Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Honouring our Pets...

When we first migrated to Finland we flew with all of our pets. That meant two dogs, two cats and a terrapin! We are a big animal loving family.. always have been.. always will be.

Many said that we should leave our eldest dog and the two old cats behind..but it would have been heartbreaking for all of us...most of all them. They wouldnt have understood why we had deserted them. So, it was just out of the question. It cost more to get the animals across, than it did for us... when you consider just what it entailed. Vaccinations, ID-chipping, the purchase of two huge dog carriers and two for the cats, specifically to meet the airlines standard. What with the extra fees for transportation, it was a hefty part of our outlay... but they were worth it!

George, was our Border Collie, Marks Best Friend. Fluffy, a half Samoyed cross - his 'wife' - with whom she had previously borne seven pups, Smokey, a one eyed grey and white crazy loon of a cat, Arnie, a gorgeous ginger cat who was my shadow and Terry the terrapin, who didnt have a lot to say for himself really...but was quietly interesting! :D

Whilst the cats and dogs had to suffer the two flights here, stowed in the hold... apart from us.. Terry the Terrapin got the luxury of coming inside the plane and sat under my seat in a clear plastic container...sealed up but with airholes of course! LOL...when I think back.. we really DID get a lot of funny looks from people! I can't blame them really! Its not often that one sees a veritable zoo at the airport or a terrapin boarding a plane!

Now, four years later we still have lots of pets - but save for Fluffy (now aged between 9 and 10 years), the faces, the names and the personalities have all changed... In one very short season two years ago, we lost George, Arnie and Smokey. It was an awful time, but they were so close to each other that it was inevitable that with each loss, the rest - already so old - would be rocked too. However, they had had good, long adventurous lives.. George was a fantastic 17 years of age, as was Smokey. Arnie was 15, his death was totally unexpected and for me personally, the worst shock of all.

For a long time, several weeks... they were buried outside - under the deep snow, because we just didnt know what to do with them! The snow was so deep that you couldnt bury them in the ground and even if you could get to the ground, it would have been ice hard! Some said that we should put them in the freezer. Imagine that? Going to get some dinner to defrost and seeing your pet/s there? Oh no thank you very much! So, we created a snowy shrine outside whilst we try to find out (with our limited Finnish at the time) about where we could bury our pets.

Finally we discovered that there was indeed a pet cemetery not far up the road from us. The three beloved pets were buried there together in the one plot. It was quite an insight into the way Finns deal with animal disposal during the deep winter months. Very organised, they actually dig the slots in readiness, during late Spring, after the snows have melted and the ground has dried out.

In Autumn, just before the snows come again, they put a roof and door way on top of the mass grave area, so that many animals can be buried in their own shallow grave plot during winter... then they are covered over fully in Spring. Very clever really!

Unfortunately for us, our burial was the last of the season...and when they filled in the graves, the workers shored up the front part of the graves to use the next area in front of it... However they also dug open an area to the right of our grave and used that the following winter..instead of the area directly following ours. This meant that ours was unstable and we were unable to decorate it or finish it off as we would like. Now two years later, we are finally able to do so. It's such a relief to be able to honour our beloved pets.

Round one took place on Sunday. Mark removed the grave shaping that the workers automatically do and dug down into the area. He shored it up and pegged it in. It looks a bit something and nothing right now, but we plan to make a little altar at the top and cover the body of the grave with rocks. We can do whatever we want apparently, as long as we dont use the sign of a cross. I presume because it is not consecrated ground. Our pets werent religious, nor did they attend church, so I am sure it wont worry them too much! :D

Here are a few pics..(well quite a few actually... this has been quite a l-o-n-g blog, sorry! However there are some good pics to show you the seasonal differences here! I will let you have an update as the grave gets tended.

This is George:



Terry the Terrapin:

Here we are visiting the cemetery, last winter and this summer....what a difference!

Of course whilst we did all this, Fluffy and her new friend Dexter (just 9mths old, dopey and incredibly huge for his age - just enjoyed the surroundings...


Fab dopey pic of Dexter!

Some more winter and summer images...

Quite dark and gloomy for a 'summers' day!

And finally....Looking past the pet cemetery...

By the way, Terry also passed away... in fact, he was the first to pass on.. He died during the previous summer though, so he is buried outside the front of our house.