Elaborate Pet Funeral Services Aren't Uncommon in Sarasota-Manatee

You'll find everything from traditional Jewish burials to circus-themed celebrations of life.

By Pam Daniel September 27, 2017 Published in the October 2017 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Losing a dog can be heartbreaking, and for many people, just burying Bow-wow in the back yard doesn’t ease the pain. Instead, they’re purchasing funeral urns—including some shaped like cute little doghouses—and keeping the ashes on display. They’re also requesting private viewings before the cremation, says Priscilla Myers, co-owner of Sarasota Pet Crematory, who recently took a course for pet funeral directors. Myers and her staff prepare the animal and place it before a viewing window and sometimes the entire family attends.

Four years ago, Venice Memorial Gardens added a section for pets, and Farley Funeral Home’s Tanya Scotece says burials there often reflect owners’ faiths, including traditional Jewish burials where family members smooth the dirt with shovels. Some clients preplan (and prepay) the funeral, even bringing their dog to sniff out his future resting place. Clients also hold funeral ceremonies, complete with chairs, a tent and shared stories about the deceased.

When her 18-year-old Lhasa-Westie rescue dog, Gizmoe, died, Scotece threw a circus-themed celebration of life at the cemetery. Eighty-four guests (and 16 dogs) attended, enjoying popcorn and cotton candy and circus acts. The ceremony included a processional, with a miniature white horse (followed by grief therapy dogs) pulling the dog’s sparkly pink bone-shaped casket, and a 60-balloon release. “Gizmoe wasn’t a friendly dog, so I purchased two [burial] spaces,” says Scotece. “I didn’t want her lying right next to another dog or cat.” The event, she says, “brought me comfort—and that’s what it’s all about.”

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