Thai temple offers Buddhist funerals for pets

Sun Jul 4, 2010 10:12pm EDT
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By Ambika Ahuja

BANGKOK (Reuters Life!) - An orange-robed monk chanted as a teary-eyed, black-clad family prayed quietly in front of a crematorium. A normal Buddhist funeral service in Thailand except for one thing -- the deceased was canine.

Bereaved pet lovers in Bangkok come to Klong Toey Nai temple by the Chao Phraya river to mark the passing of their animal friends with full funeral rites which begin with short prayers by monks, a two-hour cremation, and a trip down the river to spread the ashes.

"She is part of our family. In life, we took her to a grooming salon and a swimming pool. In death, we want to give her the best too," said Jiraporn Wongwanna, 35, who just lost her 14-year-old terrier-poodle mix, Bai Toey, to liver failure.

In a crowded capital of 15 million people with few owning enough land for burial, many people are opting for cremation for their departed pets, said Sampao Yampradit, a 79-year-old animal lover and undertaker who has performed the service for pets for more than 7 years.

The temple started to cremate stray dogs and cats nearly a decade ago, before they began offering funeral services for pets. Now they perform five to 15 funerals a day.

While most are dogs and cats, the pets have included turtles, fish, rabbits and monkeys.

"It's a Buddhist belief that cremation sends you forward into the next life while a burial might not do that," Sampao said, dropping chips of fragrant wood and flowers into the incinerator.

Jiraporn, her father, and two cousins attended the ceremony, watching Bai Toey's furry body gently pushed into the pyre.   Continued...