Kathy Kuebler’s golden retriever Alex was having a good day.
“That morning he had a great morning, was feeling great,” recalled the 43-year-old St. Charles resident. “He was doing so well, I took him to see his groomer.”
“It turned out to be his last time to see her,” she added.
Alex’s cancer took a quick turn for the worse and the canine she’d known for almost a decade was gone.
Situations like Kuebler’s arise every day. It was something that local funeral home thought should be addressed. There are a number of services that simply cremate deceased pets but Baue thought more could be done. Thus it was that last summer, they created Baue Pet Services, a new concept in which the more than 75-year-old company extends some of the caring they provide for those who have lost human family members to those who have lost furry loved ones as well.
“We’re not just cremations,” said John Devaney, pet specialist in the new operation. “We’re more about helping families out during a hard time.”
Baue will host a pet remembrance ceremony at 2 p.m. April 30 at the Baue Pet Services Tribute Center, 4175 Shady Springs Lane, St. Peters. A balloon release will follow a talk by a grief counselor.
Devaney said Baue has handled more than 200 cremations since the new branch opened in a former Gateway emissions testing station near Baue’s Cave Springs location. Additional services can include pet tributes in which loved ones of the deceased – human and animal alike – can visit, mourn, read poems or prayers or play DVDs of the lost pet while deceased rests at the front in a casket or urn.
“It’s more of a tribute to the animal,” Devaney said. “More like a memorial service than a funeral,” he said.
An on-site grief room can allow for private viewing of the animal and contains books on dealing with the death of a pet. A funeral celebrant will also offer his services as will a grief counselor who is certified in pet loss. Those who use Baue can even receive a hair clipping or paw print. Keepsakes such as jewelry or a memorial blanket are also available.
“We do whatever anyone wants,” Devaney said. “We can webcast it for anybody who can’t be there. We did that for someone already. We have the capabilities to do pretty much any request.”
In fact, the only thing Baue doesn’t offer at this time is burial, although Devaney said that is being considered for the future.
Baue accepts all pets except horses, which require special equipment, although Devaney said so far virtually all business has been dogs and cats along with a few birds and, in one instance, a sugar glider.
He said the company’s eight-step cremation process uses a cross-checked system to ensure that animal remains are properly identified and tracked including an non-burnable identification disc that goes through cremation with the deceased.
“It’s very important that people have that piece of mind,” he said.
Baue’s animal facilities are located separately from those used for humans.
Devaney said he has seen instances in which the loss of a pet can be taken as hard or harder than the loss of a human.
“Pets are family too and we wanted to come up with a service that no one else in the area provided,” he said. “We know how hard it is and it’s a different kind of grief.”
Devaney said clients have responded well to the idea of services for pets. Some have even offered testimonials.
“We’re getting great feedback from the customers, nothing but praise,” he said. “I get letters in the mail from them about how great we’ve done and how much it’s meant to them.”
In fact, Devaney said the Baue family’s own dog was the first cremated there and part of the facility is named Shelby’s Room in the animal’s honor.
Kuebler said she opted only for cremation rather than the full tribute service but she was still impressed with Devaney’s professionalism when he came to retrieve Alex with a special van and stretcher.
“The vet’s office told me it was so dignified and so respectful,” she said. “That made me feel really good.”
Kuebler has also been attending Baue’s once-a-month support group for pet owners who have suffered a loss and said the grief counselor was helpful as well.
“She came and was with me the day he was cremated,” she said. “It really helped. It was good that someone was there to help get me through that difficult time.”