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Tag: ashes

My half-ashed plans for the hereafter

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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.

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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.

glennBut 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)

We’re back, rehomed, and all wired up

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To those of you who visit ohmidog! daily – as you are supposed to – we apologize for our recent interruption in services.

We were moving our corporate headquarters, and not a single person on our staff – from the president (me) to our director of tech support (me) to our janitor (me) – was able to get our Internet hooked up.

So in addition to not bringing you a dispatch on the 4th of July (which is a holiday after all), we failed to publish on the 5th, 6th, and 7th.

When it comes to moving, the best laid plans can get, well, mislaid.

The way it was supposed to work, after closing on the new condo a week ago Wednesday, was for some needed new flooring to be installed Thursday, and for the movers to move me in on Friday.

The carpet layers didn’t show up though, and after calling Empire (that number, in case the jingle has managed to escape your head, is 800-538-2300) I learned they weren’t going to arrive until about the same time the movers were supposed to on Friday.

I was able to reschedule the move for Sunday, which meant I had to reschedule my visit from the cable/Internet technician for Wednesday.

On top of all that, there were 48 visits to Home Depot — OK, maybe it was only three — to buy things that were the wrong size, and then return them, and then buy new things, and then return them.

The new place shortens my commute from about 12 paces to about four, and brings an end to a search that lasted so long my dog died in the process.

Ironic, because it was in large part for Ace, and his ever-stiffening hind legs, that I began seeking an affordable condo or townhome, where he and I could spend our old fartage – a place all on one floor, with no steps for him (or me) to climb to get in and out, with a little green space (mowed by others) to romp, in the event we felt up to romping. Above all, a dog friendly place.

When Ace died, I thought about calling off the search, but I’d realized by then that by owning, as opposed to renting, I could save money in the long run – assuming there is going to be long run.

movein 012I assumed Ace was going to have one, but he – an ultra large dog — died before age 12, of heart failure. His ashes sit about three feet from me, in my new little office – but some of them will be doing some traveling soon, because Ace loved to travel, and he had some favorite places.

Some of them will go back to Bethania, where we lived for three years, to be spread along the trail at Black Walnut Bottoms. Some may be going to the beach later this month. Some I think I’ll keep.

Absolutely, there will be a new dog. Soon. Give me time. Meanwhile, there are tons of dogs in my new neighborhood I can get my fix from, including five in the unit next door.

When selecting my carpet, I made a point of choosing a color that looked like it would hide most any color of dog hair. I opted for “oyster.”

So far, I’ve encountered only one downside to the new place. There’s a tree that overhangs my little back patio, and it drops thousands — and this time I’m not exaggerating — of little purple berries every day.

movein 015To the left, that’s about half a day’s worth. The berries fall on my head. The berries fall in my coffee. If you can identify them, let me know. I may have swallowed one or two, so I’m hoping they are not poisonous.

They get tracked into the house, and purple may be the one color that my oyster carpets can’t disguise.

My patio is also surrounded by bamboo, and I know I will have to regularly wield my machete to keep it from encroaching too far, but it does add some major serenity to my surroundings, especially when the wind rustles through it.

Those are trivial details, though, and I’m sure, between our janitor (me) and our assistant director of trivial details (me), we’ll figure something out.

So that’s the reason behind the absence, and I apologize for not providing a better explanation in advance — both here on ohmidog! and on my Facebook page, where I announced last week I was moving, but didn’t say where.

That kind of Internet teasing — popular as it is among websites — tends to drive people crazy, but I didn’t intend it that way. I try not to resort to cheap gimmicks like that.

Our return to daily-ness will resume next week, after I accomplish a little more decorating, and make a few more visits — assuming our director of procurement (me) approves — to Home Depot.

There is one other small life-changing development that began to take shape this week.

But I’ve got berries to sweep, so, not to be a tease or anything, I’ll have to wait and tell you about that next week.

Dog’s ashes mixed with ink for tattoo

treotattooWe thought we’d heard of every way there is to immortalize a beloved canine companion — from taxidermy to cloning, from turning ashes into jewelry to inserting ashes into a stuffed animal —  but this is a new one on us.

