Here’s a treat for all those who care deeply about dogs and civic engagement: photographer Shannon Johnstone’s original, poetic photographic essay, Landfill Dogs. Published in 2013 to critical acclaim (we included one of her photographs in our developing Photography Gallery), this series of photographic portraits deserves continued attention from those who love animals and those organizations committed to their support – especially during this season of reflection and gift-giving (scroll to the end of the article for purchase information).
The Green Pet-Burial Society addresses the status of animals in society in life as well as death, our (dis)connections with the Earth, ways in which we honor those who have passed, and how only a relative few animals are remembered and mourned.
Johnstone highlights these themes among dogs whose unwanted-ness marks them for an untimely death. She focuses her lens on the life, joys, and fates of individual dogs within a society that – in the absence of caring families and nurturing homes – discards them.
In an unexpected turn, Johnstone takes dogs, whose future at a local animal shelter is uncertain, to a park created upon a landfill, liberating them for a few hours of fresh air and play. Yet this poignant outing above ground is juxtaposed with the reality of what lies below: the landfill contains the remains of thousands of other dogs prematurely put to death. In this deceptively natural setting, she leads us to contemplate the fates of captive animals who lack human companionship; the stark reality of their unwantedness (which serves as the raison de ne pas être vis-à-vis lethal injection); the meanings we give to death and life; the inequities inflicted upon forgotten dogs; and entire systems of captivity, domestication, and control over animals’ lives and bodies. As importantly, she documents the remarkable reactions the dogs have during a sublime moment of freedom.
We are grateful to Johnstone for sharing her thoughts and process through an email interview with the Green Pet-Burial Society; edited excerpts of which are shared below.
Change rarely happens overnight, nor is it ever the result of just one person. The changes we hope for the world can occur when each of us contributes to a common goal. Such has been the case for the Green Pet-Burial Society in 2018. Here are some highlights:
Reimagine 2018, San Francisco – April 17, 2018. We were invited to create an event as part of a week-long community effort called Reimagine End of Life featuring over 150 events across San Francisco. Ours was the only nonprofit dedicated exclusively to grief for our animal companions. Entitled ‘Honoring our Pets,’ we inaugurated a participatory, large-scale, public, kinetic art piece, ‘1,000 Doors: An Ecosystem of Love,’ at beautiful Ocean Beach. We also conducted participant interviews, which will become an integral part of this project, Reimagine held another event in New York City, but we could not attend due to lack of funds. Continue reading →
This has been an excellent year for press coverage of our work. This past May we were featured on NPR. Most recently, The Atlantic Magazine discussed our promotion of whole-family cemeteries (the article was also shared on MSN.com). Additionally, Natural Transitions Magazine highlighted the growing shift toward green burials for pets. More press coverage will be coming soon – we’ll keep you posted!
The Atlantic on Whole-Family Cemeteries
The Atlantic Magazine’s article, The Movement to Bury Pets Alongside People, discussed the psychosocial drive to keep families ‘together forever’ (our new tagline). Journalist Sonya Vatomsky had wanted to publish an article about our work for some time and was finally given the greenlight to do so. She accurately represents the intense desire to keep families together in whole-family cemeteries, despite legal concerns. Here’s an excerpt: Continue reading →
iStockphoto/Getty Images via NPR blog. Although we love the subtle shades of greys and greens, the image used by NPR is not that of a conservation cemetery – which would look like a wildlife preserve. Here, nature reclaims what was built.
We’ve had a great month!
The Green Pet-Burial Society and its programs promoting conservation whole-family cemeteries were highlighted in the new book, Even Vegans Die, by Carol Adams, Patti Breitman, and Ginny Kisch Messina. We were especially delighted that the authors chose to conclude the book with a discussion of our idyllic work, which highlights continuity and hope rather than a severing ‘death.’
New Zealand is modifying its cemetery law. Will it honor the wishes of those wanting to bury their animals’ remains in their family’s cemetery plot?
by Rachael Ford 1709 words
In late 2013, Rachael Ford informed the Green Pet-Burial Society about New Zealand’s process of updating its cemetery law. A registered nurse, Rachael is the founder of With Our Loved Ones (WOLO), dedicated to establishing whole-family cemeteries in NZ. We support WOLO and sent a detailed letter to the NZ government in support of conservation whole-family cemeteries. We invited Rachael to prepare a guest blog about pet burial practices in New Zealand and her founding of WOLO. Here she provides a background on NZ cemetery law, Māori tradition, and a poetic recollection of grief for her dog Beulah.
