Taken from KCTV5.com
For many people, pets are much more than a guard dog or a mouse catching cat. They are family.
More and more, people are looking for a way to remember them in death akin to the way they would memorialize a human family member, and the metro-area has several options for that.
“It’s inevitable that most likely were going to outlive our pets and so this is a decision that almost everybody that has a pet at home is going to have to face,” said Ashlee Parker, who made the decision to euthanize her Miniature Schnauzer, Truman, last March, at the age of 15.
People like Parker are one reason why pet funerals have become a growing business.
Truman got birthday cakes. He got Christmas photos taken on Santa’s lap.
“He definitely was like my fur baby,” said Parker. “I was single, moved all around the country and he was just the one constant in my life.”
Her husband, Aaron Osborne, says the way they treated Truman, and the way they treat their other two dogs, Lucy and Oscar, would have been laughed at in the days when he had dogs growing up.
“You’ve got the bakeries and doggie daycare,” said Osborne. “If people said 30 years ago, we’re taking our dog to doggie daycare, [they’d say] ‘You’re what?’”
When it was time to say goodbye, they came to Wayside Waifs’ Pet Memorial Services. The non-profit animal shelter in South Kansas City has had a pet cemetery since 1947, but in 2008, they added a building dedicated solely to memorial services.
“It’s just exactly like if you were to go to a funeral for any family member actually because that’s what these pets are to everybody,” said Ronnie Wise, the manager of Wayside Waifs Pet Memorial Services. “They are family members.”
Putting pets to rest has also become a booming business on the for-profit front.
Coleen Ellis, who founded the nation’s first stand-alone full-service pet funeral home in 2004, says that change in the way people treat their pets in life has created a growing demand for expanded pet services in death.
“The demands and requests that are coming to us for end-of-life services are really mimicking what’s happening over in the human side,” said Ellis, pointing to a similar trend in what type of care people want for their pets in life. “They are adding services at a doggy daycare, such as the doggie cam, making it like a child at day care. At the grooming places they’re adding things like massages and facials.”
Ellis has a background in human funeral homes and began her first pet funeral home after her dog, Mico, passed away, and she couldn’t find the kind of services she wanted.
“What I wanted and what we’re seeing with our pet parents today is that they want an experience,” said Ellis.
Ellis’ business expanded from one home in Indiana in 2004 to a chain of Pet Loss Centers that now has seven locations in Texas and Florida.
Locally, services has expanded as well.
In 2009, Amos Funeral Home, in Shawnee, added a pet crematory to its human funeral home.
Rolling Acres, in the Northland, is a full-service pet cemetery, crematorium and funeral home that’s been around since 1973. They too expanded in 2012 with a 10-thousand square foot building as demand grew.
They aren’t just for dogs and cats, but larger animals like horses too. Nancy Piper, who owns the business with her husband, says the 5,000 animals buried there include an angus steer, pot-bellied pigs and various pet birds, including one owl. They provide cremation burials and live burials for animals. They are not authorized to do full body burials for people, but they have several side-by-side plots where people have requested that their cremains be buried alongside their pets.
They have a chapel for services, a comfort room for euthanasia services and a witness room for private cremation. They also have an on-site crematory equipped to handle large animals like horses.
In the years since adding the Pet Memorial Services building to its grounds, Wayside Waifs added a third crematory to keep up with demand. You can find pet-sized caskets with satin lining and pillows. There is an open-casket viewing room and a living room setting, like Rolling Acres’ comfort room.
“This is like coming to an actual funeral parlor,” said Wise. “We actually had somebody bring out their rabbi. Another person brought out there priest.”
The offering most meaningful to Parker and Osborne was the euthanasia service. Rolling Acres provides the room if the customer provides the veterinarian. Wayside Waifs has a veterinarian on staff.
Osborne recalled bring his childhood dog to a veterinarian’s office to be put down. Although the vet was compassionate, he said the metal exam table was cold and the environment not nearly as peaceful as the one Wayside Waifs was able to provide.
“It was not an ideal place,” said Osborne of the typical way of doing it. “You’re at the vet’s office seeing someone bring their puppy in for the first vaccination. We’re going through one of the worst days of our lives and this other person is all happy because they’re having a puppy.”
When it was time for Truman to go, they had a private room, with a sofa. They had unlimited time to snuggle and say goodbye, then laid Truman on the sofa, to administer the drugs that ended his life.
“It was just more personal to come here to do it in like a family room type setting,” said Parker. “It just really gave us the closure and comfort that we needed. There was never any doubt in my mind that we were doing the right thing for him, and that was really what it was more about. It was more for him to go and be surrounded by love.”
She also comforted to know that what she paid for the services would be going to help the shelter and the rescue dogs looking to start a new life.