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Rainbow Sessions For Senior and Critically Ill (or Deceased) Fur Babies & Aftercare!

As fur baby Pawrents we have a huge responsibility to our children making sure they have the best that we can offer in their lives with us. Whether it’s making sure they have a great vet, that understands they are not just animals or a pet - they are our babies, good nutrition, exercise and fun toys and treats through to the heartbreaking but loving decision to let them cross Rainbow Bridge with respect, dignity and care. That respect, care and dignity needs to continue with an aftercare service you can trust your precious fur baby with. That means empathetic and gentle handling, transportation and aftercare until they are back safely with you again. For me, it has to be a company that will appreciate that this precious fur baby needs to be treated as if it were their own child who has passed.

Unfortunately, the life span of our fur baby means at some point they will leave us behind and wait for us at Rainbow Bridge - at least for a while! I must admit that in the past I have not wanted to think about - let alone talk about the idea of my fur baby being ready for Rainbow Bridge. But in life I have had to face this suddenly and unexpectedly (car accident) as well as having to make the decision to let them go painlessly and with dignity through euthanasia. In those panicked moments of deep grief - as I held my fur babies in my arms watching them drift off to that final peaceful sleep - I could hardly think straight let alone make important decisions like what should happen to them afterwards.

Often I am asked to take photos of Senior Fur Babies, whose Pawrents realise they are ageing and getting closer to Rainbow Bridge, even though they are not yet ready to cross it. They might have photos from when they were a puppies or were much younger, but they want portraits of their beloved fur baby - just as they are now, because that is how they want to remember them as a legacy for their years of love and devotion - this is what I call a Senior Session! Some of those Fur Babies are still going strong!

Sometimes Rainbow Bridge is looming close and it’s a Rainbow Session they book, because their fur baby is gravely ill and it will just be a matter of a short time before a natural passing, or they have made the decision that they are ready for what I like to call “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” either at home or at their vet. So the session is held wherever is most suitable for their fur baby a few days or weeks beforehand.

In the case of a planned passing, a Rainbow Session can also be arranged in those exact moments- if that is what that family want. Once I have taken the photos Pawrents can choose from a range of options of how best to remember their Fur Baby, in a mini album, framed prints or wall art in canvas, acrylic or metal to treasure forever!

I have even used a family's favourite photo of their fur baby after they have gone to Rainbow Bridge already and made a composite image for them as a keepsake.

My gorgeous Cocker X, Cebar has given me a couple of scares over the past few years - with pancreatitis and what was thought to be a torsion of the bowel - and at 11 years old I am having to face the fact that Rainbow Bridge might be on the horizon sooner than I would like.

I was at the Dogs West Open Day recently and came across Catherine, from Blue Leaf Water Cremations - and I have to say I had never heard of this before. So we got to chatting and I asked her if I could share some information about their aftercare services - so Pawrents, like myself, could make informed choices and decisions about the aftercare options available for their precious fur baby, before they are in a state of deep grief and can’t think straight!


How did you come to be offering this service?

We’ve always been pet parents which unfortunately means we’ve had our own experiences of loss and grief. But when we were recently faced with looking into Aftercare options, we came across an article by the Max Planck Research Group; Emissions from the flame cremation of 22 dogs, can cause enough CO2 to shrink the Arctic Ice by 3m2. That’s 45kg of CO2 for an average sized dog!

Understandably, we don’t like to think about End of Life of our pets, but our choices are having a huge impact on the environment. So we started researching how we could reduce our Pets Carbon Paw Print. And that is how we came about Water Cremation. It offered an environmentally friendly option that does not burn fossil fuels or emit harmful greenhouse gases. BUT it wasn’t available in Western Australia. Also around this time, we were looking to re-enter into our own family business and the thought of combining this innovative method with our love for animals and compassion for people – especially those in grief, resonated strongly with us. So we continued our research over the years, obtained all the necessary Approvals and Licenses to Operate, Although Covid had caused a number of delays, Blue Leaf Water Cremation officially opened in Perth, late August of this year.

I had never heard of a Water Cremation before - how is it different from other cremation services?

It is fairly new to Australia, therefore most Pet Parents would not be familiar with Water Cremation as a form of Aftercare for their Pets. Water Cremation, also known as Alkaline Hydrolysis, was first developed and patented back in 1888. The first commercial system was installed in 1993, mostly used for sterilization and disposition at biocontainment laboratories - then it was first used in the Funeral Industry in 2011.

Water Cremation made headlines in January of this year with the passing of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a great advocate for the Environmental and Sustainability, he elected Water Cremation as his Aftercare choice. As we’ve become increasingly aware of our carbon footprint during our lives, so too is the need for consideration in our Aftercare options.

There’s quite a movement towards Greener Funeral alternatives and Water Cremation can offer a service that does not burn fossil fuels, nor does it emit harmful greenhouse gases. So for Pet Parents, especially those who are seeking an eco-friendly option, we can reduce their Pets Carbon Paw Print by 97%.

