If you've taken care of a loved pet all of its life, it seems fitting to care for it after death. A local business offers the opportunity for pet owners to provide a unique and beautiful final resting place for animals they have loved.
Pet Rest is located on 10 acres a half mile off Indiana 224 near Ossian, south of Fort Wayne. It is owned and operated by Kris, Kevin and Kent Reinhard and LaNae Tonner. The four siblings have owned Pet Rest since 1997, when they bought the business from their uncle, Leon Gerber.
Gerber opened it in the early 1980s after realizing there was a need for a pet cemetery in the area, according to Kris Reinhard.
“Uncle Leon had experience in the crematory business, and he decided to use those skills to start the business,” Kris says.
The first thing one sees after driving up the lane to Pet Rest is a lovely, large pond in the midst of well-manicured gardens containing roses and other flowers and plants.
Trellises, picnic tables and benches lend an inviting air, making Pet Rest a place of comfort and rest.
“Everyone who has seen our garden burial sites has been pleased with them and the services we provide,” Kris Reinhard says.
Reinhard says the “cremains,” as the owners of Pet Rest refer to the animals after they have been cremated, are buried according to the year the animal died. For instance, a dog that dies in 2008 is buried in the section indicated by a marker with that date.
“We do this to make it easier for an owner to find his or her pet,” he says.
Cremation services are offered year-round at Pet Rest.
“If someone loses a pet in May, the cremation is done immediately and the cremains buried in June,” says Kris Reinhard. “We want to put the owner's mind at ease and let him know his pet is in a final resting place as soon as possible.”
The employees of Pet Rest make regularly scheduled stops at dozens of veterinary offices throughout the state to pick up deceased animals whose owners have requested their services. Pet Rest's cost typically is included in veterinary office fees those pet owners pay for animals that die or are euthanized.
The sites for the years of 1984 through 1999 are located on the south side of the lake, while cremations from 2000 through the present are positioned on the north side. The north side also includes a special section for animals that have served the law-enforcement community. Reinhard says the majority of owners request a group cremation for their pets. But a growing number of owners are requesting private cremation, which comes at a higher cost.
“The percent of customers who prefer private cremation has increased over the years. We don't know why,” he says, “but we are glad to accommodate this.”
While the majority of animals buried at Pet Rest are dogs and cats, Reinhard says they have also cremated pet birds, iguanas and rodents, including rats.
“Rat owners say those are the best pets,” he adds.
In fall 2007, Pet Rest opened a mausoleum for pet cremains. The mausoleum contains individual niches, which can be inscribed with pets' names.
He says the reasons he and his siblings wanted to take over the business were varied.
“All of us have a tremendous appreciation for pets,” he says. “Several of us had worked on the family farm, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to work together again.”
The four owners have split up the duties of the facility, including the gardening, maintenance and processing. LaNae lives on the premises with her family and frequently conducts tours for visitors. Although a pet cemetery sounds specialized, Reinhard says more businesses of this type exist today than 10 years ago.
“We have had some competition from around the state, but we have also increased in business during that time,” he says. “Word of mouth is our primary source of business growth.” While the number of visitors has increased, each person is considered a special guest, he notes.
“We're thankful for each visitor and the opportunity to share their personal pet stories with them,” he says. “That's a huge part of the reward of the work we do.”