A British ex-soldier has paid tribute to the dog he served with in Afghanistan by getting a tattoo on his leg, made from ink mixed with the animal’s ashes.

Treo, a bomb-detecting black Lab, moved in with his handler after the two left the Army at about the same time.

Treo died in October at the age of 14, and now Dave Heyhoe, an ex-sergeant, wears a tattoo on his calf of Treo’s pawprint and 80 words relating to how the  dog loyally served his handler.

“The tattoo completes me,” the former serviceman from Cheshire told the Daily Mail. “People might think it’s strange, but Treo was like a son to me, and his death has knocked me for six.

“Over the years we have seen gunfire, death and bomb scares together – I’ve been lost without him. Now it feels like Treo is by my side – where he’s supposed to be.”

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During his service, the black Labrador is said to have prevented the deaths of dozens of British troops. He was awarded the Dickin Medal in 2010 for his service.

That tattoo is not Heyhoe’s only tribute to the dog.

He also wrote a book about him, “It’s All About Treo, Life, Love and War with the World’s Bravest Dog.”

(Photos: SWNS/Daily Mail)

Woman sees a message in her dog’s ashes

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Allow us to be the first website on the planet to present this photo without sensationalizing or making any judgments.

Ashley Lang, of Chicago, took the ashes of her golden retriever, Wagner, to his favorite park to spread them.

A friend went along and, at the moment Lang released the ashes, the friend snapped this photo with her iPhone.

In the photo, especially after the color saturation was increased, a misty silhouette can be seen.

To Lang, and others, the cloud of ashes looks much like Wagner, who died at age 12.

“It’s pretty remarkable … the tail and the legs and he looks like he’s, you know, leaping to go up,” Lang is quoted as saying by CBS in Chicago. “Everyone keeps calling him the angel dog.”

We think … well it doesn’t matter what we think.

What matters is what Lang thinks — and to her it was Wagner’s way of saying goodbye.

(Photo courtesy of Ashley Lang)

Where Steinbeck’s saga began, and ended

The ashes of the man who inspired our — as of today — six months on the road are buried in the town where he was born, at the Garden of Memories in Salinas, where another funeral was underway when Ace and I pulled in.

There was a trumpet playing on the other side of the cemetery as Ace and I sought out John Steinbeck’s final resting place. Members of the Garcia family were — in a ceremony that included the sounding of some joyous notes — sending off one of their own.

As trumpets played a peppy tune, and with help from a sign, we found the short, flat grave marker of the author whose legend looms large as redwoods, and we stood there silently.

Not all of Steinbeck’s ashes are here. Some, after his death in 1968, were spread by his family at Point Lobos, a state reserve in Carmel, where, one can only imagine, they scattered in the wind, caressed the rocks, and made their way to the churning sea.

Our gravesite visit — along with scoping out Steinbeck’s boyhood home, now home to the Steinbeck House restaurant and gift shop — was sandwiched between the highly informative four hours we spent at the National Steinbeck Center.

In the morning, my dog waited in the car while I spent two hours talking to Herb Behrens, a curator there who I could have listened to all day.

Then Ace and I walked around downtown Salinas, grabbed lunch and drove out to the cemetery, where I explained to him that urination, or any other bodily functions, would not be permitted. Between making sure he was well-drained beforehand, keeping him on a short leash, and uttering a few “No’s” when he got to sniffing, that was easily accomplished.

Back at the center, Ace waited in the car again as I spent some time wandering through exhibits based on Steinbeck’s books, ending with “Travels with Charley.” That’s where we finally spied Rocinante — the camper, named after Don Quixote’s horse, that Steinbeck and Charley toured the country in.

It sits behind protective plastic shields, restored and gleaming, with a foam Charley in the passenger seat. Of course, I had to reach over the barrier and touch it, likely leaving a greasy fast food fingerprint on its well-polished green surface.

Rocinante ended up at General Motors headquarters in New York City after Steinbeck’s trip with Charley, where it was displayed in a window.

A New York banker named William Plate saw it there and bought it, using it for hauling hay and other light chores at his farm in Maryland.

After putting another 10,000 to 15,000 miles on it, Plate donated it to the center — a museum and memorial to Steinbeck that opened in 1998.

