Eventually, most of us are faced with the task of digging a grave. The scope of this article is only for animals – pets, livestock, wildlife that can’t be left to nature, etc. For human graves, please consult a professional. I cannot advise you on the type of professional.
If the pet was euthanized or died of contagious disease or poisoning, don’t bury them. Cremation is your path. You don’t want diseases or chemicals hanging around in your soil where other animals might get ahold of them. Same goes for animals that are too large to be buried without knowing the local water table, like a camel. For these animals, your vet can either provide cremation services, or give you a number for a guy who can move/dispose of bodies. (Be nice to this person.)
Check your local laws too. If you’re going to blatantly disregard safety regulations or flaunt HOA rules, you should at least know what they are so you can feel deliberately spiteful.
Step 1: Come to terms with the fact that you must now dig a grave.
This is probably going to involve some cursing, possibly crying. Even if this animal was a total bastard, there’s probably a reason you wanted it alive. And if it was a beloved pet, there is a horrible sting of grief, an initial spike of mourning that must pass, in whatever method suits you. As the first wave of pain passes, you will realize: your ass needs to dig a grave.
Or have a grave dug. If you are physically limited from digging this grave, reach out to friends, neighbors, a church youth group, etc. to find a young person who can. You don’t owe your pet a sprained back.
With a plan in place for who will do what, it’s time to gear yourself up for this unpleasant task. Gather a shovel and gloves; don’t give yourself blisters. Eat first if you haven’t eaten. Put on sunscreen, drink water, drink whiskey, whatever you need to do to be physically and mentally ready to dig this grave.
Step 2: Pick a spot
If you’re burying a hamster, this is not such a big deal. Grab a spade and plant it in the garden like a terrible flower, may it never bloom. (Mark it with a rock so you don’t disturb the spot later while you’re planting marigolds.) But if you’re going to be burying anything cat size or larger, give this some thought. Where can it lie undisturbed for at least a year or two? Make sure you know where your electric, sprinkler and other water lines are. Do not cut these, it’s bad, trust me. Pick a spot where you can easily dig down a couple of feet, so that if it reanimates it will have a hard time getting its demonic self out of the grave. Also do not put a grave anywhere that floods, and place it well away from any inhabited buildings. Again; just trust me.
3) Dig and Be in Pain
Using a shovel, point the tip down, and step on it with your foot. You might need something to brace against so you don’t fall, such as a sullen teenager. Getting through grass can be difficult if it’s thick thatch, just take your time. Use a hatchet if you really can’t get through with a shovel. Alternatively, your shovel might be crap. If it’s clay, and you can’t get through, try watering it.
Take a break and wonder to yourself why you have pets, because they don’t live forever and this is always so hard. Remind yourself that death is a part of life. Remember that you too will die, as well as your friends, family, enemies, even that sullen teenager that thinks they are immortal. Question God for even coming up with this stupid corporeal mortal existence. Drink some water.
Keep digging. It’ll take longer than you think. Don’t try to get too big a shovel load at a time, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you don’t want to break your shovel. Rest as needed. Drink water. Grieve. Don’t cry yet, there’s time for that later and you need to stay hydrated.
4) Put the deceased in the grave
Hope for just a moment that you were wrong and they are not dead. Nope, they really are. Wrap them in paper or a shoebox or something if it pleases you to do so. I’ve seen others say to put them in a plastic bag, but that just prevents them from being decomposed into the soil, so that seems weird to me. I guess if you have a 50+ lb pet this is more applicable bc of the water table, but in that case you should have gone for cremation anyway.
Put them in the grave. Discover you have to bend their body around to fit because you misjudged the size. Feel shitty about it but remind yourself they’re not in there anymore. Begin filling in the hole. Fight back stomach bile creeping up your closing throat because putting DIRT on them just feels so wrong. Give up and let yourself cry as you fill in the rest of the soil. Mound it slightly because the soil will settle. Start to step in it to compact it down, have a flash of their body compressing in the ground, and take a few steps away to throw up just a little.
If you have dogs or a fence without a yard, put something on top of it for awhile – bricks, firewood, even a piece of fencing staked down. The last thing you need is for it to be dig up.
Congratulations, you have finished the grave! Sit down in the mud and cry and don’t care what you’re doing to your pants. You can let yourself cry now because the work part is over, and the sullen teenager has disappeared. Apologize over and over to the deceased, even if you did nothing wrong, because surely you are at least partly to blame. Resolve anew to do better for your other pets, even if they already receive outstanding care, and there is no level of care that could have prevented this one’s death, or indeed the eventual deaths of all living things in this world. Curse God. You’re done!