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Tag: virginia

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)

From “throwaway” dog to police canine


The wife of a Philadelphia police officer is proving that police dogs don’t have to be expensive European imports.

Carol Skaziak, after seeing too many dogs languishing in shelters, started an organization called Throw Away Dogs.

Established two years ago and based outside Philadelphia, the program rescues neglected shelter dogs and works to rehabilitate and train them for police work like narcotics detection and patrolling.

Since beginning her work, nine out of 12 dogs she has rescued have been placed with police departments across the country.

“I pour my heart and soul into it and all I ask for these departments is to just give my dogs a chance,” she told NBC News.

Unlike most police dogs, who commonly are expensive purebreds purchased from Europe, these home-grown mutts are donated to departments in need.

billtarsandkayos“This is a huge amount of money that we are saving,” she said. “It will save (a police department) anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000, $10,000.”

Assisting her in the effort are K-9 handlers from area police departments.

The program puts the dogs through a three-month training period, and while not all will earn spots on police forces, Skaziak says all dogs that go through the program find a home — something they didn’t have before.

“I will follow through with every dog from start to finish. Not all dogs will make it through K-9 school and I am OK with that outcome. I will then find a perfect loving family for that dog that will love and treat them like part of their family. It’s just a different kind of badge they will be wearing,” she notes on the organization’s website.

While she doesn’t believe every dog can be trained to be a police dog, there are many in shelters who have the high play drive it takes for the job.

After a graduation ceremony this year, two “throwaway” dogs were placed with the Roanoke Police Department, and a third with the police department in Roanoke, Va.

Skaziak, who is married to a Philadelphia police traffic officer, came up with the idea for Throw Away Dogs in 2013, while doing public relations work for a shelter in Philadelphia.

“I was upset about it, because people were throwing these dogs away like trash,” Skaziak told the Roanoke Times.

(Photos: Officer Bill Tars and Throw Away Dog Kayos in Roanoke, by Heather Rosseau / The Roanoke Times)

Rapid Paws: A limousine service for dogs


There’s a new taxi service for dogs in the nation’s capital.

Launched earlier this month, Rapid Paws will transport your pooch (or cat) wherever he or she needs to go — be it vet, groomer, day care, airport, or even to another state.

The on-demand limousine service for animals has a fleet of two climate controlled, high-roofed vans, and they’re even equipped with cams should you want to check in and take a look as your dog gets from here to there.

Customers can schedule a a door-to-door pickup and local delivery to anywhere in Washington and its burbs, and they can do that by phone, via the Rapid Paws website, or through a smartphone app.

While the service may sound over the top, owner Paul Ozner says it’s filling a need.

“It’s an excessive service for some, in terms of basic necessities. But some of the people in this area, they’re time-constrained, and they do have pets. So what are you going to do? You have to treat them right,” he told the Washington Post.

So far, he said, most clients are middle aged professionals too busy to take off work to run their pet to the vet, or disabled, ill or elderly pet owners seeking a little help.

Rapid Paws has teamed up with one real estate company to transport the dogs or cats of people who are relocating.

Ozner said he and his partners came up with the idea based on their experience with a company that delivered meals to schools and the elderly.

Fares typically run from $25 to $60, depending on the length of the trip.

Yes, Luke, there is a Doggy Heaven


The letter was in an envelope addressed to Moe, Doggie Heaven, First Cloud.

Coping with the death of the family beagle, a Norfolk mom encouraged her 3-1/2-year-old son, Luke, to express his feelings in crayon-drawn artworks and letters.

It was Luke’s idea to write to Moe in heaven, and Mary Westbrook said she figured it would be good therapy for her son who, after Moe died at 13, kept asking if and when Moe was coming back.


She’d put each letter, upon completion, in the mailbox, then, after Luke had gone to bed, she’d go out and retrieve them.

But one day she forgot, and the mailman picked it up.

letter“I figured someone would just throw it away once it got to the post office,” Westbrook told the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

“It didn’t even have a stamp.”

But last week, a letter from Moe — magically, it seemed — appeared in the Westbrook mailbox:

“I’m in Doggie Heaven,” it said. “I play all day. I am happy. Thank you 4 being my friend.

“I wuv you Luke.”

Postal worker Zina Owens, in her 25 years on the job, had taken the liberty of answering some mail to Santa before, but this was the first time she took on the persona of a deceased family pet, hoping to make a child happy.

Owens, a window clerk, had noticed the letter to Moe on a table at the post office. She opened it and found a card covered in crayon scribbles. With help from the address on the envelope, she was able to read between the lines.


“I felt it in my heart,” she said. “Here was a child who had lost his dog, and any time you love something and it goes away, it hurts.”

So Owens, as Moe, wrote back. Mary Westbrook was touched to find the reassuring letter from Moe in the mailbox and shared it with Luke.

She posted the response on Facebook, saying, “What a beautiful kindness from a stranger.”

Owens says seeing the letter from Luke “made my day … so I wanted to make his. It’s just love, plain and simple.”

“You see so much negativity in the world, so many bad headlines,” she added. “But we’re more than that.”