Steinbeck opted to travel the country in a camper mainly so that he could remain anonymous. Staying in motels and hotels — though he ended up doing that more than the book lets on — might have led to someone identifying him, which he wanted to avoid. He wanted to experience regular people being regular, not fawning over or trying to impress a famous author.

So he wrote to General Motors.  “I wanted a three-quarter ton pickup truck, and on this truck I wanted a little house, built like the cabin of small boat.”

The truck he received was a new GMC, with a V6 engine, an automatic transmission, and an oversized generator. The camper was provided by the Wolverine Camper Company of Glaswin, Michigan.

The decision to take his poodle, Charley, along, was actually an afterthought — one that was encouraged by his wife, Elaine, who reportedly had concerns about her husband traveling alone.

Inside the camper, Steinbeck had a pretty sweet set up — a refrigerator and stovetop, lots of wooden cabinets and a big table to write on, though most of what he wrote during the trip consisted of letters to family and friends

Rocinante is probably the ultimate, and definitely the heaviest, piece of Steinbeck memorabilia that has ended up at the center, where items continue to arrive.

Behrens showed me two of the more recent acquisitions — a chair and globe from Steinbeck’s apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where Steinbeck was living at the time of his death in 1968. His widow remained there until 2003, the year she died. Some of the apartment’s contents were put up for sale at an auction this year. The globe and chair were purchased by a man whose father lived in Salinas, and he donated them to the center in his father’s name.

The light-up globe lights up no more. Its electrical cord is still attached but there’s no plug on the end of it. On the globe, there are lines either John or Elaine drew, indicating the trans-Atlantic trips they had taken.

But the trip Steinbeck remains best known for was the one with his dog.

Almost every year, Behrens hears from someone who is repeating it — with a dog, without a dog, on a motorcycle, in an RV.

When I asked Behrens why — what moves people to retrace the path of “Travels with Charley,” moreso than they do Jack Kerouac’s route in “On the Road,” or William Least Heat-Moon’s in “Blue Highways” — he answered the question with a question:

“Why are you doing it?”

I hemmed and hawed — it being a question I’d pondered silently, in my own brain, over much of the 18,000 or so miles Ace and I have traveled thus far.

A complete answer might have taken another two hours, given all the variables: My respect for, and interest in, the author. To see America’s dogs. To further bond with Ace. To feed the blog. To revisit places and people of my youth. To retrigger memories. To maybe someday write a book about it — a “Travels with Charley” for modern times. But I gave him the condensed version:

“I guess because I’m unemployed, and it gives me something to write about,” I said.

And maybe the real answer is as simple and gramatically incorrect as that: A writer’s gotta write.

Clearly, considering the body of his work — fiction and non — that was the case with John Steinbeck.

For him, it was an obsession, and a private one. He valued his privacy so much that, when he lived in Sag Harbor, Long Island, where he wrote “Travels with Charley,” he built an eight-sided shack to write in, and  built it in such a way that only one person could occupy it, Behrens said.

Selling books was never Steinbeck’s strong point, Behrens said. “He felt his job as a writer was to write, and not go on book tours. Nowadays he would be a failure because he wouldn’t go on tours and talk shows.”

His last complete book — not counting those compiled by others — was “Travels with Charley,” not his most powerful work, but clearly his most beloved.  Unlike “The Grapes of Wrath,” which was burned in several locations, Salinas included, “Charley” was, for the most part, adored by America. And it still is.

Behrens — and I agree with him — gives Charley most of the credit. “Without Charley, I don’t think Steinbeck would have sold 10 copies,” he said. He was exaggerating, but only to make a pretty valid point. The author’s skills and fame aside, there’s one reason the book was such a hit, one reason its popularity hasn’t wilted:

The dog.

Charley is buried back at Sag Harbor, beneath a tree in the yard, in a grave with no marking, at the opposite of the continent from where Steinbeck’s ashes rest and are still visited by flower-bearing friends and fans, and once in a while, a dog.

Barney gets last wish, Susan gets crabcakes

This one’s about a dog named Stella, a carny named Barney and the woman who sort of adopted them both — a Nashville photographer who motored up to Baltimore last week to carry out Barney’s last wish: that his ashes be spread upon the grave of his mother.

