How to go about moving a pet's grave
May 3, 2012 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I need to exhume and move the remains of our pet. What can I expect? Any tips? Real world experience?

Three months ago our very wonderful dog passed away. She was 14 years old and lived a good life. We wanted to bury her at our home, so I dug a 4ft hole under a nice tree, wrapped her body in a white sheet and buried her.

Fast forward three months, and my spouse has a great job offer back in our home state. It was totally unexpected, but we're putting our house on the market next week. The issue is that my spouse is incredibly upset over "leaving" our dog behind. We've only lived here for a few years, and our dog was sick most of the time we were here. Also, there's no reason we'll be back in this part of the country to visit the grave.

Without thinking much about the details of the task, I said I would move the remains with us.

I'm not at all the squeamish type, however I'm looking for some advice on what to expect, and perhaps how best to transport the remains.

The doggie was 10lbs when she died, and quite thin due to her illness. She was buried in early January. We're in the midwest and we've had an unusually mild spring. The soil is a mix of loose topsoil and clay, erring on the clay side. It's a 14 hour drive to the new home. We don't have a truck, so the remains will need to be sealed in a manner that can travel in the trunk of a car. I'll be able to rebury the remains immediately after the drive.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A convenience store styrofoam cooler and duct tape. I know it sounds crass, but it's how a couple I knew in your situation did it.
posted by asockpuppet at 5:55 PM on May 3, 2012

Previously, sort of.
posted by supercres at 5:59 PM on May 3, 2012

Is cremation in the cards? It might be easier on everyone, and if your parter is intent on keeping your pet nearby it makes future moves more feasable logistically.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:25 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would suggest cremation too. We had our beloved, 18 yr old dog cremated and I found a company online that made a small piece of jewelry for myself and my daughter with some of her ashes. They were great and super respectful of the cremains. They also made christmas ornaments and other, small rememberance pieces. We have recently moved so I'm glad we made the decision that we did. Best of luck whatever you decide to do.
posted by pearlybob at 7:08 PM on May 3, 2012

I used to work at a nature school and we had various creatures, ranging in size from small birds to a coyote, in various stages of decay for our students to observe. The short answer, in my experience, is that you never know what you're going to get, but you'll probably be surprised by just how small those remains are by this point. Do a little digging and find out. But if they're not gross -- and I'm actually thinking they may not be by this point -- you can shovel the remains and the surrounding dirt into a double- or triple-layer of Hefty-style plastic bags and take 'em with you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:12 PM on May 3, 2012

How to go about moving a pet's grave

Is there any reason you have to do the exhuming yourself? I can think of quite a few people who would both appreciate some extra cash for doing a simple task like this, plus would just not be bothered by it or would even find it interesting (teen/college-aged biology geeks come to mind. But really I think plenty of people would just be genuinely unbothered by the squeamishness factor).

I would offer someone $50 to do the exhuming and put my pet's remains into a container that I could directly bury in that second location. And then put that container into a second airtight container.
posted by cairdeas at 7:47 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to do it yourself, post flyers in the zoology building of your local university offering to pay $30-$80 in cash or alcohol.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:50 PM on May 3, 2012

Zoology building or look for archaeology students.

We'd need to page ColdChef for more information on decomposition after three months, but it's quite possible that there hasn't been too much given that it's been underground mostly in winter. First-hand experience of a cat decomposing outside in a plastic bag from December through April in the Rockies leads me to believe it's quite possible that you might be facing a relatively intact and solid (as opposed to runny and messy) body. Be ready for maggots, though. Even if you're not squeamish, and I believe you when you say you're not, they can be a bit confronting the first few times you run into them.

Soil is usually relatively easy to clean off things that have been underground for centuries, so I don't think you're going to have much trouble getting rid of all the loose dirt after just a few months. The excavation should be quick, but be sure to dig carefully so you don't cut into the body. There should be a noticeable difference in the soil texture where you dug the original hole, so it ought to be relatively easy to avoid the body when you re-excavate. Maybe use a gardening hand shovel instead of a large one, though.

The cooler recommendation sounds like the best option, but I can attest that triple-wrapping an animal body in heavy-duty gardening trash bags also works remarkably well for containing smells and bits. Put it in the bag, wrap it tight-ish around the body, knot it well. Put that in another bag, repeat. Put that in a final bag, and leave it loose so you can carry it around. If you pop that in a cooler you can even use one you've got around the house and want to re-use, because it'll seal everything in.

Good luck.
posted by barnacles at 9:30 PM on May 3, 2012

"OP: I'm not at all the squeamish type,"

So uh, am I reading this wrong? To me it looks like they are fine with the exhuming part. Why is everyone saying to hire someone else to do it?

And yes, I would definitely go with a styrofoam cooler from a CVS-type place that you can seal up and then dispose of afterwards.
posted by Grither at 5:45 AM on May 4, 2012

I would suggest cremation as others have suggested. If that's not feasible, then I would transport her in a cooler (presumably one that you don't use for food, so buying a new one might be the best route here), and sealing the edges with duct tape.

I would also say that when you bring her out of the ground, resist the temptation to look at her. I don't know if this would be something you'd do anyway, but I thought I'd say it just in case.

In my situation, I have two dogs that are still fairly young, and I have thought about this as well. When mine pass on, I plan to bury them at my parents' house, because they have three acres of woods where I can lay them to rest when their lives are complete. You may not live as close to your parents (or may not have a relationship like that with them), but burying them there would still give me the opportunity to see them for as long as my parents live there (which will be until they die).
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:31 AM on May 4, 2012

I would suggest you contact a local vet and ask them who they use for pet cremation, then contact that company and ask them about it. You can have a private cremation done, get the ashes returned in a nice container, and then you will not have to worry about transporting the uncremated remains around (they are likely unpleasant at best at this point, even if it's been cold, decomposition starts quickly, especially if there is little body mass, even within 24 hours there is a noticeable odor).
posted by biscotti at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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