MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Pets become a very important part of of our lives and for many, they become like family members. Someday, the time comes when we say that final goodbye, but some people become so attached they want to preserve the remains of their deceased pet.
A Maryville man waited 18 months to receive his beloved cat back. It was his understanding the taxidermist would take only 10 months to preserve his pet cat, but the wait was a lot longer.
For humans, society dictates burial or cremation. With a pet, however, there is an alternative to burial or cremation. While many pet owners might find it cringeworthy, some seek out the freeze-drying process of pet preservation to help cope with their grief.
There are not many taxidermists with this specialty in East Tennessee, so those who are interested have to look out of state.
Like many people, Damian Thompson is a cat lover. Kitten Biskit is a favorite. Thompson said in a way, she a replacement for his beloved cat Kitty Biskit. She lived for 16 years, but died in June 2016.
"Kitty Biskit was a very sweet cat, very lovable. She was part Bengal and part tabby," said Thompson.
When Kitty Biskit died Thompson decided he wanted to preserve her. For taxidermists, pet preservation is a specialty. They offer owners the option of having their pet freeze dried in a position that would best suit the owner and the individual pet.
"She meant so much to me. She was like a best friend, family member. I just wanted to save her forever and keep her memory with me," said Thompson.
The estimated turnaround time varies depending on the pet. Taxidermy services generally require a deposit of 50 percent. You pay the cost to ship the animal.
Within a day after Thompson's cat passed in 2016, he called an out-of-state taxidermist that he had seen on TV.
"They told me they'd be able to do it. They gave me the price and said they'd take real good care of her, that it would take approximately 10 months," he said.
Thompson paid a $362 deposit and paid another $250 to ship the frozen remains of Kitty Biskit.
"When 10 months was up I called to see where they were along in the process," he said.
He didn't get the answer he expected to hear.
"My phone calls were ignored. I left several messages with them. I spoke with one guy. He said he would check, never got a call back," said Thompson.
Worried whether he'd ever get his cat back, he finally received positive information two months ago.
"November, they called me and said she was about done, be about a week. Would I send the rest of the money to them," said Thompson. "I said, 'Would you send me pictures of her, the final product? ' Close up of the face, the under side, so I knew it was my cat," he said.
However, Thompson said he didn't hear anything from taxidermy service again. So, WATE 6 On Your Side contacted the taxidermist. He apologized to Thompson for the delay and said he didn't do anything wrong. He told Thompson he answers calls personally.
"You may have caught me at a time when I was extremely busy," said the taxidermist.
Thompson was told his cat was not sent because he never made the final payment. So a compromise was struck: shipping costs would be cut if Thompson sent the final check. He did.
Thompson is glad to have Kitty Biskit back, but is not completely happy with the final result.
"It was upsetting when I opened her out of the box. It was upsetting. Then I was filled with joy," he said.
Thompson said he's not happy with Kitty Biskit's face. He said it doesn't look like her. Thompson said he doesn't think he would have another cat preserved this way.
"I think I would bury them and make a memorial for them," he said.
Kitty Biskit will rest in a special place at Thompson's home.
Several local taxidermists said they don't do pet preservation, mainly because of customer dissatisfaction. They don't like the results of what they see. Pet preservation is expensive, taxidermists said, because it takes them a lot of time and their equipment is expensive.
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