- Death & Loss of Life
Freeze-drying Your Beloved Pet
Freeze-drying is a revolutionary new technology which has recently become an economical alternative for preserving pets. Each practitioner of the art usually has different techniques, experience and talent. While cost can be a factor, shopping for a bargain in this area may not be your best bet. Employing a cheaper service could mean sacrificing quality. While our pets are alive we strive to find the best veterinarian we can trust to care for them. Shouldn't the same effort apply when creating a lasting memorial for a loved pet's life?
Freeze-drying is a highly specialized field of taxidermy using large freeze-dry machines to remove moisture from a body while remaining frozen. Thus the name, freeze-dry. In contrast to typical taxidermy, freeze-drying allows a pet's natural body and bone structure to remain intact. In this way individual characteristics of a pets’ body, and facial features remain virtually undisturbed.
It sounds simple, but many steps must be completed before a pet is ready to pose and freeze-dry. Each step of the process is designed to return a preserved pet looking and feeling as natural and realistic as it was in life.
It should be noted here, freeze-dry services promising quality at a discounted price in a short amount of time may not be a good idea. It is not possible to freeze-dry a pet correctly, with its natural skeleton body intact, within 45 days. True, a professionally done job takes more time and costs a little more, but you’ll get what you pay for.
If your pet is aging or ill you may want to take care of a few details in advance. Some businesses will provide a kit along with instructions that will keep contents frozen up to 5 days at 90-degree temperatures. It is very important to freeze a pet as soon as possible after time of death.
You may ask how realistic and natural do freeze-dried pets look. Let’s examine the case of Deborah Rosa, a retired science teacher from Saco, Maine who had her wirehaired fox terrier, Lexi, preserved. "The pain was so great when I lost her," said Rosa. Now, "her spirit is in heaven and her body is with me.When a handyman came to her house to replace a bathroom counter, he spotted her lying quietly on a bedroom chair and commented on how quiet she was. Imagine his surprise when he discovered Lexi had died about four years previous.
When it comes to preserving animals most people think of taxidermy. Taxidermy involves skinning an animal and stretching the hide over a mold. Freeze-drying removes moisture through a vacuum process and preserves an animal much more realistically. The process can take six months to a year.
A handful of companies in the U.S. currently offer freeze-drying services. Rosa chose Anthony Eddy's Wildlife Studio of Slater, Mo. His customers are so attached to their pets they cannot bear to let them go, he says. "It seems to give them comfort to have that pet back in their presence."
According to Eddy, customers paying for this kind of service typically do not have children. Many come from non-rural areas. "If you have a farm, you are used to life and death," says Eddy, a former farmer and teacher.
The preserved pets are usually old and often dying of cancer or heart failure. In most cases they have been with their owners a very long time.
When faced with a pet's impending death owners should already be prepared. The owner or a veterinarian must place the pet in a freezer within hours. Otherwise decomposition will set in. Or at the very least, the body should be refrigerated. It is not possible to dig up a buried pet and then salvage the body.
The pet should be wrapped in a blanket or towel and secured in a plastic bag, with the legs pulled in so the animal fits in a rectangular cooler. People sometimes include their pet's collar or bed. One woman sent the basket from the top of the refrigerator, where her cat always slept.
Many people find it creepy, weird or crazy to have a pet freeze-dried. On the other hand there's also a lot of curiosity.
Most customers don't replace their pet with another one, says Lessie Calvert, Eddy's shop manager. "They want a pet that is going to act like that pet did, and they can't find one," she says. “One customer adopted a new cat and was disappointed, complaining the new cat didn't act like the old one.”