Susan Adcock became enamored with carnival workers more than a decade ago, and continued to count them as her friends long after she completed a newspaper assignment documenting their lives in photos. A highly compassionate sort, she helped them through troubles and sometimes even gave them shelter in her own home.

Among those she befriended was Barney, a down on his luck, hard drinking sort from Baltimore who she met while taking carnival photos. Barney, for a while, had a job as Barney, the dinosaur. He’d put on his purple dinosaur outfit and delight when the audience cheered and called his name, which was actually his name.

When Barney died, it was Susan who saw to it that he was cremated, in accordance with his wishes, Susan who took possession of his ashes, and Susan who cleaned out his apartment.

“I packed up his apartment over the weekend and by Monday afternoon, twelve years of hard living evaporated into space,” she wrote on Pitcherlady.com, one of her blogs. “People that hadn’t seen Barney in forever stopped by to say how sorry they were. They asked for things and I didn’t mind them asking. Most of them loved Barney too. Just not enough to stop by and help him get to the bathroom when he needed it …”

The next day, she took the Baltimore native’s ashes back to her house in Nashville, and found some comfort in having them around.

“Often you have three days or so to say goodbye and then that person in in the ground under a stone. This experience taught me that being able to take the remains of the deceased home with you is much more bearable. I knew in my head that Barney was gone but I was able to sit the box on my kitchen table and we hung out all summer together. That was a gift. My grief was tempered by having him around.”

As summer wound down, Susan planned the trip to Baltimore. Barney wanted to be “returned to the arms of his mother.” She died in 1978. This week, Susan drove to Baltimore with her dog Stella in the back seat, and Barney’s boxed ashes in the front. She took the ashes to a cemetery on Eastern Avenue, where she me Barney’s daughters, and a grandson he had never met.

“Their pictures used to be stuck on the side of his refrigerator with magnets and he told me once that he wanted them there so he could see them from his bed whenever he looked up. He used to tell them goodnight before he went to sleep, ‘like the Waltons,’ he said.”

Barney was a big fan of TV, and, for 12 years, never turned off the one in his apartment. “I remembered Barney saying once that wherever he ended up, they better have cable,” Susan wrote.

Once Susan accomplished her mission and the ashes were spread, she — along with Stella, a pit bull also adopted from the carnival — saw a little of Baltimore. She visited Edgar Allan Poe’s house, they took a ride in a water taxi, and she went in search of crab cakes — finding none below $20. That’s when she wrote me.

A regular reader and commenter on ohmidog!Susan knew Ace and I were on the road, and didn’t know we were back in Baltimore for a bit. Long story short, as they say, we emailed back and forth, talked on the phone, met with our dogs in Riverside Park, and went to Captain Larry’s for crabcakes.

Susan, though she has a degree in psychology, decided to become a full-time photographer almost 20 years ago. You can see her work on her blogs, including pitcherlady and carnydog, which centers on Stella, the pit bull she adopted two years ago. Stella belonged to some carnival workers and was three months old when Susan took her in. By then, she — Stella — had already been to four state fairs and a variety of other spots throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.

Knowing how hard carnival life can be, on dogs and people, Susan volunteered to adopt her and the owners agreed.

Stella and Susan left Baltimore Thursday, headed for a visit to the beach before going back to Nashville. We wish them safe travels, and count ourselves lucky to have met someone so compassionate, so talented and so aware that not every creature in need of rescue has four legs.

(Photos: Barney photo by Susan Adcock; Stella photos by John Woestendiek)

Millan plans to build a temple for “Daddy”

Cesar Millan says he plans to build a temple to his deceased pit bull, “Daddy,” and bury the dog’s ashes there, on the highest point of his California ranch.

In an interview with People Pets, the star of National Geographic Channel’s “Dog Whisperer,” also revealed that he and his famiy lit 500 candles in honor the the dog, who died after a long battle with cancer.

Millan has also announced the establishment of the Daddy’s Emergency Animal Rescue Fund, (DEAR) which will be operated by the Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation. The DEAR Fund will provide assistance for dogs who are victims of abuse or violence, man-made disasters, and large-scale natural disasters.