After a Dog Dies: Thinking Outside the Box (Part 2)
Welcome to Part 2 of our week-long series about the options available for memorializing, honoring, or preserving dogs after they die. Today we ask you: What do the dogs below have in common?
These dogs have all been freeze-dried. It's a method that's supposed to preserve a pet into eternity, or at least a few hundred years.
I've been on some bad camping trips where we had only freeze-dried foods, and grew up in a family that liked freeze-dried coffee, but until recently, I never realized pets could also be freeze-dried. Then one day a friend's dear dog of many years died, and she put him in her freezer. When I asked why, she told me she was sending him off to be freeze-dried, and that until he was ready to be shipped off, it was essential to keep him frozen. Images of Nescafe and freeze-dried ice-cream finally died down, and I asked more questions, looked up the process, and found that freeze-drying is become more popular as the technology gets better.
In good hands, a freeze-dried dog, cat, or other pet can look extremely lifelike. (Eerily so, I thought, as I entered the home of my friend, and her dog for the first time ever stayed curled by the fireplace instead of running over to welcome me.) This is much different than in the earlier days of freeze-drying pets. Check out this video from a few decades ago. Scary!
It's not cheap to freeze-dry your pet. My friend paid about $3,000 for her small-to-medium-size dog. But judging by comments from those who have had it done, there are many happy customers out there. Here are a few satisfied owners of pets who have been freeze dried by a company called Perpetual Pet:
"I am so happy to have Mandy home. She looks so peaceful and content in her own bed. Thanks so much for the work that you did with her and thanks for providing such a wonderful alternative to animal burial."
"We love seeing him everyday. He looks very happy and comfortable here. I just can't imagine him not being with us. I know his spirit is still out there somewhere, but his body is there for us to see and touch. Thanks again for taking great care of him and doing such a wonderful job."
"I didn't have to stop being able to see her. The loss just isn't so painful when you can look at the face and feel the coat of your dearest little friend."
Want to know how it works? Different companies have different techniques. Here's how they do it at Animal Preservation:
The actual process is called lyophilization. It involves converting the water from a frozen state and turning it into a gaseous state, without going through a liquid state. In other words, the process of pet freeze drying means that the moisture from the animals cells is removed while the animal is frozen in the freeze drying machine.
There are several steps that take place:
1. The pet is placed inside the freeze dry chamber, which is an air-tight vessel.
2. Inside, the animal is frozen solid very rapidly.
3. Once completely frozen the chamber is vacuumed, essentially taking the water out of the animal cells.
4. Next is the drying process. A vacuum reduces the time it takes for lyophilization to occur. Without it, drying could take anywhere from several months, or even years, to reach its final state.
Small cats or dogs can take 10 to 12 weeks. Very big dogs may not see home again for six months. (And all pets come back very, very light, as you might imagine.) Your dog may not be able to get right in the door at some of these facilities. When my friend's dog died, there was a waiting list to get in. But in the end, she said it was worth the wait. "There's nothing like coming home to my best friend every day," she says.
What do you think, Dogsters? Judging by the beautiful outpouring of sentiments after Part 1 of our series yesterday, most of Dogsters probably don't feel a big need for this method of preservation. But it would be interesting to get your opinions!