Dignified Pet Services helps people say goodbye

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dignified Pet Services in Tualatin offers a variety of urns for clients to place their pet's remains.“With the death of a pet,” author David Sedaris wrote, “there’s always that urge to crowd the parentheses and string black crepe over an entire 10- or 20-year period.”

After losing his own beloved Neil, he concludes, “I spent the next several months wondering why so few songs were written about cats.”

There’s a space tucked into a corner of Tualatin that, since 2000, has honored the often profound grief pet owners feel when forced to say goodbye.

Dignified Pet Services, 8976 S.W. Tualatin-Sherwood Road, specializing in pet cremation, in many ways feels like a smaller model of a traditional funeral home.

“We work with about 50 or 60 vet clinics in the Portland-metro area, and general public,” explains staff-member Derick Baugher.

Customers aren’t hurried through the process, and a well-appointed side room with a comfy sofa acts as a reception area of sorts — and often, a place for an individual or a family’s final goodbye to a beloved companion. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Clients can have their pet's remains blown into a glass ball made by Crescent Art Glass, a service provided to  Dignified Pet Services in Tualatin.

The bereaved can choose from a variety of urn and memorial alternatives, with options including clay or ink paw prints and fur trimmings.

“We try to accommodate as many requests as possible,” Baugher says, who estimates the establishment sees 600 to 700 families a month. “Not all we’re able to accommodate. We try to figure out exactly what the family’s wanting to do with their pet.”

For some, that can mean a complimentary urn about the size of a tea tin, or a slight upgrade to a wooden box with photo frame. There’s a host of airtight containers that can be engraved with a pet’s name or an inspirational saying.

Want to keep a part of your late loved one physically close to you? Dignified works with Neskowin-based glass artist Kate Saunders to offer a line of “cremulets,” or amulets forged with a small portion of your pet’s ashes.

And Dignified works to honor a family’s wishes as they see their cherished friend off.

To accommodate the often difficult closure process, the facility offers the option of “witness cremations.”

“That does not mean they’re witnessing the cremation take place,” Baugher explains, “but (they can be present as) the pet is placed into the machine, or they can (place) it themselves.”

He adds, “We definitely do have families who will bring in boxes from home filled with different toys, or tree trimmings, something for the pet to rest on. People write notes to them, some people will cut off locks of hair to be cremated with their pets.”

That commitment to fulfill as many requests led Dignified to start offering larger-scale cremation services in 2004, and the facility now offers services for grieving horse-owners as well. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A variety of urns are available for clients to place their pet's remains at Dignified Pet Services in Tualatin.

Baugher says Dignified has received goats, sheep — and even cows.

“That’s definitely the largest animal (we’ve received),” Baugher says. “One cow was close to 3,000 pounds.”

Although Dignified is owned by the same family that operates Crown Memorial Center a couple doors down, their on-premises facilities are separate.

“Our machines are only for pets, their machines are only for humans,” Baugher explains. “We have two machines for smaller pets, and one machine for horses and large animals.”

“It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a 3,000-pound cow, or a couple-ounce mouse,” he adds. “People form relationships with all different forms of animals. We’re just here for when they need us.”

For more information, visit TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tara Tjaden, manager of Dignified Pet Services in Tualatin, stands in the family room where clients can bring their pet and reflect.

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