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Tag: death

My half-ashed plans for the hereafter


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.

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)

Man sees face of his dead dog in ham slice


A UK man was gobsmacked to see his deceased dog’s image in a slice of ham.

You see it too, don’t you, there in the upper right quadrant?

George Hembry, 21, of Bath, told the British tabloids it’s the spitting image of his dog, Stink.

He saw the slice on the counter as his mother was making him a sandwich.

Hembry found an old photo of Stink and laid it next to the slice of Tesco British Crumbed ham. The resemblance freaked him out so much he refused to eat it.

stinkStink, a lurcher-whippet-collie mix died about a year ago. (A lurcher is a cross between a sighthound and another breed.)

Hembry said he had bought the meat himself, at a shop he and Stink used to frequent.

Adding to the strangeness of it all, he said, he and his mother, Sarah, had been talking about Stink earlier in the day.

“We’d been talking … about how much we missed him because an old photo memory popped up on my Facebook page,” he told the Daily Mail.

“It’s funny to think he’s maybe still looking over us somehow,” he is quoted as saying in The Mirror.

Hembry said he considered keeping the slice, but decided it would be unwise. “I suppose it would have gone off after a while.”

“I reckon mum’s probably eaten it,” he added, “but I couldn’t have done that.”

(Photos: Daily Mail)

One last snowfall for Spunky

Spunky always loved the snow.

But when the German shepherd-husky-chow mix and his owner moved from Wisconsin to Texas in 2008 that — with flakes being rare in Austin — became a thing of the past.

Ashley Niels, who works as a behavior and enrichment specialist at the Austin Animal Center, says she promised Spunky, who she’d adopted in Wisconsin, that he’d see snow again someday.

When she learned earlier this month that the 12-year-old dog was dying, and made the appointment for him to be put down, she regretted that promise would go unfulfilled.

ashleyandspunkyWhen she shared that regret with friends at the animal center, they got together to make it happen.

They rented a snow machine and brought to her home.

Last week, Spunky got his snow.

Niels sat in her front yard with Spunky and experienced one last snow storm — albeit an artificial one. He didn’t frolic in it, like he used to, but Niels thinks he enjoyed it.

“To be honest, he was like ‘I’m not really sure what this is.’ It wasn’t cold snow. I think he could see how excited I was, so he thought it was pretty cool,” Niels told Inside Edition Tuesday night.

“I think he felt all the love we were trying to show him.”

Spunky’s appointment with the vet the next day was canceled, and Niels hasn’t rescheduled it yet.

“As long as he’s happy, I don’t really want to take that from him,” she said. “It makes me happy to be able to spend more time with him.”

She adopted him from a local shelter in Wisconsin when he was a puppy. They lived there for four years before moving to Austin.

austinanimalcenterAfter creating the snowstorm for Spunky, animal center staff brought the snow machine back to the shelter to let a few more dogs experience a snowfall.

As of late last week Spunky was still hanging in there, according to Ashley’s Facebook page, and she was doing her best to not think about his death and savor the time together they had left.

“I try not to think about it because he’s my boy,” she said. “I get to spend this extra-special time with him.”

(Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Niels and Austin Animal Center)

Another “Day,” another dollar

kinglouieYesterday was National Pet Memorial Day, billed as a time to remember our departed dogs and cats.

I’m not big on “national days,” especially those sponsored by businesses that make money off their themes every day of the year.

Therefore I am not celebrating.

Four months after Ace’s death, every day is still pet memorial day — and I don’t need the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories (sponsor of the day) to remind, prod, poke or even console me.

Most of us don’t.

Most of us manage, with friends, and family and time, to work through the loss of a pet without the aid of a special day or a professional organization that, well-intentioned as it might be, still wants to sell us something.

We come up with ways to cope — some of them scary and misguided, some of them touching, like this one.

A Las Vegas couple is paying tribute to their recently deceased Yorkie by emblazoning his image on a pair of billboards in town.

“You will be missed,” the billboard honoring King Louie Siegel reads. “Thanks for all the great memories.”

King Louie was born Dec. 20, 2008, and died Aug. 31, 2016, according to KSNV

Judith Perez, King Louie’s owner, said the dog was put down by the vet. He was suffering from brain inflammation and fluid on his spine, which was taking away his ability to walk.

She said the idea for the billboard was proposed by her fiance, Steve Siegel, and she went along with it, eventually coming to like the idea.

Whatever works, I say — as long as it’s not hurting or exploiting others.

(Photo: Twitter)

A Dog’s Purpose: Book comes back as movie

If you can’t handle the dog dying in a movie, you might want to avoid A Dog’s Purpose.

Because one does, repeatedly. Then again, he comes back, repeatedly.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose is the story of one canine soul who, when his time is up, passes into a new canine body, bonding with new owners and learning, along with them, what life is all about.

If you don’t look too closely at the premise (that dogs upon dying are reincarnated as other dogs), if you can handle watching more than one dog leave this earthly existence, and if you have the Kleenex handy, you might enjoy it.

