This Simple Vase Hides a Sentimental Secret

published Aug 14, 2017
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(Image credit: Courtesy of Big Sky Urns)

There’s nothing pretty about the loss of a pet — at least there wasn’t, until Big Sky Urns in Montana stepped in to make the process of grieving a little more cheerful with its handmade ceramic and wood flower vases, which double as a final resting place for your dog or cat once they’ve crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.

When our beloved buddy and first dog Dante passed in 2013, after 14 long and wonderful years together and 4 months of hospice care at home for kidney failure, the final days still came at us fast and we were woefully ill-prepared to make decisions about what came next.

Grief hit us like a Mack truck almost immediately, and we hadn’t thought through any of the options about cremation/burial. Though the cube-shaped teak wood and brass box we chose (in a complete and utter haze, an on-the-spot recommendation from our veterinarian) is simple, understated and elegant, and blends seamlessly into our bedroom where it sits atop our mid-century dresser known only to me and my husband as our departed dog, we now know to be better prepared if and when something should happen to our other pets — and that there are much more sophisticated, sentimental ideas now available.

Launched successfully through Kickstarter in 2016, Big Sky Urns is the latest social-good-minded company solving a modern problem with a sleek, sophisticated — and, yes, sentimental — solution. Based in Bozeman, Montana and handcrafted in Montana and Portland, Oregon from sustainably sourced materials, Big Sky Urns are made to double as vases so beautiful and modern that one would never guess their true function. The base/bottom half of the columnal vase is a concealed, sealed ceramic urn with a rubber plug (that can hold the ashes of a pet up to approximately 55 lbs) and the top half is a fully functioning ceramic vase. The two are joined together in the middle with a wooden disc.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Big Sky Urns)

“The mountains’ awe-inspiring beauty and tranquility inspire us to design memorials with calm colors and warm natural materials,” say the community of makers behind the brand: Bozeman’s Mac Warfield, Aaron McKay & Brian Flint, in partnership with Portland’s Mudshark Studios. “We draw on this inspiration, infusing the functionality of an urn into household decorations, holding the presence of our loved ones together forever.”

In addition to proving a beautiful, useful, and engaging object through which to memorialize your pet, Big Sky Urns are also a business that gives back: part of the 1% for the Planet program, they donate 1% of all sales to nonprofit organizations.

“We hope you find solace knowing that when you purchase a memorial, you are honoring your loved one by joining in our cause to leave this world better than we found it,” the founders say.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Big Sky Urns)

Pet loss and grief have become a booming industry, with more than 43 million dog-owning households and more than 36 million cat-owning households in the US as of 2012 — and on the rise, as younger generations opt to have pets first before having children (as we did). In fact, three-fourths of Americans in their 30s have dogs, while 51 percent have cats, according to a recent survey shared by the Washington Post.

So it should be no surprise that design-minded Gen Xers and Millennials, drawn to handmade and locally made products, would be inspired to create an aesthetic solution with more meaning than the mere boxes currently available.

Big Sky Urns currently cost $150 each, which if I recall correctly is slightly higher but not too far off from what we paid through our veterinarian for the standard arrangements. To learn more, visit