New Zealand, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is in the process of updating its Burial and Cremation Act of 1964. The Law Commission invited submissions from citizens, stakeholders and experts on how to improve the current law (the Green Pet-Burial Society was among the respondents). So in November 2013 I formed With Our Loved Ones (WOLO), an ad hoc group of New Zealanders and supporters dedicated to the formation of whole-family cemeteries in NZ. Continue reading →
Still frame from The Snowman and The Snowdog. 2012. Hilary Audus, director.
People commonly say that “the holidays are all about family” – the families into which we were born or adopted, or the ones we create for ourselves. All of our relations – of different ages, cultures and species – are special to us in their own way.
Yet upon experiencing a recent death of a family member, close friend or teacher, or when remembering days gone by – the reassuring glances, kidding around or a gentle touch – we wonder: How might our reminiscences and grief coincide with the abundance of holiday cheer? Continue reading →
New legislation in New York State would make it possible for people to have their pet’s cremated remains (a.k.a. cremains) interred with them in certain NY cemeteries.
Originally introduced on March 21, 2013 by Republican Mike Ranzenhofer and cosponsored by Democrat Tony Avella, Bill S4322 already passed the Senate this past March in a landslide vote of 60-0 (with one abstention). It now awaits deliberation by the NYS Assembly (follow its progress here). The bill – which only pertains to cemeteries governed by the NYS Cemetery Board – permits those cemeteries to offer this option. Continue reading →
Update: On April 3, 2014, the Virginia Governor signed HB 588 into law.
The Virginia State Capitol – Thomas Jefferson’s “Temple to Democracy”
A bill (HB 588) was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly that would amend the State Cemetery Code to allow human cemeteries to designate a special section for the burial of human remains with their companion animals in adjacent graves. It was introduced by republican Delegate Israel O’Quinn with Delegate A. Benton Chafin, Jr. as Chief Co-Patron.
The issue was brought to Delegate O’Quinn’s attention by Kelly Farris, co-owner of Farris Funeral Services, who has been receiving increasing requests from folk who want to keep their family intact in death as they were in life. Continue reading →
Gerrit Dou (1613–1675), Sleeping Dog (detail), 1650. Oil on panel, 6 ½ x 8 ½ inches. The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The end of a year can be challenging, especially when we consider those who have recently passed, or those who passed years ago. Bereavement sneaks in, but only if we shut it out. As we close 2013 and look ahead to 2014, we’d like to share this poem by Denise Levertov.
Talking to Grief by Denise Levertov
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you. Continue reading →
Updated March 18, 2015: We are sorry to announce that this beautiful cemetery has since closed due to lack of business and interest within the surrounding area. The Green Pet-Burial Society will continue to encourage and support new conservation whole-family cemeteries in the future. Please visit our directories to find a suitable cemetery near you.
A beautiful new pet memorial park, Pet Memorial Acres, recently opened in central New York State. With its commitment to green burials within its borders – and in general – it represents a future direction for pet cemeteries in the U.S. and abroad. Since there are few options for green pet-burials in dedicated cemeteries, we wanted to recognize Pet Memorial Acres by inviting its founder, Darryl Simcoe, to write of his inspiration and aspirations for this new venture.
by Darryl Simcoe, Founder, Pet Memorial Acres
Summer at Pet Memorial Acres
My interest in pet cemeteries evolved from my research into green burials. I came across the website for Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve located in Newfield, New York. A human cemetery, it is one of a very few cemeteries in New York State that provide the option of a green burial for all people. [Note: New York State cemetery law prohibits animals from being buried in human cemeteries.] Continue reading →
2012 has been an eventful year for our Green Pet-Burial Society. This work is continually buoyed by the simple question:
Why is this important?
It’s not only about burials – it’s so much more than that! It’s about our worldviews of Nature, animals and our own humanity, and it’s about embracing all that is simple and beautiful in life. We’ve learned of four new green cemeteries that allow a pet’s remains to be buried in the family plot – two in the U.S. and two in the U.K. – and we’ve seen established pet cemeteries plan for new green burial sections. Here are some other highlights: Continue reading →
“I’m a mother, it seems, and these are my children”
This night before Thanksgiving, I saw a stunning and quite surprising film on PBS – part of its Nature series. Entitled My Life as a Turkey, it chronicles the hatching, growing, learning, exploring and socialization of two groups of sibling wild turkeys and their adopted man-mom, naturalist Joe Hutto (played by Jeff Palmer). Remarkably, Joe was “born into a hardcore turkey hunting family and culture.” Fascinating and utterly moving, this film illustrates a somewhat enviable experience of living with young turkeys (‘poults’):
These animals were telling me how to live my life; also, we [humans] do not have a privileged access to reality.
Stories of human-turkey relationships only provide greater credence to the families any of us may form with other creatures – dogs, cats, rabbits, rats – all of whom deserve our affection and rescue from otherwise terrible ends by human hands.
The scene that prompted this post: two of the birds had died, and we see Joe digging their graves. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
[the original post has been updated as certain services are no longer available]
Our Transportation Goal is met!*
Families can now arrange to have their pet’s body flown back home for burial.
Every year, hundreds if not thousands of families arrange for the body of a loved one to be flown home for burial; most notably recovered military personnel who died overseas. Their military comrades are often seen flying on commercial airlines as they accompany the remains of fallen women and men on the solemn journey home (read an online discussion by airline personnel and others). Continue reading →
Marketing bacon and hot dogs with coffins? Sometimes we’re tempted to say that certain things just don’t warrant comment. However, students of popular culture, animal studies and/or death studies may find this post particularly useful when illustrating cultural values and ideas about animals, food, death and humor.
Below are two examples of businesses mixing the accoutrements of human funerals with meat; by so doing, they focus our attention on the particular products they sell – bacon and hot dogs – and the bodies they come from. The unexamined words, images and materials that we use and encounter shape our cultural values, experiences and understanding of the world, and can sometimes create great distance among people, as well as between humans and other species.
Just before April 1 (a.k.a., April Fool’s Day), a news item about a new bacon-themed coffin received a fair amount of media attention with many respondents inquiring if it was “real” or a hoax. It was created and marketed by Seattle-based J&D Foods (although more accurately, the coffin markets them). They explain that it was created for “the bacon fan who loves bacon to death.” (see video below) Continue reading →
I just viewed The Mantis Parable (2006), the first animated short by filmmaker Josh Staub.
It is a perfect short film for the Passover and Easter holidays (which also coincided with Buddha’s birthday this year). It’s a story of life in the face of death; control over our own bodies and stories; dyspathy, compassion and redemption; liberation from captivity; and accepting the risks of sacrifice to help another. Since its release, this film has gained international acclaim at film festivals worldwide.
If you know of other works of art we should consider including on our Art webpage, please let us know. Enjoy!
At the end of 2011, the Green Pet-Burial Society submitted a proposal to the Green Burial Council (GBC) on its certification standards for green burial grounds. When our Society was founded, GBC had four certificate levels; then effective on 1/1/11, GBC consolidated its standards into its current three levels.
In thinking about how these standards might apply to pet cemeteries as well as human cemeteries, we carefully analyzed GBC’s standards and proposed some modifications, including reinstituting a four-standard system along with some additional recognitions. (Note: these two organizations are independent from one another.) Continue reading →
There are times when one’s bereavement, believed to have healed, becomes reawakened. It could be from a familiar word or gesture, the reemergence of someone from one’s past, or some kind of exposure that feels impossible to contain. As with many journeys, grief spirals back and forth. It takes us to the precipice of life – infusing it with perspective – and then drops us into the mendacity of social convention, the desire for forgetting, and the hope for hope.
For all who struggle with grief, here is a song my friends sing. Written and sung by Matisyahu, it’s a blessing with wide meaning, an anthem for peace, and yearning for peace in our personal lives when people’s hostilities towards us may be turned into invited play. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl9voSKJmEU