October 06, 2003

All Sea Loving Bloggers, Dig This.

I was talking to a colleague and friend today who has a client she is jazzed about. I blinked on the other end of the phone, having long forgotten what excitement of most varieties feels like.

My first thought was: oh dear.

I know what it takes to get enthused these days. The bar for enthusiasm among PR folk has been, um, shall we say raised a bit since the dot-com frenzy when everything was exciting at first, but then nothing mattered in the end. We are now a skeptical (read: paranoid) bunch. Suffice it to say, I didn't know what to expect.

Then she told me what has to be one of the strangest stories I've heard in a long time.

She's working with the partner company of an organization called RBDG, an international non-profit group that is helping restore ocean ecosystems. In case you didn't know, reefs are in big trouble, as are the marine creatures that rely on them.

That's interesting, and pretty neat, but it's not the thing that got me excited. And yes. I did. Get excited.

The story that got my attention was about a group of college friends -- and fellow divers -- who decided they could help restore these natural reef formations by making these rather strange looking "Reef Balls," which are apparently giant environmentally-friendly cast concrete balls with holes in them.

As I understand it (and understand I could be wrong--I haven't read the whole site yet), these big balls can weigh up to 4,000 pounds, and they're lowered into the water by crane onto the ocean floor, where over months and years, they regenerate as a place of life and activity for sea creatures. These patented reef balls have been deposited in ocean locations around the world.

Here's where the story gets really interesting. The father-in-law of partner Don Brawley wanted to be buried at sea, and asked Don to put his remains into one of these reef balls so he could be around some of his favorite grouper and red snapper in his final resting spot.

Apparently, the son-in-law wasn't sure this was legal, for one thing, but after investigating it learned that since ash is a component used in the concrete mixture, well, human ash could fit the bill. However they did it, they got the legal go ahead.

So the Atlanta-based company called Eternal Reefs has now included the cremated remains of some 200 people in memorial reef balls that have been returned to the sea.

Apparently, although more and more people are choosing cremation, many relatives don't actually make it around to the next step--you know, doing something with the ashes.


"My dogs!" I say. "We have three dogs in tins. I know what you mean."

The excitement hits home.

Jazz, Peanut, Ikea. $150 per dog we've spent on the cremation of our pets over the 20 years George and I have been together and have been pet owners.

Three tins. Dog tags on the top. We've moved two of them from Rochester to Atlanta, then three (after Jazz died) from one house in Atlanta to another. They've been packed and unpacked more often than I'd like to think about.

It's gotten to be one of those sick inside jokes some couples amuse themselves with. We're a morbid lot anyway, but how can you not laugh: "Honey, don't forget to pack the dogs!" (muffled laughing)

Then one of us starts whistling from the other side of the garage, you know, a "here doggie, here doggie" whistle.

It's really not right, but it's what happens when you've lost enough animals and enough time has gone by that your grief eases into humor. Or at least ours does. Thank God.

But the truth is, in all the places we've lived with our dog tins, we've never felt right about "leaving" the ashes in any of those places. No place really felt like a "place" where everything tied together--a place you'd like to think would remain undisturbed, a place you'd like to think back and remember the dogs enjoying.

I started thinking about that old half-lab jazz dog, and how she might feel pretty good taking one last swim.

So I ask my friend, do they do pets too?

And they do!

Check it out. For $395 all three dogs (you can mix pet remains) can land someplace that makes a difference--AND you get to ride out on the boat and watch them lower the reef, you get to go ahead of time and help cast the ashes in the reef ball if you want to, and you get something that tells you where the reef is (GPS location) in case you want to head back there one day.

Call me crazy, but for someone who's been moving around the ashes of animals I loved dearly for the last 15 years, it sounds like the coolest idea on earth (or at sea).

If we do it, you better believe I'll blog it.

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