All dogs (and cats, and iguanas) go to heaven

A Maine pet crematorium gives man’s best friends the goodbyes they deserve
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  July 18, 2008
MOJO'S LAST MOMENTS: With Desrosier (left) and Cheri Lavoie.

When Mojo was born, her biological mother didn’t want to have anything to do with her. So, as a mother dog might have done, Cheri Lavoie bit open Mojo's placenta, to ensure that the puppy could breathe. On July 3, eleven years after helping bring her into the world, Lavoie helped put Mojo's body into the cremation retort (a/k/a the oven) where the 130-pound dog would meet her final end, her body transformed from flesh and bone into, well, little bits of bone and ash.

Lavoie’s final moments with Mojo's remains, which took place at the Fluke’s Aftercare pet crematorium in Litchfield, were a fitting tribute to their 11-year human-animal bond. For one thing, Mojo was physically honored: fur clippings were taken from her body, and her inky paw print was impressed onto paper and onto Lavoie’s hand. But more important was the air of reverence that surrounded the entire procedure, from when Lavoie arrived — straight from the vet, with Mojo’s euthanized body in the back of the car — to when the time came to bid a final farewell to the dog.

“Do you want a few moments alone with her?” asked Linda Desrosier, half of the husband-wife team that runs Fluke’s. After a few seconds of respectful silence, the two women heaved Mojo’s body into the retort. The door, like one for a garage, slid closed. And the oven started to pre-heat.

Throughout the morning, Lavoie expressed how grateful she was that Desrosier, and her business, exist. “I’m glad that you’re here,” she said. “There aren’t enough people like you in the world.”

Indeed, it was for that reason that Desrosier and her husband John started Fluke’s Aftercare in 2003. When their five-year-old shepherd-hound “fur-baby,” Fluke, died of lymphoma that year, they searched far and wide for “a place like us to bring him to,” Desrosier says — an establishment that offered personalized, homey services and treated the pet, the owner, and the grief with due respect. The closest one was in New Brunswick, Canada, so the Desrosiers were forced to bring Fluke to a local crematorium, where his dog body was placed in a freezer, and where — though they received assurances to the contrary — Fluke may have been cremated at the same time as other pets; his cremains may not even be wholly him. The whole experience was impersonal and upsetting, Desrosier says. “I got Fluke back in a white cardboard box, and he deserved a lot more than that.”

And so the couple took the do-it-yourself outlook to a whole new level. They borrowed money to build a licensed crematorium on their 88 acres in Litchfield; they researched urn manufacturers, bought a $50,000 retort, and took an online course in bereavement counseling. Over the past five years, they’ve made their living cremating hundreds of animals — mostly dogs and cats, but also a few pot-bellied pigs, and iguanas, a turtle, and a llama.

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Culture and Lifestyle, Dogs, Pets
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