A Peaceful Option for Pet's Final Journey

By Sandra Coopersmith

Features Writer

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ― Anatole France

Anyone who has ever had a beloved pet will relate. Sadly, many can also relate to having that awakened part of their soul in tumult after saying their final goodbye and dealing with the next step: arrangements involving the remains of their cherished companion.

Now, through Peaceful Pets Aquamation (www.peacefulpetsaquamation.com, 805-410-3880), the nation's first 100% green and gentle alternative to cremation, pet owners have a comparably priced and eco-friendly water-based option through the natural process known as alkaline hydrolysis.

Customized refrigerated vans transport pets from the veterinarian's office or owner's home to the Peaceful Pets facility. Then, using water flow, temperature and alkalinity, aquamation accelerates natural decomposition. Only the bones remain, in the form of fine sand placed in a packet adorned with a hand-tied satin ribbon and put into a decorative container.

Jerry Shevick and his wife, Susan Booker, as owners, and animal activist Sherman Baylin, as associate, comprise the Peaceful Pets team, treating animals that have included tigers, black leopards, bobcats, hamsters, snakes, sheep, hedgehogs, goats, pigs, lizards, rabbits and birds.

The seeds were sown when Shevick and his wife happened to see a crematory loading up its truck at a vet's office.

It was a revelation.

"We had never really considered the aftercare of any of our pets," he said. "We just assumed that they were respectfully treated. Right after that we lost one of our dogs, Scout.

" As pet owners know, sometimes you're fortunate enough to have that super special animal. All of our pets are special, but sometimes you get one that really makes an impact. That was Scout. The thought of her being crammed in a garbage bag and tossed in a pile in the back of a pick-up truck in the heat of an L.A. summer was really a tough pill to swallow.

"Getting her back in a tin can or plastic urn, which had happened to us before, wasn't something we were keen to experience again."

Serendipity was certainly at play when Shevick, after a long, successful television career, decided he was ready for change. Right around that time, Baylin, a friend who runs a Malibu pet grooming shop and had heard about the aquamation process, arranged for him to meet the distributor of the equipment.

Shevick was impressed on several counts.

"With two young kids, my wife and I are very concerned about the shape of the environment," he explained. "We felt we needed to do more than just collecting cans and bottles. Compared to cremation, aquamation is a way to make a real difference."

In researching the aftercare business Shevick found "no one treated animals the way I wanted mine to be treated. So, I designed the business to take care of animals exactly how I expect my pet to be treated – with respect and dignity. To be fair, not all crematories still use the metal or plastic cans, but we designed a presentation that is softer.

"We added a free engraved and decorated paw print. We want to remember our pets happily and to celebrate their lives. And we want to offer the same to our clients. And, finally, from a business perspective, nobody does what we do. Aftercare hasn't kept up with what today's pet owners demand and need for their pet. We're the only choice."

Baylin, a board member of Healthcare for Homeless Animals, has "been involved with rescuing animals my whole life" and believes "they deserve the same dignity after they've passed as they deserve in life."

One of the most surprising things she encountered at Peaceful Pets was how touched the clients were by simple kindness.

"They will call us and right off the bat, we tell them we're sorry for their loss," she said, "and 80% of the time, the client is at a loss for words. It's almost as if they weren't expecting a business to show any compassion.

"It's interesting and a bit sad that our expectations of fellow humans have fallen so low. But, it's also really rewarding because those few words give them the license to tell us stories about their pet and that helps them get through it."

People have even come in for informal wakes.

"Someone once showed up with a bottle of wine and Motown music – that's what their cat liked – for a final goodbye," Baylin said. "We've had so many different experiences. In the last 20 years, pets have really become part of the family and just like all families, we get normal ones, crazy ones and, like us, a lot in the middle."

Dr. Jeanine Au, a Culver City-based veterinarian providing mobile services (www.goldcoastmobilevetcare.com, 310-528-4026), was seeking a different company to use for aftercare as she wasn't pleased with the service she was receiving. After doing research online, contacting several companies and sending them a questionnaire via email or asking them to call her, Shevick was the only person who responded.

"Not only did he talk to me for 45 minutes on the phone, we also met in person," Au said. "I was immediately impressed with how Jerry and Susan run their company: professional and compassionate. They are working towards removing the stigma that goes along with the euthanasia and aftercare process.

"I like that they are using the aquamation process, which is environmentally responsible. Their keepsakes are clean, simple, and tasteful. Also, they take great measures to ensure that owners are receiving their pets' remains, which is the concern I have to address with every client."

Dr. Karen Heard, a mobile vet with clients in Culver City (www.vet2ula.com, 310-581-8382), "first heard about the aquamation process through another veterinarian. She felt that the option was something my clients might be interested in. A few weeks later, I was contacted by Peaceful Pets.

" Since I was interested in how the aquamation process worked, I scheduled an interview. I found the company to be very professional and compassionate and I appreciated the fact that they were also involved in animal rescue. I began to recommend them to my clients who needed that service."

"Our dog had a brain tumor and declined rapidly," said Stewart, a pet owner in Mar Vista. "When we finally had to put her down, Peaceful Pets was amazing. Sherman made it really easy for us. She was kind and caring and she personally brought us his remains the next day, along with a nose and paw print for us. Peaceful Pets was very sensitive to our grief."

For Booker, "the most rewarding thing about what we do is giving pet owners a safe place to grieve their loss. We understand how much they care about their pets, even after they have passed.

"Sometimes when we talk to clients about a deceased pet, they say, 'It must be hard to make these calls.' But having lost several pets of our own over the years, giving people a chance to talk about their beloved family member really isn't difficult. It feels good to help people through the transition."

Gandhi's message, "Be the change you want to see," clearly spoke to the awakened souls of the Peaceful Pets team. The result: a respectful aftercare procedure honoring not only animals but also the environment supporting us all.


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