Furry friends get fond farewells

[attach]1784[/attach]The website looks like one of any other funeral service, with headings for “Grief Resources”, “Burial” and “Memorial Products”.

But when the eye meets another heading—“Euthanasia”— it quickly becomes clear that this is not your average funeral home.

No, this website is for Pets at Peace, a cremation and memorial service for those furrier members of our families and the first of its kind in Toronto. Business for the online service was increasingly brisk, so owner Helen Hobbs opened the brick and mortar version in the Beach on June 5.

Hobbs, a licensed funeral director, opened the storefront on Queen St. East after bereaved pet owners using her website’s services kept requesting face-to-face consultations and wanted to see the memorial products in person.

The business originally came about when Hobbs took a break after eight years as more traditional funeral director. She opened Tails of the City, a doggie day care on Kingston Road, and that same year launched

“Pets at Peace made sense because I have four pets of my own … and I have a funeral background. And I thought, what am I going to do when my pets go? I don’t want to leave them just at the vet’s and walk away,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs says this feeling of not wanting to abandon a loved one when they take “that final journey” is why she’s seeing more and more customers.

“A lot more people are choosing to have their animal pass away at their house. They don’t want to go to the vets or make the decision for euthanasia at all. It’s just too guilt-ridden.”

And when that happens, Hobbs is there to help.

“A lot of people call because they’re at a loss. It’s usually at their home and they don’t know what to do. They aren’t comfortable taking their pet to the vet. We’re convenient; we’ll go to their home,” said Hobbs.

Pets at Peace is primarily a cremation facilitator that will take the deceased away to be cremated at a pet crematorium. This way, Hobbs says, families are sure to have their pet’s ashes — and only their pet’s ashes — back as quickly as possible. This isn’t always the case when taking the body to a vet.

“A friend of mine,” Hobbs said, “had an unfortunate incident with the vet in that it took like six weeks to get her cat’s ashes back. I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way’.”

The cremation service Hobbs’s business facilitates has a pet’s ashes back typically after four to seven days. Sometimes, however, families want more than a simple timely cremation.

“About 20 percent of people want to go to the crematorium. They want to make the final journey with their pets and we provide that service,” Hobbs said. In this case, families typically gather in a reception area at a local pet crematorium —“There’s a room with
couches and a box of Kleenex” — and bid a more formal farewell to their furry friends.

But not everyone is comfortable with the idea of giving pets a human-like send off, a fact Hobbs is well aware of.

“Unfortunately there isn’t really an acceptance of that yet,” she said.

But ultimately, she adds, it’s a very individual choice, from the cultural tone of a service—she’s facilitated Buddhist and Hindu-style viewings—down to the types of pets she sees.

Although about 70 percent of the pets she sees are cats, “We’ve had hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds and we’ve had one lizard.
Whatever anybody considers their animal companion, we’ve had.”

Hobbs’s reaction to those who wonder why a funeral service for pets is: Why not?

“I (worked for) years with human funerals. It’s very much the same. The grief is still the same, it’s still as powerful.”