Water Cremation mimics the natural decomposition process, similar to what happens if we were to bury our pet. Essentially, the organic material, such as the muscle and tissue is broken down and what remains, is the calcium phosphate, or bones. Pets are placed into, what we call their individual cradles. This is a fully contained stainless steel vessel, which has minor perforations on the top and bottom, which allows the water to flow over the body.This is placed inside the water cremation system. It’s then filled with 95% water, and water being one of the most natural decomposing agents. And 5% Alkali, which is used to stimulate and accelerate the breakdown of the organic matter. And this will continuously gently flow over the body. If we think about it, pets like people, are made up of 60-70% water. Water is a natural decomposer and it is the water molecules that break the bonds of the organic material. The alkali simply stimulates and accelerates the process. Because this method is respectful to the remains, this part of the cycle will take approx. 18 hours. At the end of Water Cremation, we are still left with the calcium phosphate (bone) remains, which are collected and prepared for placement into an Urn. As we don’t use Fire, we don’t tend to refer to them as Ashes, but as Hydrolysed Remains or Cremains. Also, the cremains are 100% sterile and pathogen free, which means they are safer to return to the environment if they choose to scatter them or bury them - with no dangerous chemicals contaminating the soil. As it doesn’t use such excessive force and heat, Pet Parents will actually receive 20-30% more cremains, than what they would with flame cremation.

What happens if my fur baby dies at home?

Before you move your pet, place a towel under the hind end, as unfortunately, their bowels will release. We allow our other pets to smell their friend, so they can understand what is happening. If you are having your pet collected by an Aftercare provider, especially during the summer, place them somewhere cool. Tuck their legs into their body, as if they were sleeping.

What happens to my fur baby when you collect them and they are now in your care?

Pets and their family details, as well as aftercare service choices are recorded into our database. Pets are collected from their homes, wrapped in our Homemade Cotton Shrouds and transported to our facility in our Low Emission vehicle.They are respectfully handled and treated, just like they were our own. (She asked me "Should I admit that I talk to them and pat them? To me, they’re still here" and I said ABSOLUTELY!). At our Solar Panelled premises, their weights are confirmed. We collect keepsake fur and paw prints which are returned to the Pet Parent in our Memorial Packages.

How can I be sure it’s my fur baby’s individual remains that are returned to me?

Every pet is issued with a unique numbered Stainless Steel ID Tag. This ID tag is collared around their neck and goes with them through every stage including the Water Cremation and is checked and reconciled against our database at every step. Pets (and their ID tags) are placed into, what we call their individual cradle, which is placed inside the Water Cremation system. The cradle is a fully contained stainless steel vessel, which has minor perforations on the top and bottom, which allows the water to flow over the body. At the end of the process, they are recovered and placed into their individual containment, again with their ID tag, before being prepared and placed into an urn. The ID Tag is returned inside/with the pet’s urn.

Do you offer urns or burial vessels - what kind and why?

Not only is our process more environmentally friendly, but so too is our whole aftercare service. So we only offer Sustainable and Biodegradable products.

This range includes

  • Paper Scattering/Burial Urns

  • Bamboo Scattering/Burial Urns

  • Bamboo Memorial Boxes (Which we can engrave)

  • Garden Memorial Stones

People can

  • write messages on the paper urns

  • Bury them with photos

  • Plant a living legacy plant over the burial site

  • Create a memorial garden with our stones

Do you offer services like Pet Pawprint Impressions?

Yes. As noted above. This gives Pet Parents the option to later purchase personal keepsake products.

Do you offer keepsakes or memorial products like lockets, portraits, garden ornaments, seeds, plants etc?

Not at the moment. We are constantly seeking Sustainable products and happy to hear any recommendations. If our customers require assistance with providing items to suppliers, we are more than happy to help.

I realise things depend on the choices you make, but how much on average does it cost?

It does depend on the type and size/weight of your pet as well as the Urn/Memorial Packages that you choose. Prices range from $ 285 to $610. This price includes Pick up from Vets in the Perth Metro Area, Water Cremation, Urn/Memorabilia, Candle, Fur Keepsake & Paw Print. We also donate to a WA Reforestation Project, for a tree to be planted in living memory of every pet. Prices are competitive to traditional aftercare options

Compared to traditional aftercare options, Water Cremation doesn’t cost the earth, as it is the most sustainable alternative. Together, we can honour the life of a pet, in a way the respects their memory and REDUCES their Carbon Paw Print. 😊

Now just to be clear - I have had a good talk with Cebar and told him that Jock, his predecessor was 16 before he went to Rainbow Bridge, and I do understand the Cebar has some health issues and might not get to 16, but we have agreed on a 3 year plan at least!!! So I am now thinking of a “Bucket List” for him to enjoy for as long as we possibly can - he has a ramp so he can be back sleeping on the bed with us, we go out to the dog park every single day, he gets to ride in the car every day, he has his little bro, Whisky, to play with and for company, our next holiday will be one that lets you take your dogs with you, he gets Reiki sessions frequently (I'm a Reiki Master) and of course all our love and attention! He is such a beautiful soul and GOOD DOG!

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