More pets are buried in U.S. back yards than any other place, but that is becoming illegal in more places. For those who want something unique, though, the sky's the limit, literally. Here are some options:
Cremation: Costs vary depending on location, pet size and extras. A typical cost is $140 for a pet under 20 pounds ranging up to about $275 for a pet from 151 to 200 pounds. Pet crematories will usually scatter ashes, or an urn can be purchased.
Aquamation: It's like cremation, but it's done with water-based technology that leaves pure ash reminiscent of powdery beach sand, said Jerry Shevick, CEO of Peaceful Pets Aquamation in Newbury Park, Calif. The process is called alkaline hydrolysis. It is legal for humans in seven states and legal for pets in every state. The nearly green, 20-minute process ranges from $75 to $350, depending on the pet's size.
Balloon lift: The Eternal Ascent Society in New Port Richey will send your pet's remains skyward, said Joanie West, who has owned the company for 16 years. She puts remains in a 5-foot round balloon, adds helium and releases it at a tree- and wire-free location the family chooses. About 5 miles up at 40 degrees, the balloon fractures and the ashes are caught in high winds and scattered. Balloons start at $399.
Burial at sea: Ashes on the Sea, which serves California and Hawaii, will scatter a pet's ashes at sea for $250 to $350, Capt. Ken Shortridge said. Families can watch from boat or shore, and there are several ceremonies to choose from. Ashes can be placed in a wicker basket lined with tea leaves, covered with rose petals and set on the water. When flipped, the ashes form the illusion of an underwater wreath, and you can watch them drift toward the bottom of the sea.
Pet cemetery: Includes a plot of ground or mausoleum space. You can buy a headstone or plaque. Cemetery burial can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on size, location, grave marker, type of casket or cremation, urn and other costs.
Veterinarians: Most pet owners — an estimated 70 percent — will go the routine route, leaving the body with their veterinarian. The vet usually uses communal cremation.