It is told from the dog’s perspective, with Josh Gad providing the voice of Bailey, who goes through several bodies and owners before ending up — or so it seems — back with the child (all grown up now and looking a lot like Dennis Quaid) that he started out with.

Small world, huh?

(Speaking of coming back, the film features Peggy Lipton, who nearly 50 years ago, became my first true TV love as Julie on “The Mod Squad.” That program also featured Clarence Williams III as Linc, which isn’t relevant to this story, but I wanted to link to Linc. OK? Solid.)

Directed by Lasse Hallström, A Dog’s Purpose is scheduled for release in January of 2017.

It’s getting harder to fetch this stick


(Today’s post has nothing to do with dogs. This happens on rare occasion when I become so steamed about some non-dog issue that I must vent — today in the form of a fable.)

You are hiking down a remote jungle trail in some country where there is quicksand — that legendary kind of quicksand from which there is no escape — when you come across a woman who is hip deep and sinking slowly.

“Oh thank God,” she says when she sees you.

She looks familiar. You smile and ask her name.

“Heather Bresch,” she says.

It takes a moment to register. “Heather Bresch? The CEO of Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes the EpiPen?”

“Yes,” she says as she struggles against the quicksand and sinks a little deeper. “I’m vacationing in this country, and I left my luxury villa to take a little walk and this happened. I need help.”

“Clearly you do,” you say. “I’m happy to provide assistance.”

“If you could get that fallen tree limb over there and pass it to me, I think I could pull myself out,” she says, sinking up to the waist as she points.

You walk over and pick up one end of it. “This one?” you say.

“Yes,” she says. “Hurry please.”

You begin sliding the tree limb in her direction.

“This one is $10 million,” you say.

She laughs uncomfortably. “Please, hurry,” she says.

“I’m serious,” you say.

“That’s ridiculous,” she says. “It’s just a tree limb.”

epi“And the EpiPen is just a stick with, or so I’ve read, $1 worth of medicine in it — yet your company has raised the price of it to $300.”

“The EpiPen save lives,” she says.

“So might this stick, if used as directed,” you respond.

Up to her chest in quicksand, she promises to give you the money when she gets out, but you tell her you need it up front.

She struggles to dig into her pockets, causing her to sink up to her neck. As she pulls cash out of her pockets and flings it in your direction, she explains that the six-fold increase in the price of EpiPens was necessary.

“Mylan has spent millions on research and development of the product,” she says. “You can’t expect us to pay for all that ourselves.”

“Oh, so you invented Epinephrine?”

“Well, no, but we’ve spent a lot of money perfecting our sophisticated self-delivery system — in which you plunge a needle in your own leg and push down on the stopper, administering a pre-measured, life-saving dosage.”

“And if people just measured their own, and used an old fashioned syringe, what would be the actual cost?” you ask.

“Oh, maybe about $2.29, but that’s not the point. The point is much effort and significant expense went into creating that delivery system — things like shipping and handling and lobbying and designer white lab coats, all part of our noble effort to keep people from dying from allergic reactions to bee stings and such.”

She throws a final fistful of cash out of the quicksand. “There,” she says, “that’s $10 million. Now please slide that stick to me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” you say. “The $10 million price was five minutes ago. It has gone up since then – to $20 million.”

“That’s more than I make in a year,” she protests.

bresch“Well, only 1 million more,” you point out. “The only thing that has climbed more quickly than the cost of EpiPens is your salary.”

“We are not talking about my salary,” she says. “Now, please, the stick. Anyone can hand someone a stick. It costs nothing.”

“Bear in mind,” you say, as the quicksand rises to her mouth, “you are not so much paying for the stick as you are paying for the delivery system. Just look at me as a monopoly providing a needed service. And the cool part is I just stumbled upon my monopoly. I didn’t need help from my senator-father, or to spend millions lobbying for it.”

You watch as the quicksand covers her nose, and then her eyes.

As the top of her head disappears, you plunge the stick into the muck. She grabs on and hauls herself out. Though coughing and exhausted, she manages a laugh, and you are pretty sure you hear her call you a “sucker.”

She crawls about picking up her money as you walk away — but not before noticing an anaconda is slithering up to her from behind, and an alligator is creeping towards her from the river, and a swarm of Zika-carrying mosquitoes is headed her way.

You are not worried about her. She is where she belongs:

With all the other predators.

You remember Ace


I promised myself long ago that, when Ace’s time came, I wouldn’t make too big a deal of the big dog’s death on these pages.

Unlike many dog websites, this one has always tried to avoid blatantly tugging on heartstrings — and to eschew all those mushy sounding and unnecessary words like “beloved” and “adorable” and “fur baby.”

We’ve always made it a point not to pander to your love for dogs with adjectives — just to cultivate it with truths.

For that reason, and others, we’re not going to be writing about Ace’s death a whole lot more.

Already, there have been more words written about him — between ohmidog! and Travels with Ace — than probably any other dog around. To keep going on and on about him (which in life I always viewed as “sharing”) would become something more like exploiting.

In other words, having made such a big deal out of his life, my plan was to refrain making a big deal out of his death.

But look what you went and did.

aceandjenYou’ve clogged my emailbox, you’ve kept my phone ringing, you’ve commented on my Facebook page and put up your own posts, often with your photos of Ace.

