Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pet Taxidermy

As I read the following article I was struck by a few contradictory and very strong emotions. 

I am an avid animal lover, supporter, and welfare advocate, through and through. If it has anything to do with animals (dogs, cats and any other we equally), I want to know about it, study it, and comprehend it. We are living in a time that is pivotal in the history of our pets and the role they play in humans lives. We are understanding they are not so unlike us. We treat them for pain, emotional stability, behavioral issues, and they have almost all of the same biology, diseases, and illnesses that we do.  They also posses some that we humans lack. Animals possess incredibly acute perception, undying loyalty, and the intertwining of our lives is unparalleled for any time on our past.

There isn't a day that someone's pet isn't making news saving their owners lives. Whether it be from drowning, alerting their guardian about impending seizures, or from house fires, finding and rescuing after being trapped under snow, rubble, or even from being lost in the great outdoors. To understand their talent, love, and generous care for us is to be bound to their life as much as we are bound to our own family. In many cases, many of us view our pets as a part of our family.

It is because of this that this story struck such a poignant chord with me.

I am still perplexed by my response to it. If I feel as I do, then why would I be so shocked and repulsed by the idea of freeze drying my pet so that they could remain with me forever? If I feel so strongly about the bond we have with our companions why is it that I am not condoning and supporting this practice?

The loss of ones pet is a  painful heart breaking event. After their passing we make a personal choice to have our departed pet buried, cremated with their ashes kept safely contained by our side on a mantle, or preserved permanently frozen in expression to sit by our feet until we to move from this life. But would the lifeless shell of our pet be an adequate reminder, or a respectful way to eulogize them? Does the constant reminder of a pet who has passed away help us to heal, to move forward, and the love again? I don't know. But I do know that everyone handles grief differently, and everyone needs something to hold onto. I get that. But I can't help but to feel a little creeped out by a stuffed dead dog in a living room. There is a picture accompanying this article of the showroom of the taxidermists office with like 20 dogs all frozen and stuffed in an office. It's to disturbing for me to cut and paste into this blog.

I am asked often how I handle the passing of a pet, and the pain of that. The answer is that I have to understand that death is a part of life, and that life must always go on, and that we must never forget how fleeting, precious, and beautiful that life is. Being reminded of what we have lost, and clinging to that shell of a time with a loved one will never replace the warmth of their fur, the consoling of their purr, or the faithful cuddle of a wet nose on our cheek. 

When I am assisting someone to help their pet pass on and I am asked what I do, I tell them the truth. I miss the pets that I have lost very much. I tell them that I love them as I say goodbye, I feel grateful for the time we had, and I know in my heart that I did everything that I could every day of their lives to make their lives as happy as they made mine. After they are gone I take a small clipping of hair and they are buried in the cemetery of my home. They each have a headstone and they each have a plot of flowers planted at their grave site. That's how I keep them with me.

What do you think?
Let me know. 

Here's the article on pet taxidermy that has me asking myself what is to far when we lose something that we love and how do we let go of something we are grieving? 

Owners pay thousands, wait months for taxidermist to preserve their departed pets

Growing up on the family farm, Anthony Eddy learned early on not to get too attached to animals, including household pets. His devoted customers are a different story.
By: Associated Press report, Associated Press
SLATER, Mo. — Growing up on the family farm, Anthony Eddy learned early on not to get too attached to animals, including household pets.

His devoted customers are a different story. Pet lovers across the country count on the Saline County taxidermist to faithfully preserve Brutus, Fluffy and other beloved companions for posterity. Even if it means shelling out thousands of dollars and waiting more than a year for the pets’ return.

“They're very distraught, because their child has died. For most people, this animal is their life,” said Lessie “Les” Thurman Calvert, Eddy's office manager. “Some are kind of eccentric. But most of them are just like you and me. They don't want to bury or create them. They can't stand the thought ... It helps them feel better about the loss.”

