At Beech: Pets at Peace
Trevor Johnson and his black lab, Tascha, in 2010. Tascha's health was in decline then. She died Sept. 20, 2011.
Late one recent evening, Tascha collapsed on the kitchen floor of her east-end home, helpless. Too weak to move.
When Trevor Johnson and partner Ron Zaharia found her that way, they feared she wouldn't make it through the night. She'd been ailing for months, frail with age, her life winding down.
The men tenderly covered Tascha with blankets, and then bedded down next to her on the floor, one on each side. Anxious and sleepless in the wee hours, they watched their 15-year-old black lab as her eyes began to close and her breathing slowed. Then it stopped.
They were devastated.
"I've had other pets in my life but Tascha was extra-special," says Johnson, 42, an Air Canada flight attendant. "I got her from the pound when she was six weeks old and basically brought her from cradle to grave."
But a grave for Tascha? Not in Toronto.
There are no official burial sites for animals — no pet cemeteries — in the city. Neither are there animal crematoriums.
Johnson couldn't bear the thought of leaving his dog on a vet's cold examination table and simply walking away. He also wanted closure, which didn't happen when he and Zaharia lived in Winnipeg with a beautiful white husky named Max.
Pets at Peace is a service for grieving pet owners. Tascha was cremated with her favourite breakfast treat — two slices of peanut butter toast.MARY ORMSBY/TORONTO STAR
Max had a crippling stroke in 2007 when the two men were away in a remote part of Thailand. Family members couldn't reach the couple and had Max humanely euthanized.
"All we had (left) were our memories, some photos and a lot of guilt," says Johnson of the husky.
"Even though Max had a great life, all we could think about was his ending. We didn't get a chance to say goodbye."
Things would be different for Tascha.
Zaharia searched the Internet for burial options and found Pets at Peace, a service for grieving pet owners at Queen St. E. at Beech. Owner Helen Hobbs' business includes transporting a deceased pet from home or the vet's office; individual cremation (pets are driven to a site near Hamilton, Ont.) with the option of watching, decorative urns for storage and online memorials.
Tascha was cremated with her favourite breakfast treat — two slices of peanut butter toast. Her ashes were spread in a Winnipeg park where "she was happiest" as a younger dog, Johnson says.
Hobbs, 54, was a licensed funeral home director for humans for seven years who noticed how deeply acquaintances mourned their dead pets. Inspired by a friend who remains suspicious that the ashes her vet's office returned might not be those of her cat, Hobbs — who has three cats and a dog — established Pets at Peace seven years ago.
In 2010, she moved from the Kingston Road location to the Beach. Gentle music plays in the background of the main floor space, an area warmed by wood flooring and brick walls. Animals are taken to a basement morgue. Twice weekly, the crematorium picks up the animals.
Ashes are returned to the owner, who can purchase a variety of urns or use a plain box.
"Throughout history, people have acknowledged family members and honoured their lives after they've died with rituals and customs," says Hobbs.
"In this day and age, people's pets are family too and owners are seeking out this option."
Pets at Peace owner Helen Hobbs' business includes transporting a deceased pet from home or the vet's office; individual cremation (pets are driven to a site near Hamilton, Ont.) with the option of watching, decorative urns for storage and online memorials.
MARY ORMSBY/TORONTO STAR
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