These pet owners just can’t let go

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on May 17, 2017 in Rat News | Subscribe

When Alli Highley’s beloved Nala died last March, family members set up a viewing at a Seattle-area funeral parlor, Resting Waters, so that family members who weren’t present at the time of death could say their final goodbyes.  Nala arrived in a casket filled with flowers and the family requested that music be played — soft rock, Nala’s favorite.

Nala was a dog.

Pets are basically family these days, and we spend accordingly. In 2017, it’s estimated we’ll spend almost $70 billion keeping them happy and healthy with the latest toys, nutritious food, veterinary care and fashion-conscious grooming — $10 billion more than in 2015. Toward the end of a pet’s life, spending on care like surgeries and treatments can skyrocket. It makes sense: Nobody wants to think about their beloved pet dying. Yet while we do everything we can to prolong their lives, we rarely have any plans for when they pass away.

Joslin Roth, one of the owners of Resting Waters, a pet funeral home in Seattle, Wash., would like to change that.

“This is something we’re always thinking about,” she says. “How do you talk about a topic that makes people so uncomfortable and sad?”

Roth, along with her sister Darci Bressler, opened Resting Waters hoping to give pets the same love and dignity in death as their owners showed them in life. Unlike the traditional vet-based cremation model, Resting Waters allows families insight into and control over the entire process, offering a full range of services from funerals, memorials and viewings to aquamation, a water-based cremation alternative.

Soft rock, Nala’s favorite music, was played at her viewing.Darci Bressler and Joslin Roth / Resting Waters

A hound named Red came to Resting Waters for the aquamation service, which costs anywhere from $175 to $375, plus potential transport and witnessing fees. “He had an immense fear of fire,” Roth says, “and his family couldn’t bear the idea of traditional cremation because they didn’t want to put his body through something that was so bothersome to him during his life.” Aquamation is a kind of hyper-decomposition — it mimics the way the ecosystem breaks down organic matter, and is considerably friendlier to the environment than standard cremation.

Most of Bressler and Roth’s clients find them via the internet or word of mouth.

“We opened Resting Waters to work directly with the public,” Roth says. “Many of the families who choose us for aftercare bring us their deceased pet directly because they want more time to say goodbye and cannot imagine someone else performing the transportation.”

Resting Waters also offers resources for the grieving process, connecting clients with photographers who do “final days” photoshoots or artists who create pet portraits and memorial tattoos. “When it comes to mourning art, the options are unlimited; if you can think of it, we can find an artist who does it,” Roth says.

‘I loved seeing photos of her skinned body.’

 – Lauren Mann, who had her cat taxidermied

One of these artists is Lauren Kane, owner of Precious Creature Taxidermy in California. Resting Waters’ relationship with Precious Creature began when Roth needed a taxidermist for her cat, Ghetta. “After a lot of phone calls, it became clear that most taxidermists were not interested in helping with companion animals,” she says. Christian Harding, a Seattle taxidermy and oddities store owner, pointed her in the direction of Precious Creature.

“I’m asked at least once a day for services like Resting Waters and Precious Creature,” Harding says. Having a pet taxidermied isn’t for everyone — other options Harding suggests are having the bones processed and cleaned and having the skeleton assembled for display. Prices vary depending on the type and size of pet, as well as the service — preserving a medium-sized dog’s coat could cost about $400, while preserving the full body of a cat could range from $1,900 to $3,000. Hairless animals cost more because they need to be airbrushed, and every lump and wrinkle needs to be resculpted to perfection. Kane even offers preservation of pet rats for $350 to $650. One might think that those interested in these services are death-obsessed or morbid, but Harding says that isn’t the case at all. “It’s typically very normal, everyday people. It’s what they need to go through the mourning process.”

“Most of my clients are folks you’d see at the grocery store without batting an eye,” agrees Kane. “Everyone grieves differently.”

