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Fluffy is dead: Where do pets go when they die?

Although pet cemeteries have a reputation for being creepy, spooky or just plain sad, the owners of The Pet Cemetery of Tucson created the cemetery so that parents could teach their children that the responsibilities of owning a pet goes beyond their death. The cemetery is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
By Nathan Tafoya
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 15, 2004
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Ever since the beginnings of animal domestication in East Asia and the Old World, animals have learned to weasel their way into the emotional sentiments of their masters.

When these animals, or pets, die, they leave behind more than uneaten birdseed or dirty kitty litter. Dead pets are often survived by grieving individuals or families and ultimately, by the infamous mobster question: "What do we do with the body?"

Camille McLaughlin, a biology freshman, said her family has always had animals around the house and ways of dealing with deceased fish and birds.

"We flushed them down the toilet," McLaughlin said. "The birds you throw in a trash can. ... My parents are ruthless."

Walking next to her, biology sophomore Daniel Hosten said he buried one of his deceased dogs in the backyard. He called the city to pick up another.

"The city said to leave it in front of the street and they'd come pick it up," Hosten said. So he wrapped the dog in a plastic bag and put it out front.

In Tucson, the Pima Animal Care Center, formerly Animal Control, only picks up two types of animals, a deceased cat or dog. And it costs $70, cash or check.

Michele Romero, enforcement support supervisor at the Pima Animal Care Center, said the center usually discourages pet owners from having their pets picked up.

The fee and the center's obligation to other high priority calls often leave pet owners waiting.

Romero said an owner's other option is to drop off their deceased pets at the Pima Animal Care Center on any day during the week, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., at no charge.

The center will ask for identification upon drop-off, but not the cause of death.

This would save people like Adrian Hernandez, a business administration sophomore, from telling a center volunteer what he told a Wildcat reporter one cloudy, January Sunday: "Actually, I killed it."

The story was simple and to the point. It began at a barbecue, with a 7-year-old Hernandez and a group of his friends.

"It was a puppy and I was just kind of throwing it up in the air," Hernandez said. He lightly pumped his arms up and down in the air, demonstrating the way parents lift and drop their babies in front of them without fully letting go.

"It kind of freaked and landed on a windowsill and broke his neck, I guess," Hernandez said, continuing his story. "Like a freak-accident kind of deal, you know? We buried it in a cigar box. Everybody called me 'puppy killer' and I would cry all the time."

Since the accident, Hernandez has made many sacrifices for his new puppy, Azul, including moving out of his apartment and into a house.

"This is my first dog," he said. "You don't realize how attached you get to them. It's crazy."

If Azul dies, Hernandez said he would like to cremate him and keep the ashes. But as is the case with many college students, it will be all about the money.

"It depends on the financial situation too," Hernandez said. "He might just get buried in the backyard."

Meagan Farney, a history freshman, had her childhood dog euthanized in October because old age had both blinded him and made him incapable of walking. The family had the longtime pet cremated.

"We're going to spread his ashes up in Pinetop," Farney said. "We have a cabin up there and he loved it up there. He really loved the woods."

Farney said she does not approve of backyard burials, considering the subject of future tenants moving into a house hosting a pet grave.

David Fornander, a geography grad student, leash in hand, threw a tennis ball for his Australian Shepard, Canela, along the UA Mall this week. Fornander said he is not a proponent of elaborate pet burials.

"I think the body is a vehicle," he said. "It's not really any good when you're not there, except to decay."

Pamela Gattamelata, who graduated in December with a degree in linguistics, Spanish and Italian, said her dog, Andiamo, is special.

"He's part leopard, part magic rubber ball," Gattamelata said.

While those particular breeds will not be found in any pet store pedigree book, Gattamelata is confident Andiamo's passing will not be a problem when the time comes.

"I don't think he'll ever die," Gattamelata said. "He'll always be alive somewhere."

Gattamelata said she thinks burials, cremation and the occasional pet stuffing at taxidermies are futile human actions.

"I think humans tend to think that bodies are important when it is our minds that are everything," Gattamelata said. "And in our minds, we can still be with our pets ... it doesn't have to be physically, bodily."

Adam Norrish, a theatre arts junior, is a certified cremationist at the Pet Cemetery of Tucson, which performs both cremations and ground burials for Old Pueblo pets. Norrish said he is not creeped out by constantly handling deceased pets.

"I've been around it since I was young," Norrish said. "It didn't bother me then; it doesn't bother me now."

When it comes to sympathizing with grieving pet owners, Norrish can relate.

"I own several animals myself," he said. "So I just put myself in their shoes."

The cemetery is the final resting place for four horses, one donkey and other traditional pets such as cats, birds and reptiles, said owner Darla Norrish.

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