|from The Pet Tribune Magazine|
Now They Can Be With You Forever
"Pretty was the most unusual cat we ever had," says Vie Ketch. "She had quite a personality and could meow upon command. My wife's an animal nut and took her in as a stray 15 years ago. Pretty was her favorite, so when she up and died, she wanted to preserve her and keep her in the living room where she belonged."
Ketch, a retired construction remodeler in Odessa, Florida, ended up shipping Pretty to Jim Johnson, a taxidermist in Green Bay, Wisconsin who recently began freeze-drying pets for grief-stricken owners.
"In the past," says Johnson, "I wouldn't have done small pets, but with freeze-drying, there's very little labor involved. My turnaround time for a pet is no more than six weeks versus eight months to a year for conventional taxidermy. Plus, with freeze-drying, you actually end up with a more lifelike, anatomically correct specimen."
Thanks to revolutionary technological advances, preserving pets through freeze-drying has finally become an economically feasible alternative.
"In conventional taxidermy," explains Larry Blomquist, publisher of Breakthrough, a taxidermy trade journal, "there are forms (urethane 'mannequins' that the skin is fitted over) available for various game species, but with pets, there's such a tremendous variation in species, size and appearance, that sculpting and preparing a form to capture individuality becomes a very expensive, time-consuming process. Freeze-drying eliminates the need for sculpting a form for each individual pet, which brings the cost down considerably. I've definitely seen an increase in the number of pet owners who choose that option."
The surge in popularity of pet preservation through freeze-drying, says Blomquist, is due in large part to equipment manufactured by Freezedry Specialties, Inc., a Minnesota company that's done for freeze-drying what IBM did for computers: Transforming a complicated, expensive process into a user-friendly, affordable option for smaller users like taxidermists and veterinarians.
Alan Anger, CEO of Freezedry Specialties, is so convinced that there's a large, untapped market for pet preservation that he's started a program called "Forever Friends," in which a bereaved pet owner can call a toll-free number and be directed to a local veterinarian or taxidermist who offers freeze-drying.
"We think it will revolutionize the pet industry," says Anger. "You can preserve your cat, exotic bird or any other pet you may have by freeze-drying it and keeping it with you in your home forever."
Anger has encountered skepticism about his program but, he says, any doubt quickly gives way to enthusiasm as soon as a customer puts his equipment to the test.
"I was kind of skeptical about the freeze-drying process," admits Johnson, "but having worked with it for a year, I'm quite pleased." Johnson was so pleased, in fact, that he bought a second machine from Freezedry Specialties and has no problem operating both at full capacity.
"I have no doubt that there will be veterinarians who will embrace this technology," adds Blomquist. "The freeze-drying process is simple and easy to learn. And veterinarians more so than taxidermists understand the different species of pets and what they look likeso they're well suited to take care of that need."
Phil Bolsta is a freelance writer, residing in Minnesota.