For the Love of Our Animal CompanionsPosted: November 17, 2011
I met with Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation the other night, riding with her to a presentation as we discussed the evening’s event and upcoming work I’d be doing for her.
As always when I talk to Deb, our conversation is interrupted by phone calls. “I have to take this,” she says, so we pause while she takes the call. Normally, neither of us would interrupt a conversation whether business or social, but these calls are from families in need of her services, and if she’s awake and able to get to her phone, Deb will always answer their call and take the time to hear what they need.
I want to give her and her caller the privacy they deserve, which is difficult in the front seat of her HHR, but I can always drift off into my thoughts, remembering when I’ve been the family on the other end of the phone, calling because I knew Moses‘ passing was imminent and I wanted to be prepared, because it was suddenly Namir’s time and though I knew it would come I was absolutely distraught, or I had sat up all night with Peaches and been watching her process for days and could hardly talk I was so tired. When it was hard to believe Stanley’s incredibly long life was over, when I found it nearly impossible to leave Sophie, when Lucy still looked like a healthy active kitten, and when I couldn’t decide what to do with Cream’s cremains since she was still so obviously devoted to her owner though she’d died, Deb’s calm voice was on the other end of the phone, ready to listen and guide me. For all the times she calls for my business and we discuss website updates, press releases, and photographing new urns for blog and Facebook posts, the times when I need her business it’s surprising how easy it is to slip into these other roles where our relationships with our animals are the most important thing in life.
Too often it takes a tragedy to make change, and so it has been with the changing role with respecting the rights and needs of our animal companions, and our rights as those who care for them. Hurricane Katrina, where people simply would not leave their pets even though it could mean death or suffering, changed the way animals are treated in disaster response, ensuring that they can be rescued along with their humans, and emergency provisions are made for their care and welfare. Court cases where pets have been abused, stolen or killed have increasingly awarded incrementally greater punishment to the criminal and damages to the human who cared for the animal beyond “replacement cost”. And the public outcry around incidents like the escape of Jack the cat by the negligence of American Airlines in JFK airport, who though found two months later could not survive his deprivation and had to be put to sleep, will not doubt be the final push to treat animals as living creatures and not baggage by airlines.
Fewer people roll their eyes and make rude remarks about how we feel about our animal companions in life or in loss, and a service like Deb’s, a free-standing cremation and aftercare service specifically for animals, not an offshoot of a human service or a veterinary office, can thrive as if people had been waiting for it all along. And a number of us were waiting for it; I know I was. I’m also glad to see the evolution of respect for animals in our society, and respect for our relationships with them and the bonds we form with each of the individual animals in our lives.