To neighbors in his Los Angeles suburb, Michael Potter’s dog Apollo was affectionately known as The Mayor. A 65-pound blue merle Australian Shepherd, he was great with kids and the elderly, didn’t require a leash on trails, seemed to put almost everyone at ease (yes, cats included), and had his own regularly updated Facebook page, complete with photos and the latest dog-related news. Still, Apollo’s most distinctive feature may have been his piercing blue eyes, which were, Potter wrote in a eulogy, “constantly tracking and counting the movements of all people and animals as they floated in and out of the house and the various rooms.”
In March, at age seven, Apollo lost a battle with lymphoma after multiple rounds of “canine chemo,” as his owner put it. The Potter family was devastated. They couldn’t get their beloved dog with the strangely human eyes out of their minds.
“Hours after he left this world,” continued Potter’s eulogy, “we were all able to witness the most remarkable full moon in recent memory. We were not Apollo’s owners, but it was as if he had simply beckoned our family to join him on his short but memorable journey.”
Wanting Apollo to continue said journey while staying true to his NASA-ish roots, the Potter family has turned to Houston’s Celestis Pets, which bills itself as the world’s first memorial spaceflight company. As the website puts it, “they give us their unfailing friendship; how better to remember them than by sending them on one final journey through the heavens?”
To be honest, it was news to us that friendship might best be commemorated by sending the remains of one’s friend into space. Or rather a small part of the remains—one capsule-filled gram, to be exact. At a cost of between $995 and $12,500—depending on whether you want your pet’s remains to scratch the surface of space, temporarily orbit the earth, land on the moon, or disappear into deep space—Celestis will take a wee sample of your pet and rocket it from a New Mexico launch site into outer space, where man’s best friend will presumably float along like a plastic bottle in the ocean of eternity. (In case you’re wondering, Celestis also has a branch that launches human remains into the heavens.)
Some might view the Potters’ decision to blast their dog into the stratosphere as extravagant or dangerous, given private space flight’s recent record. The hope, said Michael Potter, is that the launch (now scheduled for fall 2015) will bring comfort and closure to the living.
We wondered, though: is this what Apollo would have wanted?
“He was always an adventuresome dog, so I think he’d be up for it,” said Potter confidently. “Now we can think of him as a shooting star.”