Jocelyne Monette

Jocelyne Monette

Grieving pet owners choosing sentimental options

  • May. 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Rosie’s death was not unexpected. Her body got weaker late last summer, and by October she was diagnosed with total kidney failure. Keeping her  alive wasn’t worth her suffering.

In the comfort of the Esquimalt home she grew to love, the 18-year-old rescue dog was put to sleep.

“I’ve had a lot of dogs, and I’ve put down a lot of dogs. The least (pet owners) can do is give them the dignity and respect and worth that comes with not having them suffer,” said Pat Rose, who rescued the Shih Tzu-poodle cross from a puppy mill almost nine years earlier.

With a new rescue dog, P.J., nestled in her lap, Rose – a self described dog person – recalls her past experiences raising, loving and losing at least a dozen animals in her lifetime.

All Rose’s past dogs still hold a special place in her heart, but Rosie is the only one whose ashes sit on the fireplace hearth.

“Not knowing that there are options for (your pet) after they die, and most of the time there wasn’t – it’s hard,” Rose said. When a pet dies, Victoria-based veterinarians present owners with just a couple of options: take the remains home or opt for cremation.

“Almost every pet we see that either passes here or comes in deceased is cremated,” said Kris Glabais, hospital administrator at Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital on Roderick Street in Saanich.

For years, cremation has been done almost exclusively through a Sooke-based animal crematorium. Owners can choose between communal or individual cremation.

In November, Pet Loss Care Memorial Center opened in Fairfield, providing pet owners with more than just the ashes.

Operated by Jocelyne Monette, the centre gives owners options for individualized services – including pet wakes, a variety of urns, blown glass with ashes or fur inside, cemented paw print memorials and loss support groups.

“I’ve heard people tell me this is over the top and families don’t need this, but you cannot dictate how someone grieves,” Monette said. “I know I’m not for everybody.”

This is where Rose brought Rosie. “The closure I’ve had with all my other dogs has been awful. Leaving them at the vet and walking away not knowing – it’s an emotional challenge,” she said. “Jocelyne acknowledges there’s grief over losing a pet. It’s not just a dog, it’s not just a cat – they’re an integral part of your life. You need closure, and you need it done properly.”

Since opening, Monette has cremated more than 200 family pets, including Bandit, the puppy that was killed during a drug-fueled act of violence in a Victoria hotel room on New Year’s Day. A lock of the three-month-old pit bull’s fur, along with a photo and memorial card, sit on a shelf in the Lillian Road care centre.

Outside of cremation, burial of an animal is another option for pet owners. It’s not usually recommended by vets, however, because there is confusion over whether burying your pet violates some kind of official regulation.

But bylaw officers, police officers and pound officers in Saanich say they’re not aware of any such rule. The Ministry of Environment, too, says burying a pet in your own backyard is fine, as long as it’s done responsibly.

The only restriction is that the burial not be done in a way that causes pollution, according to the Environmental Management Act.

Burial at your dog’s favourite public park, however, is an offence.

“If someone wants to take their pet with them and bury it, it’s technically illegal in certain areas, but it’s a law that is frequently ignored,” said veterinarian Nick Shaw.

Terry Woodsworth, who’s operated Lagoon Taxidermy in Colwood for nearly two decades, says he’s had requests to taxidermy pets in the past, but it’s rare.

“I have done it. Will I again? Absolutely not,” he said. “Hunters come in, they’re happy, they’re proud of what they’ve got. I don’t like when someone is upset when they bring in a dead animal … And now the pressure’s on to make it look as good as (the owners) have seen it every day.”

Animals can also be disposed of at Hartland Landfill, but the manager of solid waste operations at Hartland says it’s rare to see a pet brought there.

“Typically we tend to see the Saanich animal pound, they’ll bring euthanized animals, or commercial ventures and farmers,” said Tom Watkins.

Animals brought in to the landfill are treated as controlled waste, along with items such as sewage sludge and asbestos, and are buried immediately in clay-lined trenches so as to not attract predators.

“It’s not something I would encourage someone to do with their family pet,” Watkins said.

Glabais, the pet hospital administrator, says memorial services are a convenience that was needed in Greater Victoria.

“It’s more acceptable than it was years ago. I think people felt it wasn’t entirely socially acceptable to grieve for your pet,” she said. “People are finding pets are like family now, and they expect the same things they do with their pet as they do with their family members.”

Rose calls pet grief “disenfranchised,” and says she’s thankful to have found a way to honour Rosie the way she felt appropriate.

“You look at all the things for pets – bakeries, daycare, clothing. But they forgot about the end-of-life care,” she said. “Giving them a proper memorial is nothing compared to what a pet gives you during their lifetime.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This photo of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and her daughter, Lexi, is part of Townsin’s documentary, RARE HUMANS - Turning Hope into Action, her capstone project for her graduate degree from Royal Roads University. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin)
Greater Victoria mother’s grief fuels documentary of ‘Turning Hope into Action’

Lexi, 6, died in 2019 from Blau Syndrome and is among the children documented

This dead fir tree is one of many in Mount Douglas Park. Nine dead trees will be removed from the Douglas Creek site starting March 8 to make way for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge. (Photo courtesy Jason Clarke)
Nine dead, hazardous trees to be removed from Saanich park ahead of bridge construction

Felling begins March 8, minor trail interruptions expected in Mount Douglas Park

A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read