A New Portrait: Madison

Madison, first proof

Madison, first proof

Yes, he’s really in the sink! I’m so pleased with this pose. When I work with a customer for a portrait, I ask them what comes to mind when they think about their animal companion. I advise them to choose a pose and setting as close to that visual as we can devise, using my own portraits as examples. It’s nice to have a formal setting where we can see every stripe and spot and whisker and sometimes this is entirely appropriate depending on the subject’s personality, but if they had a cute or quirky habit that can be illustrated into a portrait, we should do it! This is the first proof and it’s not quite his face yet, and of course the sink is just blocked in with some color, so there will be more finished views to come.

Madison’s person is the person I grew up next door to, but haven’t seen in years after she moved away for employment and then my mother moved out of her house and I sold it. Of all things, another person who grew up in our neighborhood but lives across the country found her on FaceBook and sent an e-mail, and we managed to get together when she visited her mother. How wonderful to find out she’s just as much an “animal person” as me, but sad to discover she had lost Madison at the age of only eight years old to diabetes.

I always let my customer make the decisions for the portrait, but if I see a good photo I’ll put in my vote without hesitation. He looked so natural in the sink and I loved his expression. “Oh, he was always in that sink!” she remarked. So here he is.

I’ll be posting updated views soon, but I’m getting ready merchandise for a festival this coming weekend and I may not update until after that.

Pet Memorial Sunday

Rainbow After the Storm

Rainbow After the Storm

One of my customers is someone who I met through my own need, Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation. Deb Chebatoris, the owner, hosts a remembrance ceremony every year on Pet Memorial Sunday, open to the public. Immediately below is my press release about the event, and below that is the story of how I met Deb, how she was with me through six losses, and how subsequently she became my customer and friend.

Remembering Our Animal Companions on Pet Memorial Sunday

For anyone who has loved and lost an animal companion, the need for respectful grieving and memorials is clear. Animals fill a deep place in our lives; for children they are sometimes the closest friend and confidant, for seniors they are often a singular daily companion. All who share their lives with an animal find a unique personality and a bond that’s hard to replace when gone.

The second Sunday of September is designated as Pet Memorial Sunday by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories, and for every year in which she has been in business, Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation has hosted a ceremony on this day dedicated to remembering our animal companions for anyone who has lost a pet.

This year the ceremony is on Sunday, September 13, 2009 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Melrose Cemetery in Bridgeville.

“Rituals build community, creating a meeting ground where people can share deep feelings or…keep a solemn silence,” Chebatoris says. “This event is for anyone who may have experienced the loss of a beloved pet, no matter when the loss occurred.”

Chebatoris invites speakers to discuss our relationships with our pets before, during and after their death. This year, Dr. Brad Carmichael of Pleasant Valley Veterinary Hospital in McMurray PA, will speak on “Our Last Moments Together”, Allison Holst, Bereavement Specialist, will talk about “Our Initial Grief Response”, and Barbara Golden, Animal Behaviorist, will discuss “The Joys of Pet Companionship”.

These speakers are followed by a reading of “Words of Tribute” written by pet owners who attend. Chebatoris encourages participants to write a 50-word tribute to commemorate and remember the lives they shared with their special pets, and has tips and examples on her website for composition.

“Keeping a tribute to your pet to only 50 words can be a challenge,” Chebatoris remarks, “but limiting your remembrance to 50 words helps you to focus on the essential elements that made your pet special.”

Also, attendance is usually between 30 and 40 persons, and Chebatoris wants to make sure everyone’s tribute is heard in the limited time scheduled for the gathering.

Families are also encouraged to bring a photo of their pet to be displayed during the ceremony.
Possibly the most moving part of the event is the dove release. After all the speakers and the readings and the candle-lighting ceremony, “we release a flock of white doves to symbolize our ability to let go of our precious companions,” Chebatoris explains.

“I’m so glad to be in my fifth year of hosting this ceremony,” Chebatoris says. “When I read through my thank you notes, I can see how grateful people are, and many people return year after year even if they haven’t lost a pet.”

The gathering will be held under a tent in the cemetery with light refreshments served afterward as families are invited to share their experiences with each other and speak to the presenters. The public is invited to attend, but Chebatoris needs an RSVP to know the number who wish to attend. Also, in order to provide a peaceful environment for all, it is not appropriate to bring live pets to this event.

For more information or to RSVP, please visit the website at http://www.ccpc.ws or call Deb at 412-220-7800. The Pet Memorial Sunday page on the site includes an e-mail address for Deb as well as instructions for composing and sending your Words of Tribute.

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How I first began working with Deb…

I’m so glad Deb is the person I can turn to when I’ve lost one of my cats, something that has happened all too frequently in the past three years.

At the beginning of 2005 I knew that I was going to lose Moses in the next month or so. I have my cats cremated and scatter their cremains in the yard they enjoyed. I remembered having read an article about a new business in Bridgeville, close enough to me, so I did a little search for the article and found it. When I had Moses put to sleep at the end of February I called to make an appointment to take her to CCPC afterward. Deb, the owner, knew my name from my animal portraits, which she had seen in the homes of people she had visited to receive and deliver pets.

Just a month later, I had Cream put to sleep. Cream was 15 and had died of kidney failure just 10 months after joining my household. She had come to me because her person had died, and even though I knew Cream liked me and she had integrated well into the house, she was holding on because she was afraid she’d never see her person again. I told Deb that keeping Cream’s cremains just didn’t feel right because Cream didn’t want to stay with me. Deb suggested I find the woman’s grave and scatter Cream’s eventual cremains on it. I was immediately relieved, and it seemed Cream was, too, because she relaxed and gave in to her condition. I was too upset to come up with this on my own, but Deb was insightful enough to suggest it.

I’ve lost six cats since I’ve known Deb and her business, and I would recommend her compassionate and respectful attitude toward both you and your pet, and her understanding of your grief. At that sensitive time, I couldn’t imagine anyone else.

I am careful of the customers I take on because I want to make sure I am fully committed to their need for design and public relations. Who better, then, than a person and a business I have used and would recommend? I’ve maintained Deb’s website since then, and this year we redesigned her logo and built a new website, which we’ll upload any day. Visit the site at www.ccpc.ws.

A Pile of Cats

Four on the Bed

Four on the Bed

How many cats are in this photo? It’s the Fantastic Four, all heaped together on the first cool day of late summer/early autumn, upstairs on the bed where the sun creeps in during the afternoon. Mimi’s children are two now, but still play, sleep and bathe together as they did when they were kittens.