Kiwi pet owners are spending big dollars to farewell their cherished companions. Costing as much as $1000, the send-offs are being tailored to the needs of those mourning everything from the faithful family dog to a bug-eyed gecko.
Callum Irvine, of the Veterinary Association's Companion Animal Society, said a proper send-off often came with a significant cost. "People are prepared to spend as much as their budget allows."
Cremation is increasingly common, costing $70 or $80 for the most basic service through to about $1000 for individual cremations. Some crematoriums specialise in pets and offer engraved wooden boxes and ceramic urns for ashes.
Some families buy wooden caskets to hold their pet before cremation. "People want them treated with respect and dignity, much as they would want to be treated themselves," Irvine said.
Although traditionally the service is provided for dogs and cats, one firm also caters for pets as small as geckos and mice.
Rest in Pets provides caskets for the smallest pets. Cardboard caskets and urns cost $20-$45. Each kit allows families to share their feelings about the pet, write the pet's name on the casket or urn, leave a personal message inside and make a temporary grave marker.
The company is owned by Jane Bogust and her husband, Mat, a cardboard engineer. It raised almost $13,000 in one month on crowdfunding site Kickstarter last year. Bogust said there had already been strong demand. British pet retailer Pets at Home is also negotiating to sell products.
Jane Bogust said people did not want a plain cardboard box for a treasured pet, even a tiny one. "They want to do something more special."
Even a pet mouse can be a significant loss to a child, and the caskets were a way to help deal with it. She said feedback indicated kits help parents talk to children about their feelings.
A fitting finish for old friend
Auckland vet Megan Alderson regularly sees people spend up large on cremation or burial of their pets — and she understands.
Her dog, Sydney, has terminal cancer. "I'm planning my own pet funeral.
People don't understand that your pet is closer to you than anyone else in your life, the feelings are very deep and meaningful. She's one up from my husband."
At 40kg, Sydney is too big to be buried. The plan is to have a private cremation with her ashes stored in a rimu urn for a while before a scattering at the top of Mt Iron, near Wanaka.
Alderson will have celebrant Alice Worsley conduct the service when the time comes. "It's more about me getting through it."