(Photos: By Bill Tiernan / Virginian-Pilot and courtesy of the Westbrook family)

Former Vick dog Gracie dies


Gracie, one of more than 50 dogs rescued seven years ago from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dog fighting compound, has died.

The black pit bull spent her final years in an adoptive household in suburban Richmond.

She died Monday morning, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of the Richmond Animal League.

“This morning, little, old, bow-legged Gracie passed away and got her angel wings. Any words we write here could never begin to express the profound, positive and lasting impact that this little, black pit bull had on so many people who encountered her or heard the story of her suffering and triumph,” said a post on the animal’s league’s “Gracie’s Guardians” Facebook page.

“We are and will be forever grateful for this little, broken black dog and everything she personified.”

The dog arrived at the Richmond in 2007 and was adopted by the group’s board president, Sharon Cornett.

“Gracie was very, very friendly,” McCracken told CNN. Gracie had been used as a breeding dog, as opposed to a fighter, in Vick’s operation, she said. “She loved people and was never aggressive to other dogs.”

With her new owner, Gracie attended conferences and meetings about animal welfare and visited schools to show people they have nothing to fear from most pit bulls.

Gracie was one of about 50 pit bulls seized by authorities in April 2007 when Vick, then a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was charged with operating an illegal dog-fighting ring, called Bad Newz Kennels, on his Virginia property.

Twenty-two of the dogs were sent for rehabilitation and long-term care at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, while others went to Bad Rap, a San Francisco pet shelter, and a handful of other shelters and sanctuaries,

Created by the Richmond animal shelter, Gracie’s Guardians is an initiative dedicated to the welfare of pit bulls. The group chose Gracie as their namesake “in tribute to her perseverance and that of countless other pit bulls who have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of people, yet whose spirits and love for humans remains untarnished.”

(Photo: from the Facebook page of Gracie’s Guardians)

Recipients say agency’s diabetic alert dogs aren’t performing as promised

Three North Texas families say the diabetic alert dogs they received from a Virginia-based nonprofit aren’t alerting them to anything, and have turned out to be nothing more than expensive house pets.

The three families are among 30 that have filed complaints against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, according to NBC 5 in Dallas.

Each of the three paid up to $20,000 for what they were told were specialized service dogs trained to alert them to spikes and drops in blood sugar and help them manage Type 1 diabetes.

Mindy Guidry said the dog she received to help her daughter manage her diabetes has failed to detect any blood sugar spirals. On top of that, the dog is afraid to go out in public.

“I cannot take her out in public at all. Even in our own household she’s scared,” Guidry said.

Krista Middleton told NBC 5 that her dog doesn’t alert her when her blood sugar is dropping dangerously low.

“And then I’m passing out. I’m going into comas. My kids are finding me in seizures,” said Middleton. “It gets to the point where, as a mom, I wanted to make sure my kids weren’t the ones to find me convulsing.”

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers says it offers a one- to two-year training program with initial in-home sessions of up to five days, long-distance training and education and up to seven more multi-day visits.

Middleton and Guidry both failed to complete the training program, a spokeswoman for the agency said, and both still owe the agency money.

Middleton said when she informed the non-profit her dog wasn’t working, she got no response.

But Warren Retrievers spokeswoman Jennifer Bulotti told NBC 5 when a dog isn’t working “instant intervention and training is provided.”

Dan Warren, founder and president of the nonprofit, was convicted of passing forged documents in 2008, before he started his service dog agency. While working at a car dealership, he had someone prepare phony tax returns to help customers get loans for cars, NBC 5 reported. He was sentenced to five years’ probation

Tax records from 2012 list his salary from the service dog agency as $157,411.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has received 30 complaints against Warren Retrievers, but declined to discuss the details of any of them.

Providers of service dogs operate relatively free of government regulation or required standards, and some think it’s time for that to change.

“This is an industry that’s fraught with fraud,” said Brent Brooks, president of The Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance (DADA). “It angers me to have to say it but you have to be skeptical.”

Chloe, stabbed seven times, now lives with vet


Eight months after she was stabbed seven times with a steak knife, Chloe the Shih Tzu lives in a new and happy home with a veterinarian who works at the animal hospital where she was treated for her injuries.

“…She certainly hasn’t let it get her down,” said Abby Dunlap, of Vienna, Va., who took the patient home after it was decided her previous owner shouldn’t get her back.

The three-year-old dog, formerly known as Coco, was living with her owner in  Southeast D.C. when the owner’s brother, claiming the dog was Satan, stabbed her seven times, according to the Washington Times

Miraculously, no vital organs were hit, and Chloe, after being stitched and bandaged, recovered.

Police took her to  the animal hospital, where it was discovered that, miraculously, the knife had not hit any vital  organs.

“She was very lucky,” said Scott  Giacoppo, a spokesman for the Washington Humane Society.  “…I’ve seen animals stabbed, beaten, set on fire and discarded like trash.  It’s horrible. But we  get stories like Chloe’s and it brings a smile to our faces that we can make a  difference.”

Dunlap said she and her husband had just lost their own dog when they volunteered to foster Chloe.

“It took a little bit of time for me to trust her and figure out if we wanted to keep her.”

But now Chloe has bonded — with Dunlap, her husband, their children and other dogs in the neighborhood, she says.

(Photo: Washington Times)