This blog post was reprinted from an article in the Northern Express from October 26, 2009. Written by Al Parker.
New Trend: Pet Funerals – Northern Express Article
The inspiration for Kerri Collier’s business came while visiting her grandfather in Florida.
“He had lost his beloved Shih Tzu, Susie, who died and it was really hard on him,” she remembers. “He created a memorial shrine to Susie that contained her collar, some of her toys and other items. I thought other pet owners might want to do the same.”
So early in 2008, Traverse City native Collier and her husband, Dustin, opened Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory to serve pet owners who have lost a much-loved member of their family. From its building located south of Chum’s Corner, the company serves grieving pet owners from Ludington to Cheboygan.
“Both of us are really entrepreneurial-minded and were never interested in working for other people,” explains Kerri, who maintains a real estate license. “The idea to serve and comfort these grieving pet owners struck us as a great idea.”
And at a time when so many businesses are struggling in an ailing economy, the Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory has seen a dramatic increase in business.
“We’ve nearly doubled our earnings from last year in just the first six months of this year,” says Kerri. “We’ve provided pet cremation and funeral services to over 550 families.”
SUPPORT FROM VETS
Many of those clients come to the facility through the nine area veterinarians who work closely with Great Lakes Pet Memorial.
Jennifer Klabunde, owner of the Northwood Animal Hospital in Grawn, says the most difficult part of her job as a veterinarian is dealing with the euthanasia of a beloved family pet.
“This is never an easy decision for the pet owner to make,” she says. “It is my job to make sure the process is compassionate, smooth, personal and efficient. To have a pet crematorium who has the same ideals that our hospital does is of utmost importance. The staff at Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory goes above and beyond to accommodate our hospital.”
That sentiment is echoed by Cyndi Bobier, hospital manager at Banfield, The Pet Hospital of Traverse City.
“Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory delivers sensitive, caring service where it is most needed,” she says. “They have accommodated our hospital and clients with tremendous dedication to helping others with the loss of their pets.”
Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory is designed to serve mostly dogs and cats, but they can provide services on site for iguanas, birds, rabbits, goats, hamsters, mice – virtually any animals that weigh up to 500 pounds. For larger animals, like horses, they subcontract with a facility in Grand Rapids.
The business’s fully stocked retail area offers an impressive line of creative memorial urns for dogs and cats, including photo urns, vase urns and rock urns, ranging in prices from $10 to $300. Family members can even create touching keepsakes that feature a paw print or nose impression of their pet.
There’s also an assortment of burial markers and memorial plates. Pet owners can also arrange to memorialize their companion in a custom designed oil painting.
“Most of today’s pet owners believe that their dogs, cats and other pets are true companions and family members,” says Kerri. “They treat the loss of that pet accordingly, with the same dignity, love and respect they would anybody else. It’s not just about ashes anymore. Today’s pet owners want more compassion and a personal touch when dealing with the sometimes overwhelming grief that is associated with losing a cherished pet.”
The Colliers provide pet owners with a variety of cremation services, including private, semi-private and communal cremation. They range in price from $50 to $285, depending on the weight of the pet. Each cremation package includes a personalized remembrance card, three touching poems and a special paw print tin that contains the ashes.
An array of pet funeral services are offered, some with a licensed officiator and some without. Your pet is placed in a casket and the service is similar to a viewing or wake. If it’s preferred, family and friends can officiate their own service by sharing a few words or memories about their beloved companion. For either service, the Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory building is closed to other customers and the service is held in private.
Another option is to have your pet’s casket delivered to a location of your choice and the funeral service can be provided there with an officiator and family present at the burial site.
A pet’s death can often come on the heels of expensive veterinary expenses, so the Colliers offer services to help keep costs down.
“We understand that not everybody has the money to spend on a pet funeral or cremation, but that doesn’t mean that they love their pets any less,” says Kerri. “With that in mind, we offer a ‘Planning Ahead’ program that lets you make payments over time. Some of our cremation services start as low as $50. We also have many types of memorial products from picture frames, paintings, river rocks and granite markets that can be placed in a garden. There are lots of ways to remember a pet, many starting at less than $20.”
The Colliers even provide access to counselors to help grieving families, especially children, overcome the loss of a pet.
“We offer a special package designed for children dealing with the loss of beloved pet,” says Kerri. “Often this is a child’s first encounter with death and we help them get through the process.”
For more information, go to www.glpetmemorial.com or call (231) 421-1370.