Seeking ‘a Good Afterlife,’ and Not Just for Humans

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BANGKOK — The Siberian husky burned in Bangkok, the flames devouring her thick fur. Holding palms within the pet funeral corridor, the canine’s house owners wept soundlessly.

They had paid $160 for their canine, Friendly, to be cremated within the correct Thai means, festooned with marigolds and sprinkled with holy water at a Buddhist temple, or wat.

Bangkok, a messy metropolis with little inexperienced area, isn’t superb for pets. A park close to the place I stay is dwelling to nine-foot-long monitor lizards that appeared able to snacking on Agatha, my household’s miniature schnauzer. Pets swallowed entire by pythons are usually not as unusual an incidence as one would hope.

The Bangkok authorities takes a blasé perspective towards stray animals, so there may be little in the best way of spaying or neutering. As a consequence, an estimated 100,000 avenue canines, in various states of disrepair, roam the streets of the Thai capital.

A current rabies outbreak spooked the town. Animal shelters are overflowing, and the town’s zoos are hardly a bastion of animal rights, with elephants pressured to carry out for vacationers.

Still, many Bangkok residents are mad for canines and cats, and they attempt to create pet havens on this city jungle, which is my dwelling base in my position because the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The New York Times. The animal hospital the place Agatha bought her vaccinations has its personal chandeliered foyer, cafe with doggy treats and V.I.P. rooms the place people can sleep over ought to their hospitalized pets favor the corporate.

When it will get chilly in Bangkok — by which I imply round 70 levels Fahrenheit — pet house owners costume their canines in sweatshirts or, if they’ve the cash, Burberry raincoats.

Agatha, extra used to northern climes from having grown up in China, was content material to enterprise out with nothing greater than her personal fur. Unlike the poodle that lives across the nook, she was by no means handled to a pedicure, full with pink nail polish.

The ultimate send-off for Thai pets might be equally lavish.

Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and the devoted consider that animals, by means of a cycle of rebirth into totally different life varieties, can finally attain nirvana. At our native wat, monks typically chant for canines, cats, hamsters, lizards, snakes and turtles, the prayer corridor filling with the murmur of their incantations.

On event, pious Buddhists who discover deceased strays make benefit by serving to the animals transition to their subsequent life by means of a wat funeral. Most animals might be cremated on the wat, though pet pigs current difficulties for the crematory due to their copious fats.

At the Krathum Suea Pla Wat, the place Friendly the husky was cremated, staff fold tons of of ornate paper flowers every day to embellish the animal corpses. Piles of contemporary blooms and golden paper await the bereaved.

A younger couple as soon as got here to mourn their pet goldfish, a Valentine’s Day present, whose sudden dying was feared would possibly imperil the connection.

Friendly’s proprietor, Watcharasit Siripaisarnpipat, knew he and his spouse had spoiled their canine. In this tropical nation, they saved Friendly and six different Siberian huskies in an enclosure with 24-hour air-conditioning, even when they themselves would generally make do with a fan. On her birthday, Friendly ate ice cream.

“She enjoyed a good life,” Mr. Watcharasit mentioned, as they sifted by means of the bones that emerged from the crematory. “She deserves a good afterlife, too.”

A number of weeks later, Mr. Watcharasit, his spouse and his daughter boarded a ship on the Chao Phraya, the river that curves by means of Bangkok. With the breeze blowing, they tipped an urn and scattered their canine’s ashes into the water.

As a creature fortunate sufficient to have lived on this religious Buddhist kingdom, Friendly was now free to reincarnate.

Eight years in the past, Cassius, our canine earlier than Agatha, died of problems from a tick-borne micro organism. (The blood illness that killed her additionally decimated American canine models through the Vietnam War.)

We had Cassius cremated at a wat. Monks prayed, and her physique was consigned to the hearth, a purifying, soul-cleansing power in Thai custom. Over the years, we transported her celadon urn to Beijing, then to Shanghai, then again to Bangkok. Cassius’s ashes nonetheless sit on our bed room dresser.

The author’s canine, Cassius.CreditHannah Beech

But as I watched the ceremony for Friendly, I assumed to myself: When it’s Agatha’s flip, I don’t assume I can do that once more.

It wasn’t the visceral horror of watching the crematory employee shove a poker into the oven that turned me. According to Buddhism, all varieties are impermanent, even furry cold-nosed ones.

I used to be extra bothered by how commercialized the pet cremation enterprise had turn out to be — with particular packages that required selecting which urn to purchase or what number of monks would pray for your pet.

And then I noticed one of many 4 monks reciting sutras for Friendly verify his cellphone as he was alleged to be praying for the Siberian husky. He sneaked a take a look at his Facebook feed, his finger scrolling frenetically, at the same time as his mouth moved in prayer.

No, I assumed, we might do one thing else when Agatha’s time got here, one thing with out monks hooked on social media.

But since our miniature schnauzer was solely 6 years previous, I didn’t take into account the specifics of what we’d do as a substitute.

That night, as I downloaded footage and video of the pet funeral, Agatha snoozed on my lap, unaware of the photographs of canine mortality taking part in on my laptop computer.

Less than every week later, Agatha was hit by a automobile on our lane in Bangkok. She died virtually immediately.

The author’s canine, Agatha.CreditBrook Larmer

My household beloved our little schnauzer, born in Beijing, raised in Shanghai, transported by airplane to Bangkok final yr. In her new dwelling in Thailand, she made buddies with native avenue canines and discovered the pleasures of using on the again of a motorbike taxi, the wind ruffling her beard and eyebrows.

Agatha had massive ears and a fair larger coronary heart. She had scampered throughout a piece of the Great Wall of China and favored to crunch on cucumbers. Her eyes had been the colour of darkish chocolate. We buried her beneath an enormous tamarind tree within the backyard of our house constructing.

Our Thai neighbors introduced us an armful of orchids. Frogs, worms and shiny plated centipedes now preserve Agatha firm. Soon, crops will develop from her grave, the tropical earth, all the time moist and heat, replenishing the Buddhist cycle of life.

Follow Hannah Beech on Twitter: @hkbeech

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

A model of this text seems in print on , on Page A5 of the New York version with the headline: Seeking ‘a Good Afterlife’ for Spoiled Angels. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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