Serving Pet Families Can Be a Worthwhile Proposition
Written by Chris Cruger with Alice Adams
My friend, Andra, called to tell me her beloved Schatzki, a beautiful 12-year-old German Shepherd, was in hospice, her voice choking with emotion. “I’ll call you as things move along,” she promised. “I cry every time I say ‘hospice,’” she confessed before ending the call.
A few days later, Schatzki succumbed in Andra’s arms as the vet administered the euthanizing injection.
Her vet was partnered with a local funeral home offering end-of-life services for pets. Two uniformed and neatly groomed attendants waited in a removal vehicle until Andra had said her tearful goodbye. While the vet summoned the waiting attendants, a friend led the sobbing woman out of the room for a glass of wine.
While Schatzki was in hospice, Andra made arrangements with the funeral home’s pet services division. She selected a private cremation where Schatzki would be the only animal placed in the retort. And although Andra did not want to witness her pet at the crematory, she did plan a celebration of Schatzki’s life, placing enlarged photos on easels around the crematory’s reception area where invited guests sipped champagne, snacked from a catered buffet, and shared their stories about Andra and her dog. Tables were decorated with Schatzki’s favorite flowers: roses.
At the end of the celebration, one of Andra’s friends from the county’s no-kill animal shelter spoke; and then a doggie food bowl was passed around and donations were made to the shelter in Schatzki’s memory.
Cremated remains were delivered to Andra a few weeks later in the beautiful urn she had selected; and when Andra passed away, Schatzki’s urn was placed in her casket as she wished.
Did you know:
End-Of-Life Pet Services
Chris Cruger, Chief Executive Officer of The Foresight Companies, encouraged funeral directors considering adding pet services to their offerings to first do their homework.
“Success or failure hinges on how pet services are added to your firm’s existing offerings,” Cruger said. “Two important questions to ask are, ‘Do we have the specific skills necessary to be successful?’ and ‘Can we do this and do it right?’”
He cautioned that “adding pet services requires many of the same steps as establishing a new funeral home or any new business. Talk with respected veterinarians in your area. Partner with those who reflect your business ethic and personal values. Do your research and find out whether there is any–or enough–business to justify the investment—like the purchase of a pet retort and providing a space, separate from your funeral home—to offer pet services such as visitations, receptions, and celebrations.
“I also want to emphasize, pet services done well will provide you with the opportunity to engage pet parents and their families and friends as well your firm and your name as a trusted professional and a provider are further proven,” Cruger added.
“It’s all about how you approach this or any expansion of your services,” Cruger continued. “As an example, when Schoedinger Funeral Home in Columbus, Ohio, added Schoedinger Pets Memorials and Pet Cremation, they established a high, professional bar for their services (for example, their pet removal team wears coats and ties). Personnel are trained to approach and handle the deceased pet with the same gentle compassion and respect that the pet’s family deserves.”
Additional standards and services at the Schoedinger Pets Memorials & Cremation Services include cremated remains returned to the pet parents in a wooden urn with the option of a customized name plate. The pet service offers a wide selection of keepsakes, along with providing the pet parents with the pet’s paw print in ink and a clipping of the pet’s fur, in a comprehensive packet of grief information for the entire family.
Mourning pet parents are given access to support from pet loss professionals who are also pet parents…and pet parents are invited to share the deceased pet’s story on their Facebook page and their website.
“The Pet Care addition was made in 1995, and this branch holds CPLP (Certified Pet Loss Professional) distinction and are active members of PLPA (Pet Loss Professionals Alliance),” Cruger continued. “Adding pet care services is not simply a one-time investment of resources, but an ongoing effort to remain knowledgeable of new trends in the profession, new equipment, new products and new services plus continuing professional education. It is a true commitment, just as providing funeral services for humans,” he added.
Aside from serving pet owners whose grief from a pet loss is often as deep as the loss of a human loved one, what better opportunity could there be to touch a family than through services for their beloved pet?
“Adding pet services takes a leap of faith,” Cruger explained. “You cannot just dabble. Either go all in or don’t go at all. Over the past 15 or 20 years, there has been a push to memorialize pets, which translates into a huge opportunity for professional pet services.
“How many times can you touch an individual or family that magnifies 10 times because–before you are asked to take care of a human family member–you have, professionally and compassionately taken care of a beloved pet? How better can you demonstrate your ability to provide services that are any more meaningful or more powerful?”
“Many times, I’ve had friends guiltily confide in me that they grieved more over the loss of a pet than over the loss of friends or relatives,” said Knox College’s Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology Frank McAndrew. “Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a pet is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one.
“Serving the end-of-life needs of an individual’s or family’s pets offers huge opportunities, but to do it well, to do it right takes work,” Cruger said. “Aside from the right equipment, services and products, it also takes the time needed to be engaged, to show up, to be dependable and to be there for those you are serving.”
A few final points from Cruger to consider: