- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The death of a beloved pet can hit some owners as hard as the death of a human loved one.

Traverse City native Kerri Collier was devastated when one of her pets died a few years ago. And she was not impressed with the lack of choices she was given to dispose of the remains, the Traverse City Record-Eagle (https://bit.ly/25GdbId ) reported.

“I had lost a pet and was not given any options,” she said.

She visited her grandfather in Florida soon after that experience. He had recently lost his pet of 18 years.

“She was his precious baby,” Collier said.



But her grandfather told her about a company that helped him deal with his loss with dignity. He even arranged a visit to the Florida business for Collier and her husband.

“I thought it was the coolest place,” Collier said.

The Colliers decided to start a similar business back in Traverse City. Dustin Collier is a contractor. He built the structure that Great Lakes Pet Memorial occupies. The business opened in 2008. It was the first time Kerri Collier had run a business. There was a learning curve involved.

“It was really slow at first,” she said.

Collier discovered that many local veterinarians used pet crematories in southern Michigan. She became a sales agent, visiting local veterinarian offices and touting the advantages of local service and reduced turnaround times.

The business now deals with about 2,000 pets each year, mostly dogs and cats, but also iguanas, gerbils, ducks, birds, pigs, alpacas and llamas.

One client wanted a beloved pony cremated, but the crematory at Great Lakes Pet Memorial can only handle animals that weigh a maximum of 450 pounds. That animal had to be transported to a larger facility, Collier said.

Cremation services account for about two-thirds of the company’s income. It charges between $85 and $250 to cremate a cat or dog, according to weight - which determines time needed in the crematory. A smaller portion of the operation’s income derives from memorials including stones, urns, jewelry and other products that can contain portions of the pet’s ashes.

The business employs four people in addition to Collier.

Collier said her goal is to provide caring service to clients. The facility includes a cold storage area with separate spaces for each pet.

“It’s dignified - each animal has their own space while waiting for cremation,” Collier said.

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, https://www.record-eagle.com

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