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Frank Gray

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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
This ossuary is for Emma, the first pet to be cremated at D.O. McComb & Sons’ Tribute Center.

Memorials to pets prove it’s more than puppy love

An unusual item appeared in the newspaper the other day. It was an obituary – for a dog.

The death notice identified the dog’s owner and even included calling hours at D.O. McComb & Sons new Tribute Center on West Main Street near Lindenwood Cemetery.

While the obituary was, as far as I can recall, a first for the newspaper, the concept of special treatment for a deceased pet is nothing new.

People have been falling in love with their pets since long before Rin Tin Tin, Lassie or Old Yeller came along, sometimes with good reason. A pet will never tell you you’re ugly or overweight, and it will never ask you where you’ve been when you come home late. It will just be delighted to see you.

While your kids may prove to be crushing disappointments, a pet generally doesn’t have the wherewithal to ruin the family name, get busted for selling drugs or sell your jewelry while you’re out of town.

Truth be told, for many people, a pet is the most loyal – even the only truly loyal – creature in their lives.

That has become evident to the people at D.O. McComb. A lot of people want a respectful exit for their pets, so when the funeral home opened the Tribute Center in October it included something unusual: a separate crematorium for pets, and a separate room, now called Emma’s Room, where a deceased pet can be briefly laid out and the owner can enter and say hello and offer one last goodbye before cremation, Dave McComb says.

It’s just a sign of the times, he said. Pets have become more important as members of the traditional family move to far-flung places. Kids leave. Wives leave. But pets remain as faithful companions and, McComb said, their status has become elevated.

Other animals, such as service dogs and police dogs, have earned a higher status in the minds of many. Maybe they don’t rate a funeral, but a thoughtful sendoff is soothing for the owners.

McComb’s can either cremate a pet and put its ashes in an urn, or arrange a burial in a portion of Riverview Cemetery that has been set aside for pets.

The funeral home hasn’t promoted the service yet, but at a Tribute Center open house, the concept drew a lot of attention and was well received, McComb said.

“We’ve had requests for even services for a while now,” McComb said.

While you won’t find preachers conducting funerals (don’t all dogs go to heaven anyway?) there can be services where an owner or friend might even eulogize an animal and friends or family members can show up and offer condolences.

“What we’ve learned is that people fall into two categories: pet owners and pet parents.”

To the pet parent, a pet becomes just as important as any other member of the family, somebody they will always remember.

The cost of a pet cremation? It varies depending on the size of the animal, which can obviously vary wildly, but the pet crematorium can handle animals up to 300 pounds.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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