Saying Goodbye: A Q&A with In Good Hands Pet Loss

I have been procrastinating in writing this blog, perhaps because it hits close to home, and as a pet loss grief specialist myself, I know I live in denial and anticipatory grief regarding my boys. 

My encounter with Amy at the Canadian Pet Expo was more than a chance meeting. She approached my booth with a genuine curiosity about my End-of-Life Pet Photography Services, and I shared my approach and dedication to this important work with her.

We talked briefly, and she told me she was soon opening a Pet Funeral; after exchanging cards, she left. 

It doesn't take long to realize that Amy is a kind soul. She is extremely passionate and compassionate about her work, and her soft-spoken and genuine demeanour makes you feel safe.

I had a chance to ask Amy a few questions regarding her services.

Amy the owner of In Good Hands Pet Loss

1. What led you to open your own pet funeral home?

When I was a little kid, I daydreamed of being an artist, a teacher and a funeral director. It’s pretty magical how everything connected and fell into place. It is not at all how I imagined, but I am so grateful to be able to see how all of my daydreams have come to reality. I have
been able to utilize my sewing and textile art skills (thanks to my mom for raising me with a sewing machine and not a television) to make custom memorial quilts and mementos to design with clay, ink, paint, and flowers on a daily basis. I have the honour of assisting
pet parents with their companions' after-life care and the ability to teach and guide families how to do so in a holistic way that supports and honours each family
member and their precious pets.

My path to opening a holistic pet funeral home has been a long one. My educational background is in holistic health and retail management based. My passion for helping
people led me to study iridology, reiki, holistic nutrition, and end-of-life care. I have completed hospice and bereavement volunteer training with Betty Ann Rutledge
at Scarborough Center for Healthy Communities. She taught me the importance of listening, holding space, and understanding the different ways people cope with loss.
Her teachings have been so instrumental in my personal life as well as professionally. I also received pet funeral and memorialization training from funeral
director Helen Hobbs, owner of Pets at Peace. I was her assistant for two years. Helen taught me how to care for pets with dignity and respect, how to interact with
families and the importance of a good sense of humour. I am so honoured to have learned from Toronto's pioneer in this industry. I became a dog walker shortly after
working at PAP, and my love for animals quadrupled!

Although dog walking and spending my days with so many incredible dogs were extremely fulfilling, I needed to be of service on a deeper level, so I decided to open
my own Holistic Pet Funeral Home and honour Helens wonderful legacy. I'm still currently dog walking, boarding and cat sitting and hope to always continue to do so
alongside my pet funeral business.

2. Could you describe the range of services you offer for pet funerals or memorialization?

In Good Hands Pet Loss is a holistic pet funeral home, we support families from their pets palliative care journey onwards.

Non-medical palliative care offerings include reiki energy healing, Bach flower essences, aromatherapy, planning your companion's “bucket list day,” respite visits, providing a comfortable space for euthanasia with the vet of your choice and in cases where it is not
possible or bearable for people to go, I will chaperone pets to their euthanasia appointments so they are not alone.
After-life care services include traditional fire cremation, memorialization, as well as grief and bereavement support for all ages.

I offer a calm environment for family-led funerals, viewings and visitations.
If a family chooses a home burial, I can visit the home and help them prepare their beloved pets body, take ink or clay paw prints, fur, whisker, or feather clippings. I
offer reiki blessings for the pets and can also anoint their bodies with precious oils.

I offer free fur, whisker or feather clippings as memorial items. I also offer ink, clay and ceramic paw prints, cremation jewelry, urns, memory boxes, and pet collar
frames. I’ve sewn custom shrouds and memory quilts. I've teamed up with local artists who offer pet photography, portraits and tattoos. My offerings will continue to grow to help meet client needs.

3. How do you personalize ceremonies to honour the unique bond between pets and their owners?

Each family's requests are different, so I work with them to customize and tailor them to their needs. Funerals and visitations are family-led, but If they choose
something more formal, I work with a Reverend. I encourage families to bring their other pets, children, family members or friends along, and I am open to any
customs, traditions and ceremonies they want to practice. I’m constantly learning and adapting. as I go.

4. What are the different options available for pet remains (cremation, burial, etc.), and how do you assist owners in making these decisions?

There are many options when it comes to pet after-life care.

Burial - There are a few pet cemeteries offering plots for pets. Most are located outside of Toronto and can be very costly.
Home burials are legal in Ontario as long as the pets grave is minimum 2- 4 feet deep and away from a source of water, plumbing and electrical. Digging a deep enough grave is very important to protect the remains from being disturbed by wildlife and it also protects wildlife from consuming any medications the pet was given prior to death. Something to consider with a home burial is what will happen to your pets remains if the home owner decides to move. In this case, remains can be recovered and cremated or re-buried at a different property.
Flame or water cremation is also an option. Both processes result in the pets ashes being returned to the pet parents. If pet parents choose not to have their pets ashes back, a communal cremation can be chosen.

We offer the traditional flame cremation method at In Good Hands Pet Loss. Pet parents can choose from communal, Individual partitioned or private cremations.
With communal cremation, your pet is gently placed into the crematory with other beloved pets. Because no cremated remains are returned to you when you choose a communal cremation, you may wish to consider one of our personalized memorial paw prints as a timeless
remembrance. All communal remains are respectfully laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery in Eden, ON.
When you choose an individual or partitioned cremation, your treasured pet is placed into its own partitioned compartment within the crematory chamber.

