zero toxins pumped into the air. Others, including Resting Waters, a pet aquamation company run by two sisters in Seattle, note the water-alkaline by-product that helped process your pet’s remains becomes so nutrient-rich it can be used as an organic fertilizer.
Of course, none of these options will remove or lessen the pain one feels upon losing a pet, and it’s important to properly grieve the loss of this departed family member. If there’s one silver lining, however, it’s that this relatively peaceful process, which is becoming a viable option in a growing number of states, can at least help nourish the earth your dog or outdoor cat held so dear.
J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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