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Missoula City Cemetery proposes pet memorial and ossuary

Posted: 5:27 PM, Aug 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-05 19:27:15-04
Missoula City Cemetery Director Ron Regan stands on the site of the proposed pet ossuary and memorial wall while showing a photo of a similar wall elsewhere. (Dave Stalling/Missoula Current)

MISSOULA — Established in 1884 and purchased by the city in 1901, the Missoula Cemetery holds memories of the city’s most prominent businessmen and women, colorful characters, and other historical figures and past citizens. Soon, there may be space set aside for beloved pets.

“It’s something we’ve been kicking around for a while,” said cemetery director Ron Regan. “There’s no pet ossuary in Missoula, and we’ve had a lot of people ask, ‘Where can we put our pets?’ and, ‘Can we get a memorial wall?’ ”

At a recent Missoula City Council committee meeting, Regan pitched the idea of creating an ossuary (a container, room or other site to serve as a final resting place for ashes or skeletal remains) along with a memorial wall on some now-empty space in the northeast section of the cemetery.

Pets are considered part of the family for many, and losing them is as heartbreaking as losing any loved one. As part of the grieving process, many psychologists and therapists recommend establishing some sort of memorial.

“Memorializing the memory of your beloved pet can be a good way of ascertaining some form of closure,” wrote therapist Adam Clark, in a 2017 article for Psychology Today.

“Some people choose to write a letter, some have funeral and services, some people create shadow boxes of their dog or cat tags and collars and imprint of their paws,” Clark wrote. “Others decide that they will find a favorite space or memory from their pet’s life and spend some time there.”

An ossuary and memorial wall at the Missoula Cemetery would offer people that option.

The wall would include inscriptions of pet names and dates they passed on. Regan has a photo of a similar wall built elsewhere called “The Wall of Remembrance.” For a yet-to-be-determined fee to cover costs, people would have the choice to either have their pet’s name inscribed on the wall, have remains placed in an ossuary, or both.

“It’s in the preliminary planning process right now,” Regan said. “But we’ve got donated funds for the project – there would be no cost to taxpayers – and we’re just waiting on approval and the go-ahead in the city budget.”