Fur families
Wendy Carlisle: It's not surprising that since we're humanising our pets in life, we're also doing the same in death, and for every pocket and desire, there's a whole new range of pet send-off services available. From pet hearses, to pet burials, to individual cremations, and in the future, there might even be cemeteries where pets and humans can be interred together.

But for the moment, most of the pets that die in vets' surgeries end up as landfill at a tip somewhere, and many are buried in home gardens still. And a tiny number end up at pet crematoriums and cemeteries like Shane McGraw's Berkshire Park on Sydney's outskirts.

Shane McGraw: Well this is the chapel where we prepare the pets for viewing before they are either cremated or buried. We usually put the pet in here in the coffin, or wrapped in a blanket, depending on what the client wants, and then I just sort of give them some prayer cards and they just do whatever they want to do in here.

Wendy Carlisle: And how many people do the viewing?

Shane McGraw: Anywhere from two to 40. I've had some pretty big burials before.

Wendy Carlisle: How big?

Shane McGraw: Anything up to 40, 45 people I suppose, with lots of pets, the mother and father of the dog that died and its brothers and sisters, and maybe the brothers and sisters, pups, that it's had.

Wendy Carlisle: And what are the sorts of things that people say?

Shane McGraw: It depends. Some people if they're very religious will read things form the Bible and do different eulogies, and other people will just talk about the happy times they had with their pets. Some people don't talk at all, some people just sit here and cry a lot. So I've had people faint, go blind.

Wendy Carlisle: Go blind?

Shane McGraw: Yes, physically couldn't see, just from the grief.

Wendy Carlisle: At the back of Shane's pet chapel, he's got a diesel-fired cremator. And while he's got a pet cemetery out the front, there are quite a lot of humans happy to have their last resting place with their pets.

Shane McGraw: We've even got lots of people out here with their pets, too.

Wendy Carlisle: Do you?

Shane McGraw: Oh yes. We don't do burials for people, but we just put their ashes in the graves, if they want to have their ashes out here. Here's a lady here who's with her pet actually. This is the biggest cat I ever buried, I think.

Wendy Carlisle: George?

Shane McGraw: Yes, George. You can see him in that photo.

Wendy Carlisle: He's a monster.

Shane McGraw: I picked him up, I thought it was a dog, it was like a 15 kilo cat, 12, 15 kilos or something, it was huge.

Wendy Carlisle: So here we go, In loving memory of George Garlan. Date of birth: Age at death; and his mum, Dawn Garlan. So would this be the only memorial to Dawn Garlan?

Shane McGraw: I'd say so.

Wendy Carlisle: She's playing second fiddle to the cat.

Shane McGraw: Yes, probably. Only because she wanted to. But she knew that when she went she wanted her ashes to be put in here with them. I've got some quite - I've got one out there, I can't remember where it is now, it's Rex, the Doberman, and obviously the lady was very upset in the way that the Doberman died, because on the headstone it says 'Rex the Doberman, brutally shot on such-and-such a day', written on the headstone, so she wanted everyone to know that this dog didn't die of natural causes, it was brutally shot by some arsehole.

Shane McGraw: Strange requests? We've done every animal you can think of from ferrets, rats, guinea pigs, we've buried guinea pigs and put $2-1/2-thousand marble headstones on top of them. So any kind of animal can be a pet, that's not strange. The strangest sort of things are things like we had one gentleman who, his religious beliefs believed that if you lose a part of your body, when you die if that part of the body isn't kept and put back with you at the burial, whenever you end up where you're going, you don't have that part of your body. Well this guy had had his dog desexed, and he kept the testicles in some formaldehyde. Well he wanted to sew them back on before the actual cremation. I said, 'There's a room. Call me when you've finished.'

Shane McGraw
Shane McGraw: runs the Animal Memorial Cemetery and Crematorium at Berkshire Park, NSW

Mario's headstone: an example of a headstone at the Animal Memorial Cemetery and Crematorium at Berkshire Park

Excerpt from ABC Radio National
28th October 2007
Interviewer: Wendy Carlise
Photographer: Wendy Carlise