(A note on the bird in the photo: this was Humper, who terrorized all the family dogs until we had to give him away.)
Sixteen years after I found her, we had a vet come to the house and put her to sleep, and it broke my heart. We waited a few days too long and she was in fear and pain as she hadn't been since I found her. When she was gone, I cried for months. I discovered that pet death makes it OK to cry in the grocery store line, because everyone around you knows how it feels and will comfort you.
We're atheists in our house, but sentimental ones. I know if I had been able to ask Carlo what she wanted after death, she would say she wanted to be near me as she always was in life. So we made a box for her and put her ashes in it on our mantel, and there she is, some years later (Link to box).
And that's how we started making boxes, and being especially committed to making cremation boxes for beloved animal friends. If there's any religious idea I wish I could get behind, it's the Rainbow Bridge. If you don't know the Rainbow Bridge story, here it is:
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
This sounds great. I fail to see why a major religion has not formed around this idea.
And I'm still waiting for my mother's apology. It worked out.