When Chris Nichols was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer, he knew exactly where he wanted to be buried: Ramsey Creek, a 33-acre nature preserve just outside Westminster, South Carolina, minutes from his home. One attendee at the funeral was his dog, Briar. The pet watched as Nichols was bundled in quilts sewn by his great-grandmothers and lowered into the ground inside a coffin his father had made.

“He was very close to his dog,” recalls Kimberley Campbell, who runs Ramsey Creek with her husband. Eventually, Briar joined Nichols; the two now rest together, in side-by-side graves.

The desire to be buried with a pet is nothing new. Eric Greene, a cultural anthropologist and the founder of the Green Pet-Burial Society, first realized that humans could be buried alongside their animal companions when he learned about a Natufian burial site from 10,000 BCE in what is now northern Israel. “In it lay the skeleton of a woman on her side and with a puppy’s skeleton by her head, her hand gracefully resting atop his head,” Greene remembers.