SOLON- There’s a time in every pet owner’s life when they have to say goodbye to a friend that’s been a big part of the family. Pet Memories of Tipton and Pet Memories Accessories, now open in Solon, has funerary needs for almost any animal, and they’ve seen a lot, including dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, goats, llamas, ferrets, pigs, skunks, and snakes.
Pet Memories have a full funeral-home menu of services, including grief counseling, burial garden sites, pre-need planning, cremation or interment, caskets and markers, and home or veterinary office pick-up within a 150-mile radius.
Steve Johnson started his business, picking up animals for cremation, about 14 years ago in Tipton. He also delivers ashes to those who want them back.
When people started asking for an urn or container for the ashes, he bought a few. Customers wanted a larger selection than he could house so he opened a shop in Iowa City five years ago.
He and his sisters ran that shop for funereal accessories until the lease ran out and then they wanted a bigger store.
Today their shop on Windflower Lane houses over a hundred urns and small containers for animals. The store’s container selection gives people choice of a dignified resting place for that special member of the family. They sell urns for human remains also.
Johnson’s cremation services are only for pets.
Johnson has a small pet cemetery, so animals can be interred or their ashes set in the earth. He said the business has grown so rapidly because “as times get tougher, people are closer to Fido.”
He’s worked for zoos, humane societies and shelter, vets and individual animal owners and families. His company’s slogan is simple and comforting, “We are available when you need us.”
He drives his truck six days a week to vet offices and home pick-up and said the majority of people want the cremains returned.
Johnson prefers to remain on the road and in the field helping others while his sisters and family keep the store running. He called his pick-up, cremation, and delivery, “a value-added service for vets,” adding that they generally don’t want former patients crowding their freezers for too long.
Once Johnson has picked up a pet, a visit to Pet Memories Accessories is the next place for families to find a suitable urn or marker for their loved one.
The new Solon store has customized cobblestone markers which are engraved at Quality Engraving Signs in West Branch.
Marble plaques can be engraved with a photo etching for a unique and beautiful memorial to a pet.
Pet Memories will include a nametag marker for urns at no additional charge and urns are offered in a wide choice of material. Ceramic and porcelain, marble, steel, brass, wood, and resin-cast options are available in, as store manager Bev Whitmore said, “just about any shape you can think of,” including pyramids, photo-faced wood boxes, dog bones, and barns.
Barns? Yes, scale-model barns or doghouses are available. Customers bring a picture of the animal’s home and a tiny replica will be constructed for their favorite farm friend’s cremains to be laid to rest.
The store does a brisk Internet business, with cat urns and photo-faced wood urns their biggest web sellers, all shipped nation-wide.
The Solon store has branched out from the funeral business. They also offer pet gifts including breed-specific T-shirts and sweatshirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, white socks that picture different breeds, Christmas ornaments with photo holders, animal figurines, breed-specific umbrellas, and pet-odor candles, sprays, and car air-refreshers. They also have pet alert decals for fire and emergency rescue.
Another popular item is memorial jewelry. Crystal pendants and necklaces with vials allow pet owners to keep a part of their pet’s cremains or a tuft of hair closer to their hearts.
Booklets for breeds, designed like baby books, are a great gift idea for pedigreed pet lovers. They’re called “cardlets” and owners can make entries to track their kitten’s and puppy’s progress into maturity.
The store’s grand opening is Nov. 19 from 12-6 p.m. at 101 Windflower Ln, Suite 700. The business’ website is www.petmemoriesiowa.com  or call 877-822-7387.