Funeral director starts new business giving pets a dignified farewell
Pets in Peaceful Rest acknowledges pets are important family members
Scott Schmidt knows from experience how painful it is to lose a pet.
His Great Dane, Simone, recently died after being a beloved member of his family for 4 ½ years.
Schmidt, a local funeral home director for 33 years, has seen families grieve when they lose a dog, cat or another pet.
Those families didn’t have much of an option for a proper burial, a dignified send-off for their pet. Schmidt wanted to give those families a better opportunity to say goodbye to a pet. After more than two years of work, renovating a building and securing permits, Schmidt in November opened Pets in Peaceful Rest in Lockport at 530 West Ave.
The site includes a crematorium and the Rainbow Bridge Room, where pets are laid on a big comfortable pillow. Schmidt has candles by a ledge. Schmidt laid his big dog on the pillow, and in an emotional farewell, his family members said goodbye to Simone. Even his other pets were given a chance to see Simone, sniffing the dog one last time.
“It’s not sterile like animal hospital exam room,” Schmidt said. “This is quiet, peaceful and comfortable.”
The Rainbow Bridge Room is named in honor of the late Joey (McKenna) Haines, who lived at Point Breeze and was well known for her hospitality to the community. She also had a big heart for her pets.
“She was one of the most enthusiastic lovers of animals I’ve ever known,” Schmidt said. “She was a great, loving person.”
Pets in Peaceful Rest has a cremation retort, and pet owners are guaranteed their pet will have its own cremation chamber with the animal’s ashes not mixed in with another pet’s.
Schmidt, a Medina resident, works as a funeral director for Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes in Albion and Holley, which is a satellite agent for Pets in Peaceful Rest. The funeral home will come to a home and pick up the pet and take it to Schmidt’s Lockport location. Christopher Mitchell also is willing to have a comfortable place in the funeral home for people to say goodbye to pets.
David Mitchell, owner of Christopher Mitchell, encouraged Schmidt to pursue the Pets in Peaceful Rest business. Mitchell was glad to serve as a satellite agent Pets in Peaceful Rest.
“It’s another way to help families who are grieving,” Mitchell said. “There is a real need for it. Pets provide strong companionship. They are being acknowledged more and more as members of the family.”
New York State just last year allowed pets to be buried in not-for-profit cemeteries in plots by people.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation allowing New Yorkers to be buried with their pets at not-for-profit cemeteries.
“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sept. 26, when the new law was approved. “This legislation will roll back this unnecessary regulation and give cemeteries the option to honor the last wishes of pet lovers across New York.”
Pets in Peaceful Rest also is working with the Batavia Funeral Home Group – H.E. Turner and Company in Batavia, Bohm-Calarco-Smith Funeral Home in Batavia, H.E. Turner Funeral Home in Bergen, and Burdett-Sanford Funeral Home in Oakfield as satellite agents.
Jennifer Stilwell, owner of the Olde Dogge Inn in Albion, was one of Schmidt’s first customers at Pets in Peaceful Rest following the death of her dog Elliott, a pit bull/mastiff.
“They were really wonderful,” Stilwell said. “They treated him like a family member.”
Stilwell has seen the strong connections for pets in her business. She knows farmers who have been heartbroken when their dogs die.
She likes the personalization for the pets at Schmidt’s business. The animals are handled with care, with chances for a viewing and even a service if requested by a pet owner. There are online memorial options, and other more tangible memorials, including framed paw print with the pet’s name in bold, and a timeline of the pet’s life. The families can also receive their pets’ ashes in hardwood urns – not a tin can or plastic bag.
Schmidt expects to serve mainly cats and dogs, but he said Pets in Peaceful Rest can take care of birds, snakes, Guinea pigs, mini-horses and other animals.
“It’s important to acknowledge that death,” he said.
Schmidt, who is also the chief coroner in Orleans County, said pets often succumb at a veterinary facility. He doesn’t like how the animal often would typically be put in a freezer until it was picked up, which could take a week or more, with the animal’s remains not returned to the family sometimes for a month after its death.
“This is unacceptable for a loved one, a part of your family,” he said.
Pets in Peaceful Rest will provide service the day of a pet’s death. The animal will be given an identification disc, which is attached to the pet to assure the identity of the animal going into the cremation chamber.
Pets in Peaceful Rest guarantees the pet remains will be returned to its owner within 72 hours.
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