When it’s time to say an earthly goodbye to your precious Fido or Fluffy, Wendy June and her family can make sure your beloved pet is lovingly cared for and always remembered.
“For many people, their animals are more like family,” said June, owner of Mankato Pet Cremation.
“As a society, we haven’t done a great job of recognizing the significant loss people experience when a pet dies, and cremation can be an important part of the grieving and healing process. It gives them something of their loved one that they can hold on to forever, and that can bring them peace and closure.”
Since the establishment of Mankato Pet Cremation in March 2019, June has been doing her part to compassionately help pet owners during what is often an emotionally draining time.
Through Mankato Pet Cremation, June offers a pickup and delivery service for those who want a respectful way to treat their deceased pets.
“A lot of people have a hard time transporting their deceased pets around town, and some people just can’t,” June said.
“My goal is for all pets to be returned to you in an urn, not in a plastic bag or cardboard box; that’s a horrible trend,” he continued.
“A nice urn offers dignity and closure. We want to help you honor the life of your pet.”
June says people often contact her after they’ve traveled elsewhere for the cremation process, only to return with their pet’s ashes in a simple container that goes into a closet, along with their feelings of grief and loss. .
“It becomes something that annoys people indefinitely, and that’s not what I want for them,” June said.
“I want them to feel that they have resolved the death of their pet in the best possible way and that they have found some peace to be able to move on.”
For the past two years, June and Dr. Karen Exline, a Mankato-area veterinarian since 2013, have partnered to make pet loss an even lighter burden.
Facilitating pet farewells at home
“Veterinarians in physical practice don’t always have the flexibility to spend an hour or two at someone’s home, plus travel time,” Exline said.
“And sometimes it can take a week or two for a practice to be able to accommodate a euthanasia appointment, even though euthanasia can be a last minute decision. In fact, I get a lot of referrals from veterinary clinics.”
Exline, a Texas native who earned her DVM degree from the University of Missouri, says her goal is to help a beloved pet die peacefully.
“Most people know when the time is coming,” Exline said. When clients call to inquire about options, she asks a few questions to help determine if the time for euthanasia is near.
Exline started her independent Mankato Pet Cremation business in late 2019. As the pandemic created restrictions on traffic within veterinary clinics, the demand for her services increased noticeably.
“When veterinary clinics couldn’t allow families to be present with their pets, they began to realize the benefits of what it could do for them,” Exline said.
“And being able to let your pet sleep at home, without having to get on a carrier or load them into a car, is much less stressful.”
When June and Exline work together (their services can be secured separately), they appear as a team, with June acting as Exline’s assistant and Exline, in turn, helping June carry out the pet afterwards.
“Pet lovers are the best customer base you can have,” June said. “Dr. Karen is excellent at talking about her approach, and very gently takes the animal deeper and deeper into the sleep process.
“People have really appreciated him and his medical skill.”
Certainly, both June and Exline sympathize with the customers they serve, as the animals are important members of their respective past and current households.
“I’ve found how much more relaxing and peaceful it is for the family to have their pet spend quietly in their own homes,” said Exline, whose dog, Bubbles (a white Havanese), can sleep with her and her husband, something doesn’t even let her two small children do.
“We try to be caring and dignified.”
And June, who grew up with a house full of common animals and several exotic ones (including peacocks, bearded dragons, emus and hedgehogs), now has four dogs, a cat and some laying hens.
Get to work
A social services employee since 1986, June has always had a heart for others. She believes that Mankato Pet Cremation is simply an extension of that.
“At first, I thought this would be about the animals,” June said, “but it’s really about the people who stay behind to cry.”
A few years ago, June and her family purchased her dream property, three rural acres, providing her with the space she needed.
The idea for Mankato Pet Cremation came to June when she observed a similar service in other parts of Minnesota.
“I thought it was an amazing idea, I realized the Mankato area needed it and I became obsessed with setting this up,” said June, who has seen demand for her services double in each of the years she has operated it.
And within nine months of hatching the plan, he had cleared every legal, environmental, and government hurdle necessary to make Mankato’s pet cremation a reality.
But it didn’t do so without significant support from the South Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center, which is housed at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“They helped from the beginning, from writing a business plan to marketing to creating a website,” said June. “I really wouldn’t be where I am without your help.”
Hannah Bretz, the SBDC consultant who worked most closely with her, said June was an ideal SBDC client.
“Wendy had an idea, was committed to making it a reality, and had a unique market niche that was underserved here,” said Bretz, a digital marketing specialist.
“We realize that our customers who tend to have the highest success rates when starting a business are those who are willing to ask for help.”
Mankato Pet Cremation has two crematoriums, one that can easily accommodate smaller animals and one that can handle animals weighing up to 400 pounds.
“I can cremate all kinds of pets, including ‘pocket pets,’” June said. She has cremated various reptiles, bearded dragons, snakes, fish, chameleons, gerbils, hamsters, chameleons, and even spiders.
“It’s amazing what people can appreciate and find important,” June said. “And I want to help honor those lives for them.”
That said, dogs and cats are the most common animals seen at Mankato Pet Cremation. Fees may include an urn for cremains; The website features a small catalog showing a variety of urns, including traditional, vase, and photo options.
Seeds of Life memorial trees are also available on the website.
June recently began offering pet owners another way to preserve the memory of a beloved animal; She now partners with a lab diamond company that creates diamonds from carbon extracted from hair or pet remains.
“That may be a good option,” June said. “They have all different cuts and five different colors, and they are absolutely beautiful diamonds, 100% perfect.”
June wishes there would be greater social awareness that the loss of a pet can be an emotional and consequential event for many people.
“I talk to people all the time who are sitting at their desks, trying to deal with this, and that’s sad,” June said. “I say, ‘Go home, take care of yourself and your business today, and go back to work tomorrow.’
“They are trying to manage all kinds of things during the duel.”
And June acknowledges that when childhood pets die, the loss can affect not only children and young adults, but parents as well.
“The pets that we raise with our children become an important part of their childhood,” June said. “Even if they are young adults when that pet dies, it tears you apart to see that pain.
“We mark our lives by the days that people and pets enter and leave them.”
In her work at Mankato Pet Cremation, June says it’s humbling to be present at such vulnerable moments in the human experience.
“You connect with people on a deep and meaningful level,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter your income or your professional status, that loss affects everyone, regardless of gender or age, and it’s a very equalizing experience.”
Despite the emotional nature of her work, June finds it extremely rewarding.
“It is very satisfying to know that I am serving people and that they appreciate what I provide,” he summarized.
“I treat all of this with great respect and care, just as I would if they were my own pets. “Grief and loss visit all humans as a part of life, but I strive to help others find peace and closure.”