Each pet is identifiable with their own barcode and other meticulous tracking technologies. The entire process is recorded and when the cremation is complete, we ensure that you receive only the cremated remains of your beloved pet. This process takes approximately one week to get your pets ashes back.

With a private cremation, your beloved pet will be the only pet in the cremation chamber during the cremation process. When the cremation process is complete, we ensure that you receive only the cremated remains of your cherished pet. This process can take up to two weeks to get your pets ashes back.

For families that want to witness the cremation process, we offer “viewing and visitation” at the crematory. Families meet in a private comfort room with their pet where they can have a family-led memorial, celebration of life, funeral etc. When families choose a viewing and
visitation, ashes are returned to the family the same day.

Pets that cannot be cremated (because they don't have bones) can also be preserved using other methods. Some pet owners decide to preserve their bodies with taxidermy, dehydration and or encapsulation with rubbers or resins.

5. Can you walk us through the process a pet owner might expect when utilizing your funeral services?

The process usually starts over the phone or email. I am always free to answer questions and provide options via phone, text or email. Each families needs are different and I accommodate services as needed. Appointments are scheduled according to their needs. I
offer same day and late night appointments, local pick ups and in office meetings.

If they are choosing an in-home or vet clinic euthanasia, we schedule our appointments around that. Meetings are always by appointment and can last up to one hour unless families state they need longer. I explain cremation, memorial and urn options and answer any questions or requests the families may have. I am completely transparent with the entire process, expected timelines and answer any questions that come up.

Once all of the details are finalized, families have the remainder of time to spend however they like with their pets. Some people like to bathe, groom or dress their pets, some take videos and photos, some say prayers and practice traditions or ceremonies. I’ve had a few clients who have scheduled their appointments around international time zones so they could zoom call family members to take part in the ceremonies. I try to be as flexible as possible to ensure everyones needs are met and the pets are honored according to wishes.

If the family wants to be involved, we can take fur clippings and make ink or clay paw prints together. Some find this very comforting, others do not want to take part. Both are completely acceptable. I am here to support each persons individual needs. Families are welcome to bring flowers or any special items to accompany their pet during cremation as long as they are small and organic in nature (treats, herbs, special toys, photographs, love notes etc. ) I also always try to have fresh flowers on hand for them to adorn their babies with.

6. How do you support pet owners emotionally during the grieving process?

Each pet owner is different so I try to offer what they need. I’ve designed my office with
the intention to make it a calm and welcoming space. Some owners like to tell me stories and show me videos of their beloved pets. Some do not want to talk at all. I follow their lead. I assure them that I will take the best care of their precious companions and honour any after-life wishes they may have. I never rush families out and always make sure they feel comfortable with their pet in my care before they leave. If anyone needs additional support, my website has a list of grief support workers that I personally know and trust and who specialize in pet loss.

7. Is there a particular dog or pet that has inspired or impacted your work in pet funerals or memorial services?

I was the kid who always came home with pets.. I grew up with large dogs (German Shepherds and Newfoundlanders) but my family also always had gerbils, mice, rats, turtles, guinea pigs, hamsters, bunnies, fish and cats. The death of my childhood Newfoundland dog Belle made a huge impact on me. I was 22 years old. She was 16. She died suddenly during the big black out on August 14, 2003. We didn't know what to do because it was our first dog to die at home
and on top of that businesses and vets were closed.

Intuitively, I did reiki on Belle's body. I had never done reiki on a deceased animal but it felt necessary. I thanked her for her loyalty and companionship and
apologized for any hardships she had in this life. This “reiki blessing” is what I now offer to my clients. Belle had a communal cremation so we didn't get her ashes back. It was the only cremation option we could find for her during the black out. I have many regrets and would
love to have her ashes with me. She is always in my heart and thoughts and her passing taught me so much about pet loss. Belle continues to play a huge part in why I do this work. I believe every pet should be honored in life and in death and I am incredibly honored
to help pet parents do this.

8. What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with pet parents after they lose a pet?

The most important thing I've learned doing this work is that death is not an emergency. Families have time. There is no rush. If pre-arranged plans have not been made, families have time to call around for quotes and options, they have time for family to come over and they
have time to be with their pet. Their pets bodies will be fine for hours and even over night if they are cared for properly. I’m always available over the phone to guide families through this process. Some people like to bathe and groom their pets one last time, some like to
snuggle or sleep with them one last time. You can take them for a last car ride or trip to the beach. There is no rush.

9. Why is pre-planning a pet's funeral important?

No one wants to think about losing their beloved companions so I understand planning for their funerals is not a top priority but it can make it easier when the time comes. It is often very difficult to make decisions and do research when we are experiencing pet loss (type of cremation, burial, urn choices, memorial products, whether or not they want fur, feather or
whisker clippings).

dog being photographed in Toronto, Ontario

Pre-planning a pets after-life care is free and the directives are never set in stone. Pet parents are never obligated to use my services but having plans in place offers peace of mind that their file is safe with me when the time comes. Pre-planning gives family members more time with their pet when it matters most and makes decision making much easier. I highly encourage people to explore options and ideas before the time comes.

10. Where can we find you on social media?

In Good Hands Pet Loss is on Instagram and Facebook.


Cisco and Tito's last car ride will be to 1061 Woodbine Ave, East York, where they will be wrapped in their favourite blanket and toy. I know they will be left in good hands with a compassionate person. That will be their final resting place. 

If you need her or mine's services, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.

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About the Author Sharon

Professional Pet & Family Photographer, Certified Pet Grief Specialist, & Professional Stunt Woman

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