For the last two years, she has been working with pet owners to find the option that brings them the most peace, whether that’s full-body taxidermy or a cleaned skull to place under glass. Like Resting Waters, Precious Creature depends on word of mouth and social media for new clients; on an Instagram account that now has 14K followers, Kane regularly shows photos of the aftercare process. Initially, Precious Creature would taxidermy one to three pets a year; now that the business is more established, Kane sees at least three to five a month, plus multiple inquiries each week from people.

Samantha, a cat Precious Creature preserved last year, was brought in by Lauren Mann. Mann first started thinking about pet taxidermy while watching the 2012 documentary “The Queen of Versailles”; in one scene, the film’s subject shows off her deceased dog, stuffed and encased in glass.

“I had always felt that Samantha was too precious to be cremated,” Mann says. “I didn’t want her in a faraway pet cemetery I would probably rarely if ever visit.”

When Samantha was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2014, Mann and her husband dedicated themselves to making the remainder of their cat’s life as comfortable as possible. They took her to get vanilla frozen yogurt at the McDonald’s drive-through, bought her a pet goldfish, and let her watch fish YouTube videos on her own iPad. Having Samantha taxidermied was an easy decision. “When Samantha returned home, it was a complete joy,” Mann says. “Not only did I feel good to have her back in the house but I felt as though this was an incredible piece of art that had so much meaning.”

Lauren Mann had her cat Samantha taxidermied.Lauren Mann

Not everyone felt the same way about Samantha’s 10th life.

“As I started telling people I would get her stuffed, they thought I was joking,” Mann says. “I loved seeing photos of her skinned body. Soon I realized the photos I found crazy, wonderful and hilarious did not warrant the same responses in others. When I showed friends the photos of dead Samantha being skinned, there were shrieks of horror and disgust. When I went to Sundance, Paul Dano asked how Samantha was doing and when I told him ‘dead’ and showed him the photo of Samantha’s disemboweled body, he cringed.”

Taxidermy isn’t the only option. Heather Mitchell Braatz, who lives in Milwaukee, chose another route for her cat, Poopy. In 2004, when Braatz was in art school and Poopy was a kitten, she saw a cat skeleton in a Chris Schneberger photo exhibit.

Heather Mitchell Braatz had her cat Poopy articulated.Heather Mitchell Braatz

“It was super awesome,” she remembers. When it was time to decide what to do with Poopy’s remains, Braatz and her husband found a vendor on Etsy to perform an articulation. “Cremation’s terrible for the environment,” Braatz says. There’s a green pet cemetery a few hours away, “but I’d never visit that far north.” And it’s against city regulations to bury pets in your back yard where she lives. Plus, whenever Poopy was naughty, she used to joke that she would boil his bones and keep him under glass. Though he wasn’t boiled (that turns bones yellow), an articulated Poopy does now occupy a place of honor in Braatz’s house. “I think everyone but my mother-in-law was pleased that he turned out nicer than they had expected,” Braatz says. “I was kind of surprised by how many people were concerned that he was going to smell bad when he came back. He didn’t even smell like glue! It was great … My husband and I are super thrilled that he’s home.”

Displaying the family pet’s corpse on the mantle isn’t always a comfortable topic.

Braatz doesn’t exactly hide her articulated Poopy.Heather Mitchell Braatz

“Death is no fun to think or talk about,” Kane acknowledges. “It gives me a pit in my stomach just thinking about my whippet Laika someday passing away.”

Still, Kane believes it’s important to consider what you’ll want to do when the time comes. Whether one opts for something traditional like burial or an alternative option like aquamation, taxidermy or articulation, having a plan in place can help ease the pain of loss and turn grief into something meaningful.

“The moment everything was organized, I felt instant peace,” says Mann, Samantha’s owner. “I am going to be OK because Samantha will always be with me — literally.”

Article source: http://nypost.com/2017/05/16/these-extremely-loving-owners-preserve-their-pets-for-eternity/

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