The front showroom of Eddy's Wildlife Studio in downtown Slater is a testament to pet owners’ perseverance. Lifelike dogs and cats of all sizes are scattered along the floor, from a perky-looking Brittany spaniel to a regal Persian cat, a lone iguana and the stray cockatiel or two. Departed pets of all persuasions spend up to one year in hulking, freeze-dry metal drums before they are painstakingly preserved and returned to their owners.

Eddy said his business is one of the few in the country to specialize in pet taxidermy and has a two-month waiting list.

A former high school chemistry and biology teacher, hog farmer and Air Force veteran, Eddy started out in traditional taxidermy, stuffing great horned owls and pheasants with the help of a local veterinarian. He originally used the freeze-dry technique to preserve mounted turkey heads for hunters before realizing in the mid-1990s it could also work with pets.

Eddy, 64, compares his line of work to the mortician's trade — he'll share broad details about the process with customers, but likes to keep some mystery to the process and steer clear of the gross-out factor. He's quick to embrace the artistry of his craft, especially when it comes to the primping and prepping required once the internal organs and body fat are removed and the carcass is fully dry. Depending on the customer's preference, pets can be posed with a skyward gaze, an extended paw or with eyes closed, seemingly asleep.

“You just have a knack for it,” he said. “It's like an artist painting a picture.”

The degree of difficulty — and the scrutiny of demanding pet owners who can immediately detect flaws or imperfections in their loved ones — keep many traditional taxidermists from the domestic animal sector, said Steve Wolk, president of the National Taxidermists Association.

“No matter how perfect your pet comes out, there can still be something wrong,” said Festus, who owns Little Creek Taxidermy in Festus, Mo. “When you go deer hunting, you don't know what that deer looks like. Everybody knows exactly what their pets look like.”

Debbie Rosa, a 59-year-old teacher who splits her time between southern Maine and Port Charlotte, Fla., had her 17-year-old fox terrier Lexi preserved by Eddy when the dog died just before Christmas 2005. She said the choice was an easy one.

“I could stare at an urn, or I could stare at the ground in the cemetery, or I could hold and pet her,” Rosa said. “Her spirit is in heaven, but her body is here on Earth.”

Eddy and Calvert estimate they receive two to three pets each week, every week. The studio charges $850 for pets under 10 pounds and another $40 per additional pound.

Allen McConnell, a psychology professor at Miami University in Ohio who studies pet owners’ behavior, said those who opt for animal preservation can be motivated by grief, a need for belonging and anthropomorphism — the act of ascribing human attributes to animals or even inanimate objects.

“It's very common for people to memorialize important members of their family,” he said. “We often visit relatives in family gravesites on birthdays. ... It's part of an extended connection that people have.”

Eddy said he is no longer surprised by unusual requests from customers. It seems that as long as humans embrace animals as four-legged friends, those bonds will continue past the pet's expiration date.

“It runs the whole gamut,” he said, mentioning turtles, guinea pigs, snakes and more. “If you've got a pet of some kind, somebody's going to want you to preserve it.”

Taxidermy helps owners deal with death of pets
Some people who cannot bear parting with their dogs, cats, turtles and guinea pigs are turning to taxidermists to preserve their pets' bodies. Few taxidermists are willing to preserve pets because owners are quick to spot small imperfections, according to the National Taxidermists Association. Those that do often have long waiting lists and charge upwards of $1,000 for the task. Psychology professor Allen McConnell sees the trend as an extension of humans' close ties to their animals.  Duluth News Tribune (Minn.)/The Associated Press (3/3)

1 comment:

  1. I feel taxidermy is a scam in this case, a way of capitalizing on the grief of people who lost their pet. We all have a different way of grieving or honoring a pet, but to see your pet "stuffed" is not only barbaric, but is also disrespectful to the life and companionship they gave you. Would you have a human loved one stuffed (other than the fact it is illegal)????
    The best way to honor your pet is to adopt another so they can have the chance and gift of a loving forever home.