“We’ll do this – together”

Buster, Maudann and Doyle Shugart

Buster, Maudann and Doyle Shugart

A dear friend of our Green Pet-Burial Society, Doyle L. Shugart, passed on July 8, 2012. He is widely known and respected for establishing Deceased Pet Care, Georgia’s first and only full service pet funeral home and the largest pet funeral home in the nation.

Doyle founded Deceased Pet Care in 1972 at a time when (many if not most) regarded pet cemeteries as curiosities. Along with his wife, Maudann, and their three children, Keith, Kyle, and Donna, the Shugarts grew Deceased Pet Care to three locations, which include two pet cemeteries. Under his compassionate guidance, they have supported and comforted numerous bereaved families.

Doyle also served as president of the International Association of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories (IAOPCC) and chaired their ethics committee, which is dedicated to improving the operation standards of all pet cemeteries & crematories across the US and worldwide. He is credited with developing and implementing the first certified Pet Crematory Operator Training Program for the IAOPCC.

We join with all those who were touched by Doyle’s vision of kindness in extending our deepest sympathies to the Shugart Family and their close friends.

Thinking Green

Doyle was among the very first cemeterians I spoke with while developing the Green Pet-Burial Society. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond to the notion of green pet-burials; after all, as a “full service pet funeral home” modeled on conventional human cemeteries, Deceased Pet Care was not founded on the principals of green burials. Yet from the first moments of our first conversation, he was both fascinated and encouraged by the programs of our Society, offering moral support as well as a personal commitment to advance our mission. He also began consdering where Deceased Pet Care might establish a green burial section.

A couple of talks later, and responding to my hopes for this new venture, he reassured me by stating, “we’ll do this – together.”

Presidio of San Francisco Pet CemeteryStirred by the idea of a natural burial ground, Doyle spoke enthusiastically about a recent visit to the Presidio of San Francisco Pet Cemetery, a special parcel of land that is the final resting place of hundreds of “military pets” (take the tour). Now closed to new interments, the cemetery has an arts and crafts feeling which he found to be quite charming.

Although it contrasts with the manicured garden cemeteries he founded in Georgia, Doyle appreciated the tender manifestation of love and dedication of those families comforted by this half-acre cemetery. Its beauty isn’t in any unseen casket, but in the involvement of families and children in creating a community that honored their relationships with their animal companions. Doyle liked the idea of families being involved in their pets’ funerals – a hallmark of the green burial movement and traditional home burials.

Doyle and I also agreed that there is a real need for pet cemeteries to have their land deeded in perpetuity in order to reassure families that their pets’ remains will rest undisturbed. Deceased Pet Care is among the few pet cemeteries in the nation to have acquired this legal designation; as such, they also allow one’s human cremains to be buried alongside one’s pet’s grave.

Our conversations of how to best support bereaved families extended to the difficulties some face when wanting to transport their pet’s remains within the US for a burial back home. I believe he would have appreciated our recent efforts to find viable options for these families, as described in our post, Flying Home.

Most recently, Doyle introduced me to his son, Keith, who oversaw last year’s opening of the beautiful new green burial section within their cemetery, Oak Rest Pet Gardens. Since then I have also corresponded with his daughter, Donna Bethune, who is likewise committed to expanding awareness about the possibilities of green burials in established cemeteries.

Donna, who also serves as IAOPCC Executive Secretary for the home office, shares a daughter’s thoughts:

Dad was the most selfless man I have ever known and truly had a servant’s heart. His love for God, his family, friends, and his life’s work of taking care of pets and their families was recognized by everyone who knew him. He dedicated himself for 40 years to his calling and truly was a pioneer in the pet aftercare profession.  As his family we were so thankful for his time here and are so proud of his many accomplishments, but most of all we were so blessed to call him Dad. He left us a wonderful legacy to continue.

Doyle and Maudann’s children are testament to how new – and ancient – ideas can be embraced in the service of a changing society. May his memory be an inspiration to us all.

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