Addie’s Ashes – cremating our dog in China

It’s been a handful of days now, and both Maggie and I are coming to terms with Addie’s death. I still expect her to be there, wagging her tail, when we open the front door; and I still look for her underfoot when I get up from the sofa. But time is a cool leveler, and has given me a glimpse that the pain we initially felt will eventually fade and be replaced by our numerous fond memories of her.

One step in that process is laying her to rest. You would think that with everyone and their cousin having a dog in this city that there would be a well-developed system for handling the dead bodies of our four-legged friends. Nope.

Initially we had planned to bury her someplace near our home here in Suzhou. To do so we would have had to sneak out at night, under cover of darkness, shovels in hand – the picture of a twisted Scooby Doo episode – and bury her before anyone noticed what we were up to. A problem in itself, this awkward affair is compoundly complicated when you consider there are few areas in Suzhou, or any Chinese city for that matter, that aren’t likely to get dug up for development in the next 6 to 12 months.

With the images of Addie’s disturbed remains being churned into foundation for a new over-priced expat sanctuary, we switched our focus to cremation. Problem being that Suzhou has no animal cremation facilities. Always helpful, the vet said he knew of one in Hangzhou and another in Shanghai.

After a bit of hunting (and reading about this scary experience), we found that Shanghai has a big government-invested crematorium for animal body disposal. Only problem was getting Addie’s body to Shanghai.

Peter, the owner of Wàng Wàng Gōng Guǎn (汪旺公馆 – on Sú Xiù Lù/苏绣路) – the vet/pet shop that had been helping us care for Addie over the last week or so, volunteered to take us, all we had to do was cover gas and tolls. A remarkable guy, coupled with their care and service, I really can’t recommend them enough.

After borrowing his friend’s car, and loading Addie’s body (which they were storing at their shop) in the trunk, Peter picked us up and I endured one of the scariest car rides of my life (and I’ve had a few). He spent more time whizzing 140 km/h down the shoulder than he did on the roadway proper. But, he got us there in one piece.

The crematorium is in the middle of no where, which considering its function, probably makes sense. Should anyone need to find it, the address is:

上海市奉贤浦南病死畜禽无害化处理站
上海市奉贤区庄行镇浦卫公路934号
Tel:(021)57462612/57462143
Web: www.pnwhcl.org/p.htm (translated)

If you’re in Shanghai, it may just be easier to talk to your vet about it. I believe there’s inner-city pickup/disposal.

I’ve never been to a crematorium of any kind before, so pulling up to the large tree-lined compound I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We were greeted by a rather helpful attendant who instructed us to park and come into the office. We filled out some paperwork and paid the fee (200 RMB to have her body cremated solo). We were then asked to give him the body, to which it appeared he would then pedal to a large building in the back of the complex with a smoke-billowing chimney sticking out of it.

For the sake of imagery here, Addie’s body had been wrapped in blankets and placed in a large box when they collected her from our home on Sunday, and so wasn’t laying exposed in the trunk of the car.

Removing the box from the trunk the man exclaimed that it was far too big for him to take and that we should drive it the 50m back to the incinerator. This suited us just fine, as we wanted to be there to assure they properly handled the situation (ie. didn’t just dump her in a bin and hand us a cup of random ash).

The atmosphere was about what you’d expect from a government-run facility that’s primary purpose was to dispose of dead livestock (deadstock?). We didn’t get much of a tour, but before carrying Addie’s body inside the barn-sized building, I couldn’t help but notice a huge bin of pig corpses further back on the lot. Kind of creepy.

It didn’t take long once inside for the workers to remove Addie from the box and, still wrapped in the blanket and sheets, put her in the furnace. We were then gently rushed out of the building by the front gate attendant, explaining that the area wasn’t the safest place due to many of the dead corpses in the back having succumbed to disease. Again, kind of creepy.

With 40 minutes to wait for the process to complete and the ashes to be returned, Maggie and I walked around the impressive building that houses the facilities offices, washrooms and … a cafeteria. Have I mentioned, creepy?

The time passed and eventually the attendant appeared with our small urn, wrapped in newspaper and still warm. We got back in the car and returned to Suzhou (in pure Battle For Endor fashion) in a rather somber, but satisfied, manner.

We will hold on to Addie’s ashes until the weather improves and we can take them and spread them someplace beautiful and befitting.

A moment for thanks

I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has given their condolences to Maggie and I during this rather rough time. I’ve received numerous comments, Twitter tweets and e-mails offering support and well-wishes. Thank you everyone, it is truly touching that so many of you, most whom I’ve never met in person, took the time to do so.

Also, thank you to Kenneth Tan and the Shanghaiist for picking up Addie’s tragic story and sharing it with a larger audience. Though it may be too late now, if her story can help save anyone else from going through what we went through, it was well worth sharing.

Update: Also thanks to Richard Brubaker and All Roads for elavating the exposure of this horrible tragedy.

6 Responses

  1. A great post Ryan, thanks for sharing your experiences during this tough time. It’s also good to see a good honest local company like Wàng Wàng Gōng Guǎn going the extra mile for their customers. Our Dennis (black cat) will be spending his second Chinese New Year with them this year, while we travel back to Taiwan.

  2. Dear Ryan,

    I’ve been following Addie’s story with great interest and also considerable distress. I even said a prayer for her recovery.

    We have a mid-sized Poodle named Cody and if anything were to happen to him through sheer negligence, as it did to Addie, I’d definitely be beside myself with grief and anger. We’ve grown so attached to this little dog that, for us, he is like a child. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to lose him through nothing more than just thoughtlessness. As soon as I read your post, I checked our dog food and thanked God it wasn’t the same brand name.

    How could these people not know that storing perishable food in a hot warehouse for weeks is dangerous?

    You and Maggie have our deepest sympathy.

    Greg and Sonia Mavrides

  3. I am so very sorry to hear about your beautiful Addie. It’s brought me to tears so I couldn’t possibly imagine how you and Maggie could possibly be feeling throughout this experience. She is in a better place and will forever be remembered.

    With love,

    Vanessa

  4. Oh no!!! We’ve been offline while we moved to a new apartment and so I’m just catching up now…I was so hoping Addie was going to pull through. I feel the same way about my dingo, Baozi, and would be just as devastated if something like that happened to him.

    Thank you for sharing with all of us, it means a lot to read your blog and other China blogs and know we are not alone.

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