I try not to think about my own death too much, but I do have a general plan for the hereafter.
I want my cremated remains to spend eternity with my dog’s cremated remains — or at least those remains of him that remain after I, earlier this year, spread some of his ashes in his favorite ocean and some in his favorite creek.
I still have about half his ashes left (he was a big dog), and, if I revisit another place that was dear to us, I may spread a little more of him there.
But I’ll keep the rest so that they may join my own. As I see it, that should be my right as a dead man.
But it’s not always — at least when it comes to the rules of individual cemeteries, and the many local, state and federal laws, rules and regulations that govern how we dispose of our remains and those of our pets.
In most cases, state laws prohibits burying pets in human cemeteries, even just their ashes, but they are unenforceable laws — to be honest, needless laws — and they’re generally overlooked by funeral directors.
Most funeral directors go along with it when the family of the deceased requests their pet’s ashes be placed with the deceased — even when it’s technically against the rules.
Sometimes cemetery rules prohibit it; often state laws do. In recent years, though, some states have reexamined those laws.
Virginia passed a law in 2014 permitting cemeteries to have clearly marked sections where pets and humans may be buried alongside one another — as long as the animal has its own casket.
In New York, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation last month making it legal for the cremated remains of pets to be interred with their owners at any of the approximately 1,900 not-for-profit cemeteries regulated by the state.
“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” Cuomo said. “This legislation will roll back this unnecessary regulation and give cemeteries the option to honor the last wishes of pet lovers across New York.”
The new law does not apply to cemeteries owned or operated by religious associations or societies, and any cemetery still has the right to say no.
But it’s a step closer to reasonable, and better than an interim measure passed three years ago, when New York made it permissible to bury the cremated remains of humans and their dogs together — but only in pet cemeteries.
State lawmakers approved the new bill during the final days of the legislature’s session June, according to The New York Daily News
“For years now, New Yorkers have desired to have their pets interred in their grave, and cemeteries will now be able to offer this burial option as a result of this new law,” said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Erie County), who sponsored the law in the Senate.
One of those New Yorkers was Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate who died in 2007 and specified in her will that she wanted her dog, Trouble, interred with her in the family mausoleum in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester County.
Trouble died and was cremated in 2011, but could not be buried with her owner because of the state law prohibiting it.
Call me crazy (just don’t call me as crazy as her), but I want my ashes with Ace’s ashes, and not just in adjacent airtight containers.
I want them mixed, or at least — should I opt for my own to be spread — spread in the same location.
That could violate a law or two — because there are thousands of them governing how and where dogs and humans can be buried, cremation procedures, after-death mingling of species and where ashes can be spread.
According to Time.com scattering human ashes at sea must be done from a boat or plane three nautical miles from shore. That’s an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule.
The EPA says scattering a pet’s ashes in the sea is prohibited.
Woops, I already violated that rule.
Before it’s all over, or, more accurately, once it’s all over, I might violate some more. Blame my rebellious streak.
My advice is to check your city, county, state and federal laws, and then break them — at least as much as you, being dead, can.
Burying an entire dog or human body is one thing, and there should, for public health reasons, be some rules regulating that.
But ashes have no germs, no odor, no dangerous implications. What pet owners might have spread in rivers and streams over the centuries is non-toxic and only a drop in the bucket compared to, say, the coal ash Duke Energy unleashed in a day.
My plan to combine the ashes of myself and my dog still has some details in need of being worked out.
For one, I’ll need an accomplice to carry out my wishes and do the mixing, assuming the crematorium balks at my afterlife recipe — mix one part Ace with two parts John in a large Folgers Coffee can. Shake well.
After that it would be sent along to my designated spreader, to be named at a later date.
(I was joking about Folgers, any brand will do.)
When we leave the coffee can, we would like for it to be somewhere scenic and not too noisy.
Somewhere with a view of the sunset would be nice.
Someplace where I’m not in a neat row among other rows.
And somewhere free — in both meanings of the word.
Ace and I were thrifty in our travels, and our travels were all about feeling free and liberated as opposed to crated, coffined or cubicled.
I want our ashes to have that same freedom, together.
(Photos: Top and bottom, spreading Ace’s ashes in an unspecified ocean on the east coast, by Seth Effron and Glenn Edens; middle, more of Ace’s ashes being spread along a creek in Bethania, N.C., by Joe Woestendiek)