This article originally appeared in the September/October issue of Funeral Business Advisor.
As members of the funeral profession, we understand the importance of memorializing our loved ones. This includes our family members, our friends and even our furry and feathered animal companions. For many of us, our pet is a dinner date, a snuggle buddy, a “wing man,” a friend to exercise and play with, and so much more. They love us and depend on us. They are a part of our family.
In 2013, the Animal Pet Products Association (APPA) conducted a survey to find out how much money is being spent on pets each year. The results were astounding. Pet parents in the United States spent roughly $55 million on pet products in 2013, including food, toys and pet care products. Pet owners are willing to spend their hard-earned dollars on their adorable pets. With this information in mind, it would come as no surprise that when a family loses a pet, a number of them are willing to spend the money to create a memorial in their honor.
As funeral professionals, when we decide to offer pet memorialization, how much do we want to invest? Will this part of our business be bigger than burial vaults, caskets or memorials? It is worth our time to create a dedicated space in our selection rooms or buildings for the pet families that we serve.
I don’t believe that a construction project or building addition is required to begin offering pet services – and to do it right. Do you have an additional prearrangement room that doesn’t get much use anymore? Is there an office that is slowly turning into a storage room and has gone unused for years? You can transform an unused area into a special place for pet services.
As with any new venture, it’s easy to get wrapped up in making sure that you have a comprehensive selection of products for families. But when you’re converting a space, instead of focusing on the “what,” I think you need to focus on the “how.” Create service packages for your families and gather educational resources for them about grieving and pets. Yes, products are part of the equation, but what can make you stand out is demonstrating that you understand the process of losing a pet.
As an animal lover, I understand the grief pet families suffer when they lose a furry friend. It is heartbreaking. And, in their time of loss, they want someone who will understand what they are experiencing. They want someone who knows that their animal’s life mattered. That is why it is important to provide a special, dedicated space to educate families about pet memorialization services and products. Just like anywhere else in your facility, the space should be comfortable, inviting and created with care. But is just as important to have the right people working with the pet families you serve.
Having the right people helping the families you serve makes all the difference. Some people are just not animal lovers. It takes a special person to work in the funeral industry, and it takes an equally special person to work in pet memorialization. You wouldn’t want someone who didn’t like dogs to be helping you say goodbye to your German shepherd.
Saying goodbye to a family member, whether it is a person or a pet, is never easy. Families need to feel like their loved one mattered and they want to go to a place that provides the right resources. How do you educate the community about your resources? There are many ways to get people talking about memorializing their pets. Build partnerships around the community with veterinarians and animal shelters. Your funeral home can even host a community event to invite pet families to see your facility and your new pet selection room.
Offering pet memorialization in your facility is not an all or nothing proposition. As long as you provide the pet families you serve with a warm and welcoming space to let them know you are committed to helping them memorialize their furry friend and that their life mattered, you will make a difference.
Linda Darby is Chief Executive Officer for Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Her family has been in the funeral industry for four generations, helping families remember, celebrate and heal. Learn more at www.trigard.com.