Paw Talk: Stuffed Animals

antigravity_vol10_issue7_Page_07_Image_0001For those of us whose pets are unquestionably family, the grieving process does not exclude them when they pass. People grieve their deceased pets in many ways: honoring their pet’s life by not adopting for a certain amount of time or sometimes, adopting right away to dampen the pain of loss. But there are some other unusual things people do with their dead pets: remember Paw Talk’s April topic of taxidermy? In Louisiana, when we hear “taxidermy,” we tend to think of hunting trophies. But I bet many of us have not thought of using taxidermy, or a similar process involving freeze drying, to preserve pets, or cremating pets and storing their ashes for future disbursement.

A shop in Fort Pierce, Florida called Perpetual Pet specializes in pet preservation. The shop does not practice taxidermy, which requires the removal of large bones or organs and the stretching of an animal’s skin over a mold, but instead offers customers freeze-dry technology, which preserves the animal “as is,” starting with the extraction of frozen moisture from the pet in a sealed vacuum chamber. Perpetual Pet’s freeze drying process can take up to six months for a large animal.

On the Perpetual Pet website, you can view their motto: “A Loving and Lasting Alternative.” And underneath the photo gallery/comments section, you can uncomfortably goo and gah over the comments underneath the photos of morbidly realistic-looking freeze-dried pets. Let’s go over some of the Perpetual Pet clientele’s responses. Sheri from Seattle used Perpetual Pet to freeze dry her pup, Tiny, and she writes, “I didn’t have to stop being able to see her. The loss just isn’t so painful when you can look at the face and feel the coat of your dearest little friend.” Chet and Alice in NYC hired Perpetual Pet to freeze dry their dog and they commented, “Now we can keep him forever! He looks just like he was!” For a seven to ten pound animal, the cost is $775 plus $60 for every pound over that. From what I can tell, the closest pet preservation companies are along the Gulf Coast, but not in Louisiana. However, there are taxidermy shops and the result is nearly the same if the process does not bother you.

For a bit less cash, one can have their pet cremated. Amy Noles of London, England and current resident of New Orleans, (name changed) reports that a family member has had all of her deceased pets cremated; and she has made known her wish to have her own ashes mixed with her pets and scattered at the place of her choosing. Many veterinarians will either cremate or arrange to have the local animal shelter pick up and cremate a deceased pet but there is a fancier, more personalized option for those of you needing more of a ritual. Heaven’s Pets at Lake Lawn Cemetery here in New Orleans offers cremation services, and there is even a pet cemetery called “Memorial Gardens” at Lake Lawn. However, you can also take your cremated pet’s remains and scatter them where you wish. Pricing for a private cremation (cremated alone without other animals) ranges from around $100 for a small pet, such as a hamster, to close to $300 for a pet just under 200 pounds.

If you want to take your pet’s ashes and disburse (or keep) them, then you would need to arrange for a private cremation. For a communal cremation, which means your pet would be cremated along with others, the pricing is slightly lower, but you would not be able to obtain your pet’s ashes. Heaven’s Pets offers burial services for pets, remains transportation and even grief counseling.

What’s the benefit of cremating a pet? For starters, in some places, if it’s not an actual law, local governments discourage burying dead pets in yards, even on private property. There are some nobrainer explanations for this, including the possibility of hitting water or gas lines under the ground. But also, cremating can be an easy option to simultaneously dispose of our animals’ shells and gain a bit of closure. If disposal is not the option for you and you favor relics and memorials, then consider pet preservation. Being able to continue both seeing and petting your pet may bring you comfort. Whatever works for you, remember that grieving your lost pet is an important process and having some sort of honorary ritual is important for your own recovery.