I met with Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation one 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, though that’s just politeness, and we pause while she takes the call. She doesn’t really have to tell me. 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 her for the first time 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 so distraught she didn’t even recognize my voice and couldn’t understand what I’d said, 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 with her, 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. Last year when I was sitting through the long last day with Cookie and after arrangements we simply shared a moment of silence, and when I called her for Kelly and she shared my disbelief at the suddenness of her passing, 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”. Shelters for women and families permit them to bring pets or make arrangements for their care so they can leave abusive relationships without worry their pets will be abused or killed. And the public outcry around incidents like the escape of Jack the cat by the negligence of American Airlines in JFK airport is changing the entire industry and will no doubt be the final push to treat animals as living creatures and not baggage by airlines.
And even with the recent “science” claiming stray and feral cats should be eradicated (read that: killed) because they alone are depleting imperiled songbirds and killing “billions” of animals each year, the use of TNR is growing among individuals and organizations, even towns and cities, so that these cats and all cats are considered less and less as disposable, and low-cost spay and neuter, a big part of the solution, is available to more and more people.
Fewer people roll their eyes and make rude remarks about how we feel about our animal companions in life or in loss, and if a public figure does they are roundly reprimanded by outcry on the internet. 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. This can only enhance our relationships with each other and all living things, and perhaps some day we can be judged well by how we care for the least of those in our society, for the helpless, for our animal companions.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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