Sponsored By: McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation
To many pet owners, their precious kitty or lovable pooch is a member of the family. When asked about a pet they lost, they may share with you how much they grieved when that pet died. You may also find that owners, after the death of their pet, had grief that was comparable to losing a human family member.
After a death, a funeral home has always been a safe place for healing to begin. About 10 years ago, Elayne Smith, a licensed funeral director with McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation, discovered that pet parents were looking for ways to remember their beloved, and cremation offered them several options. So, she decided to provide a place for pet parents to find healing and founded McAlister-Smith’s pet loss and cremation program.
Smith says many people are often surprised they have so many choices after their pet dies. These choices start with which provider to use. For those who have not experienced the death of a pet before, they may believe that the veterinarian’s office takes care of cremating their pet. However, the veterinarian has a provider that they work with to take care of the pet, and people are not obligated to use that same provider. Smith suggests asking some questions in advance, especially if you have an older or ailing pet, so you’re not forced to decide when you are grieving.
Here are some questions to ask about a pet cremation provider:
Is the company local?
Several companies cremate pets out of the local area and even out of the state. This limits the opportunity to meet with the person taking care of your pet, leaving you to make decisions over the phone or through the Internet.
Does the company have a good reputation?
Look at online reviews, ask friends and find out if they offer more than cremation services.
“There are several companies that do a good job of cremating pets. But, there's so much more to it than that,” Smith says. “Are they treating pets with respect and are they caring for the pet parents? That’s where the need is. Their grief will be softened if they know and trust who their provider is and develop a relationship with them.”
Can you visit the pet cremation facility?
At McAlister-Smith, people can bring their pet to any of the company’s four locations around the Charleston area. At that time, a staff person will greet them and their pet will be brought into care. People are also welcome to visit the cremation facility in West Ashley where the cremation is performed. Per request, a staff member will also pick up pets from vet offices or hospitals as well as private residences.
How does the company ensure the identity of your pet throughout the process?
Pet cremation is not necessarily held to the same standards as human cremation. However, Smith says that McAlister-Smith holds staff accountable to the same level of care for both people and pets. You should ask the question, “How do I know it’s my pet that I am receiving back?” If the provider cannot show and explain how they will ensure this, you may want to consider looking elsewhere.
Does the provider take the time to educate pet parents?
“We don't take a transactional approach,” Smith says. “It’s a relational approach. It’s not simply a matter of cremating a pet and returning them to the parent. We want to learn what else the family may need to make the experience meaningful, which will allow their healing to begin.”
What personalized or unique options are available?
Your provider should offer more than the cremation services. Some of the options available at McAlister-Smith include:
- A traditional urn to house the pet’s remains. Urns tailored for a water or earth burial are also available.
- Various keepsakes that incorporate some of the pet’s remains, such as a glass pendent, a man-made diamond and even a wind chime. The remains of multiple pets can also be combined into one keepsake.
- Impressions of the pet’s nose or paw can be imprinted into a clay pot or engraved on a charm.
- A memorial blanket with a photo of the pet, which is a great option for children.
- Grief support. McAlister-Smith has a licensed counselor available if needed.
“We help pet parents determine what to do with their pet's remains by discussing the different options tailored for them,” Smith says. “We don't want them to take their pet remains home in a little box that they put in the closet. That relationship was important to them, and we want them to feel good about the arrangements they made.”
McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation has been a trusted name in the Lowcountry for funeral and cremation services for more than 130 years. With a long history of personalized services and a commitment to families, the team at McAlister-Smith honors tradition while embracing the industry changes, like pet cremation.
Stop by one of their four convenient locations in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island and Goose Creek to see what a modern funeral home can provide. For more information about cremation services, visit McAlister-Smith.com or call (843) 722-8371.
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