More Valley pet owners turning to cremations

PHOENIX - Kimberly Smith had a hard time saying goodbye to her pet dog, Muffin, who had been faithfully by Smith's side for 10 years before passing away.

"I'm one of those people where my dogs are my children. I don't have children, so my dogs are my kids. She was a big, a very big, part of my life," said Smith.

A big part of Smith's life she didn't want to forget, so Smith decided to have her dog cremated. She received a private viewing, picked out an urn, and even watched the start of the cremation process.

"She's not something to be thrown away and I just feel a lot better knowing I had a little service for her and was able to say goodbye," said Smith.

Pet and Animal Lovers Service in west Phoenix performed the service. Owner Katherine Heuerman told ABC15 business is good.

"I would say, on an average, 400 a week," said Heuerman.

Heuerman said a growing number of Valley pet owners want a more personal way to say goodbye and keep their pet's memory alive.

"Fifteen years ago, 20 percent of the people wanted their pets back. Today, 50 percent want them back," said Heuerman.

Another sign of the times: the housing crisis. Heuerman said it created an unexpected and unusual jump in business.

"We have been doing a lot of people that have been selling their properties and they're exhuming their pets and we're cremating them so they can take them with them. It's not something we do every day but we do it all the time," said Heuerman.

For Smith, the option of just having the service is an important part of moving forward.

"It may seem strange that I'm doing this but that really lets me say goodbye to her and gives me a lot of closure," said Smith.

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