Since Ace’s death, I’ve heard from friends in Baltimore, Philadelphia and North Carolina, friends in — to name a few — Seattle, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Montana, California, Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey.

And those were just the ones who actually met him.

Hundreds more, from across the country and even overseas, who came to know Ace through our websites, left comments here and on Facebook — many of which made me cry all over again.

I guess that’s a good thing.

Thank you is what I’m trying to say, in a non-sniffly way, to those who touched Ace and were touched by him.

A sampling:

“Folks who don’t believe that dogs have souls have never met Ace,” a North Carolina friend wrote on her Facebook page. “I saw the effect he had on people everywhere he went. People were very drawn to Ace, it was amazing to watch. He was pure LOVE.”

“Ace was loved by so many all over the country … our hearts break for you,” wrote another, who put Ace and me up for days in Seattle during our year long “Travels with Ace” journey — and helped him overcome some stomach distress. (He arrived there with a bad case of diarrhea, probably the result of too much fast food.)

Ace and Bim at Idle Hour

Ace and Bim at Idle Hour

A Baltimore buddy wrote, “Today is one of those days where something comes across your newsfeed that you dread seeing. Many moons ago Bim and I met a big guy of a dog named Ace at Canton Dog Park. Unlike some other big dogs, where Bim felt intimidated, he and Ace were very content to just “be” together … Ace was one of, if not THE, most amazing, chill, coolest, sweetest dogs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.” This from a woman who Ace once pulled out of her chair and dragged across a few feet of pavement after I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for a minute.

aceatidle“Ace, there isn’t a human or dog that didn’t love you!” wrote another, posting a photo of Ace at the Idle Hour, his favorite bar.

“You will be so very missed by so many! Thank you for teaching us how to love every minute of life! The original bar dog, park dog. I am so sorry HB (Honeybun) tried to eat you the first time she met you.”

Another friend, who spend some dog park and bar time with Ace here in Winston-Salem, wrote: “Lauren and I first met Ace five and a half years ago on an assignment for the Winston-Salem Journal, and when we arrived at our interview, we saw him, a giant black-and-tan dog, gliding through the trees. We joked that he probably weighed more than 5’2” me. (He did.)

“…I watched Ace break up dog-park scuffles with the kindness and wisdom of a compassionate cop, moving his massive body between the offending parties. I saw him snack on peanut shells at one of my favorite Winston dive bars. Once, Lauren and I shared some beers with him in a booth (still one of my all-time favorite photos). He was the most gentle dog I’ve ever met … I’ll be hugging Stringer extra-tight tonight, and I hope y’all do the same with your pets. Rest easy, Aceface. The world will miss you.”

Ace and Stringer at Recreation Billiards

Ace and Stringer at Recreation Billiards

A former neighbor here in Winston-Salem whose two dachshunds were close friends and dog-walking buddies, sent this email:

“I don’t know what to say. I was thinking of what to say and then of all the things I would not like to hear… I guess I just wanted you to know that while I cannot understand what you are feeling right now … I am constantly thinking of all the many, many great times I had with you and Ace. I don’t think I knew how many until I really thought about it.”

Then she brought up Ace’s most shameful day — when he (always exceedingly gentle with every creature from baby kittens to baby ducks) took off, along with the dachshunds, after a baby bunny in College Village.


“The memory that stands out to me is the one involving the very unfortunate bunny in CV. Watching Ace actually grieve over the fact that he accidentally stepped on one, while the doxies went nuts for blood. I am grateful for having Ace in my life …”

Some of those who got in touch had only known Ace for minutes.

This from a woman we bumped into five and a half years ago at a rest area in Montana, and spent maybe five minutes with:

“John, my heart breaks for you. I remember meeting you and Ace at that rest stop in Montana during your Travels with Ace road trip. He was sweet and gentle and willingly accepted my St. Bernard Charlie’s clumsy attempts for attention. As I lost Charlie just over a year ago, rest assured Charlie is now helping Ace settle in wherever special dogs go after their time with us.”

Dozens more who passed along their condolences were people who never met him at all — knowing him only through the Internet.

“My deepest condolences to John Woestendiek, whose eloquent journey with his beloved Ace has come to an end. Thank you for opening our eyes to BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care, the shelter Ace was adopted from) and for showing us what love looks like,” wrote Baltimore attorney and animal welfare activist Caroline Griffin.

It is greatly comforting to know he lives on.

Sure, I’m still doing all those things that people who have lost dogs do — steering clear of the dog food aisle at the grocery store, getting used to returning to an empty house, marveling at how less often I have to empty the vacuum bag, thinking about the next dog, in a while, and worrying how unfair it might be to put a dog in a position to be his follow-up act.

Like most readers of this website, I can’t imagine a dog-less life.

Like a lot of you, I probably have a more admiring view of dogs than I do of humans.

But your response to Ace’s passing — the eloquent words you shared with me at a time when it’s so hard to come up with the right thing to say — has moved me more than I can describe (without getting sappy).

Let’s just say humans can be pretty decent, too.