FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — For many people, their pets are an extension of their family, so when it comes time to say goodbye, making choices about how to handle the pet's remains can be hard.
For Madeleine Laird, director of H.O.P.E. for Animals, losing her longtime canine companion, Cheyenne, was very difficult. But instead of making an arrangement through her veterinarian's office for cremation, she went one step further. She took Cheyenne to the Tribute Center to be cremated.
The cremation center is the newest of DO McComb & Sons' business ventures. It is a crematorium designed for people, but also has a special chamber to handle pets that weigh up to 300 pounds.
"The people there were wonderful, at such a tough time," Laird told The News-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1cUpV60 ).
The new business started a little over a year ago. Dave McComb said it has been very successful so far, with hundreds of clients using the new service. They offer two options, a totally private cremation for the pet or one that is semi-private. The difference is the pet can be cremated alone, or dividers are put into the chamber and other animals are cremated, separately, at the same time.
The main difference is the cost. Fees for a semi-private cremation start at $110 for an animal that is 1 pound to 60 pounds and increase in $20 increments up to 151 pounds-plus. A private cremation starts at $150, and if the dog weighs over 151 pounds, it can cost $250 plus $1 for each additional pound.
Do clients favor private or semi-private?
"It's about 50-50," McComb said
Besides the cremation service, the company sells urns and unique wooden boxes for the pet's ashes, starting at $80, while a more traditional urn starts at $50 and runs up to $130.
If you would like a moment with your animal to say goodbye, there is a private room called the "Emma Room," named after the first dog cremated there.
Decorating the walls of the dimly lit room are photographs of dogs, lots of them. They are not previous clients, but instead the pets of the employees at the Tribute Center, although there is a special photo of Emma.
It you would like a more lasting memory of your pet, the staff are happy to get a paw print, or a nose impression, which can be displayed, in a variety of ways. The nose prints can be used to make pendants or key chains, while the paw prints can be made into a miniature impression for a locket, or used on a stone for a memorial or for decorative stone for your garden.
There are three ways to get your pet to the Tribute Center: you can bring your pet in, or you can schedule a "gentle" removal from your home or veterinarian's office.
If owners would like a permanent resting place for their pet's ashes, the Tribute Center recommends Riverview Pet Cemetery.
There are other services in the area that veterinarians use. Minnick Services was the company McComb used before it built its own crematorium, and still does its vaults. Minnick Services owns Paws and Remember, which provides pet cremation and remembrance services and items, including individualized glass pendants that contain a small portion of a pet's cremated remains. Pet Rest, located near Ossian, has cremation services and a memory garden to bury pets in.
Unlike these services, the Tribute Center is not affiliated with any veterinarians, McComb said. They advertise through news releases and trade shows and work with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"We prefer to have our model stand-alone," McComb said. "You can certainly request us if you are at a veterinarian's. But as far as having our service as a part of a veterinary service, we are just not interested in that at this time."
Although he has not seen it yet, McComb said, there are as many types of pets cremated by their owners. His colleagues across the country said they have seen even guinea pigs and rabbits cremated.
These days, the immediate family support system is no longer there, McComb said, as children move away from home. "A pet can fill some of that role. Us humans, we have an innate desire for companionship. Our pets take on some of the role as a family member," he said.
The Tribute Center has a special brochure written by Allan Wolfelt, a Colorado author, educator, and grief counselor, about grief for the loss of a pet. Wolfelt comes every year to speak on the subject of grief, and having him do a pet brochure is an added benefit for their clients, McComb said.
Information from: The News-Sentinel, http://www.news-sentinel.com/ns