This blog post was reprinted from an article in the Northern Express from May 26, 2008. Written by Anne Stanton.

A Funeral for Fido – Northern Express Article

People through the ages have asked, do dogs go to heaven when they die? Here’s another question you might not have thought about: Where does your cat or dog go if and when they’re put to sleep?

Well, now that you ask… a downstate cremation company makes a weekly round of area veterinarians’ offices, picks up the animals, and cremates them. Ashes are returned a couple of weeks later to the owner. Some people and area veterinarians can also go to Oakwood Veterinary Hospital in Traverse City to have their animals cremated.

Those opting not for cremation…? Well, those pets go to a landfill. So do the very few dogs and cats that are euthanized each year at the Cherryland Humane Society.

Now Kerri and Dustin Collier, who own Great Lakes Pet Memorial & Crematory, offer alternatives that range from cremations to full-blown funerals, including the burial and an officiator, who will conduct a memorial service.

Kerri said that her new business, located in an industrial park south of Traverse City, takes the loss of pets as seriously as owners do. It offers granite headstones, caskets, handcrafted urns by local artists, and glass jewelry pieces that can be infused with the pet’s ashes. The most popular item: a “memory box” that serves both as a photo frame and an ash container.

People feel really bad when they lose a pet, and I just don’t think it’s taken seriously enough,” Kerri said. “Sometimes you need to take some time off work for bereavement. The hurt is just too much.

‘A LOT NICER’

Ashley Collard said she turned to Great Lakes Pet Memorial in February when she knew that she had to put her young basset hound to sleep.

“I’m kind of anal about the fact that I want to know what’s going to happen, and I wasn’t really comfortable with our vet sending our dog downstate for cremation — it would have taken a week or two to get her back. So we told our vet we wanted to send her there, and she was great about it.

“It was a lot nicer to use Great Lakes Pet Memorial. They’re in town, and we were able to get her back right away. They were also friendly, and I’m glad because it was such a hard thing to go through. She was only two—she had a brain tumor, and it was very difficult. For having to go through that, it was really good.”

Collard said her dog’s ashes came back in an attractive “paw print” keepsake box with a sympathy card, a poem, and a clay casting of her dog’s paw print. “My boss was really impressed by that. She had three different dogs cremated, and they were all given back in a Zip Lock plastic bag. It’s your pet; it’s your family. You don’t want their ashes returned in a Zip Lock bag.”

Kerri said her idea for the new business came from her grandpa, who used to treat his Shih Tzu, Suzie, like a favorite child. “He spoiled her unbelievably, making sure—if he had to leave her alone—that she’d have some music to listen to and air conditioning. He’d even be offended if his kids didn’t call him on Suzie’s birthday.”

A SHRINE FOR SUZIE

Kerri said she was visiting her grandpa in Florida after Suzie had died. Deeply grieved, he had called a memorial pet service to have her cremated. The company also helped him create a shrine, which included an urn, her dog collar, and a Shih Tzu figurine, the same color as Suzie. He took Kerri and Dustin to see the little business that had helped him through.

Kerri and Dustin returned to Traverse City and immediately began making plans to open a similar company, which opened in March and has slowly caught on. Remember the Cherryland Humane Society disposing of animals in the landfill? Executive Director Mike Cherry is now in touch with Kerri to see about the cremation option.

Kerri said their primary service is to cremate an animal and return the ashes a day later in a keepsake box. Or if an owner prefers, they spread the ashes in their flower and rose garden with a small plastic memorial, photo and name.

Kerri would like some day to be able to cremate horses for owners, who face special challenges in disposing of their animals. Cost of cremation ranges from $40 to $285, depending on size and services.