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How to have a Winter Pet Burial

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There’s of course no good time to lose a beloved pet but it can be most difficult in the heart of winter when you really want to have a home burial. At our Pets We Loved headquarters in Massachusetts, the ground frost can be up to 36” deep making a burial nearly impossible without power equipment. If other winter options have been considered and you still want to have a backyard burial, there is away to do it.

This is actually a process a customer used and recommended that I share with other pet owners. He lives in upstate NY where frost is about the same as here in Massachusetts. He said it took him about 4 hours to finish.

Materials needed:

  • A quality self-vaulted pet casket that is designed to to be water and air resistant
  • 2-3 bags of self-lighting charcoal, depending on the size of the casket and depth of frost.
  • Large bag of rock salt
  • A 2’ x 4’ piece of sheet metal – stores like Lowes and Home Depot will have these
  • A shovel
  • A tarp – at least 6’x8’
  • 5 Gallon pail of water of even better, a garden hose
  • A clear, calm day with little to no wind
  • Heatproof gloves (Oven mitts may do the trick but be careful!)

Pick a calm day with little to no wind to ensure that embers are not carried that could cause dangerous conditions.

Next, select a spot in your yard that is clear of any underground dangers including gas lines, water lines, electrical, etc. If unsure, stop and call your local utilities. They will often come out for free to check the area. The spot should also be 250’ from any running water. Some towns and cities have laws against having a home burial so if you are unsure, you should contact them first before proceeding.

Dig out any snow, leaving two feet extra in length and width to walk around the site while thawing the ground.

Spread the rock salt over the whole area – this will reduce the freezing temperature of any ice on the top of the ground, accelerating the melting process

Now spread charcoal over the immediate burial site, placing briquettes about 3 inches wider than the actual hole being dug. For example, if you are burying a pet casket that is 24” long by 12” wide, than the plot should be about six inches wider all around, or 36” x 24”. That means the charcoal should be spread over a 42”x30 area.

Light the charcoal and let the coals turn gray which usually takes about 20 minutes. Keep the bucket of water or hose close for safety.

Now place the sheet metal over the coals to reflect the heat down towards the ground.

Leave the sheet metal on the coals for approximately 2 hours, periodically checking the ground with the shovel.

Remove the sheet metal using the heatproof gloves (safety first!!) and scrape the coals to one side.

Spread out the tarp adjacent to the site – this is where you place the soil you dig for the grave. Using a tarp will make sure soil isn’t mixing with snow, which would be hard to scoop and backfill the plot with.

Dig down and remove as much soil as possible, placing in on the tarp.

Depending on how deep the frost is, you may need to repeat this process several times with the charcoal and sheet metal.

Dig past the frost line into the soft soil, deep enough so the top of the casket is below the frost line.

Once the hole is completely dug and the casket placed inside, then backfill with the soil that is on the tarp.

In the spring, you can re-seed and have a custom made pet headstone created to mark the site.

Please, please, please be careful if you decide to do this. Good luck!

Disclaimer: While we are explaining a way to have a winter burial, we bear no responsibility for the process or safety in following this process. If you are unsure about attempting this, then please consider the other alternative methods we discussed in another article. Pets We Loved cannot be held responsible for any injuries or damage as a result of this process.

Frost Zone Chart to see your average depth

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