In the Hollywood ending to a dog’s life, he is buried in a quiet, peaceful spot on your spacious farm, in the oak grove out past the pond where the doves and thrushes sing throughout the day.
The reality is far less picturesque.
Fortunately, in San Francisco, that will change for more than 1,000 pet owners. That’s the proposed vacancy on the city’s first pet columbarium, which church leaders at the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi in North Beach are planning to build, according to a story in SF Weekly.
The columbarium will hold urns containing the ashes of dead pets. It will be housed in an 850-square-foot space underneath a staircase in the historic church, which was unearthed during construction work.
The Rev. Harold Snider, rector at the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, says that your dog doesn’t have to be Catholic to land a spot — all animals will be welcome. He told SF Weekly that he grew up with animals himself (cats, dogs, and rabbits) and understands the need to place them to rest respectfully.
“A pet isn’t just some animal, a pet becomes a valued member of the family,” he said. “They give unconditional love, and they can touch human beings in the emotional areas that are often very difficult for other human beings to reach. As such, this Columbarium can be a final testament of that unconditional love.”
Some don’t see it that way. Talking to the SF Examiner, some well-connected parishioners balked at the proposed pet columbarium.
“Loving creatures is like St. Francis, burying them with humans is not,” said Angela Alioto, a longtime local politician who has spent 17 years raising money for the famed Porziuncola shrine, which is in the church. “It’s creepy.”
“When you talk about burying pets, you talk about them having souls,” said Elizabeth Dunn, a member of the Knights of St. Francis, a volunteer organization that guards the shrine. “I don’t want to seem like I’m in conflict with [Snider], but this is wrong.”
It bears mentioning that the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi is named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
In trying to tamp down the controversy of placing pet remains next to human remains, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone tried a Hail Mary, saying that because the columbarium will be under the church, “it’s not like sacred ground.”
Huh. We’ll see how this story plays out.