Giving thanks for pets past and present

This Thanksgiving many of us will be thankful for the animals in our lives past and present.

For me that means Twilight (aka Bald Mountain Bacchus) my magnificent Morgan, my first horse and partner for 20 years and Mindy, our Border Collie mix, who came home with me in a shoebox from the stable and gave us 17 memorable years. Over the years there was Tabby, Shea-Shea, Ambrose, Joshua, Katya, Possum, Bear and so many other cats that have blessed our lives.

Chloe and Belle wait at fence, hope for carrots

And I give thanks for all the current animals in my life as I watch my orange felines Penny and Bix loll in the sun: a house and barn-full of kitties and Belle and Chloe, mother and daughter Belgian horses. 

The bond with our pets runs deep. We race them to the emergency hospital in the middle of the night for an injury. We max out our credit cards to cover their bills. We put off vacations to be with them.

The singer Fiona Apple just suspended her concert tour to comfort her dying dog, Janet, a pit bull plucked as a puppy from a dog fighting ring. She penned a moving message about their relationship on her Facebook page. In it she calls Janet her best friend and worried about not being there for her in the end, of not having "the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.”

There are more than a few people, it turns out, who want to take this bond into the afterlife. I'd never thought about the concept of being buried with or next to your pet until a TV segment from Texas came across on my Google alert yesterday.

Seems a pet cemetery near Dallas is now taking humans - and the concept is proving popular. One World War II veteran, a survivor of Iwo Jima, wanted to be buried next to his dog in a pet cemetery rather than alone at the veterans cemetery.

Texas law forbids pets from being interred in human graveyards.

Pennsylvania does not have such a law.

An internet search turned up Hillcrest-Flynn Funeral Home which runs a pet and people cemetery in Mercer County, in the northwest corner of the state.

"We are seeing an increase in public interest," Roberta Knauf, the funeral homes director told CNN in 2010. "The joint burial concept started in 2006, when a few people were interested -- but last year we had close to 70 joint burials in our cemetery."

In Britain, one man's desire to be buried with his pets was the motivation for his wife not only carry out his wishes on their country property, but to set up a cemetery so that others could join their pets too. In a 2010 piece in the Daily Mail, Penny Lally explained it this way:

'If John was buried on his own in some bleak windy graveyard, it would make me feel very sad,' says Lally of Cornwall.

'But knowing he had such a lovely burial - he was carried up the garden in a biodegradable wicker basket to the sound of a Cornish piper - and is at rest in a beautiful woodland with all the animals, has made his death so much easier to bear.

'I often laugh that John has a canary singing in his ear, a cat purring at his feet and a dog at his side.

'Ultimately, the woodland symbolises the circle of life and death so beautifully. Just standing there, you feel so close to nature and it makes death feel natural, as, of course, it should be."