Guardians Of The Night

Author – Unknown

Trust in me my friend for I am

your comrade. I will protect you

with my last breath When all

others have left you And the

loneliness of the night closes

in, I will be at your side.

Together we will conquer all

obstacles, And search out

those who might wish harm to

others. All I ask of you is

compassion, The caring touch

of your hands. It is for you that I

will unselfishly give my life And

spend my nights unrested.

Although our days together

May be marked by the passing

of the seasons Know that each

day at your side is my reward.

My days are measured by The

coming and going of your

footsteps. I anticipate them at

every opening of the door. You

are the voice of caring when I

am ill. The voice of authority

when I’ve done wrong.

Do not chastise me unduly For

I am your right arm, The sword

at your side. I attempt to do

only what you bid of me. I seek

only to please you and remain

in your favor.

Together you and I shall

experience A bond only others

like us will understand When

outsiders see us together Their

envy will be measured by their

disdain.

I will quietly listen to you And

pass no judgment, Nor will your

spoken words be repeated I will

remain ever silent, Ever vigilant,

ever loyal. And when our time

together is done And you move

on in the world Remember me

with kind thoughts and tales,

For a time we were unbeatable,

Nothing passed among us

undetected.

If we should meet again on

another street I will gladly take

up your fight, I am a Police

Working Dog and together We

                are guardians of the night.

In a heart-rending tribute to his canine soul mate, former Lewiston K-9 police officer Tim Morin posted online an anonymous poem called “Guardians of the Night,” about a working police dog. Sarge, a robust, 98-pound German shepherd, was still on active duty when more than 500 cancerous tumors were found in his lungs. He succumbed to the disease in 2006 after eight years with his human partner.

At his memorial, nearly 100 police officers from around the state came to honor the legendary canine who had apprehended drug dealers as deftly as he’d found missing children.

Morin had Sarge cremated, admitting the idea had been “off-putting” to him at first. But recalling a chance meeting two years earlier with Linda Desrosier, owner of Fluke’s Aftercare pet crematory in Litchfield, Morin took a chance and now says he wouldn’t do it any other way. “We got to Fluke’s at 11 o’clock at night,” Morin said, as the dog had been put down quickly by the vet. “They stayed up all night to take care of him and allowed us to remain throughout the process.”

Though evidence of human cremation is charted as far back as 3000 B.C., historians say the beginning of pet cremation, outside of religious sacrifice, is harder to determine. What is known is that pet cremation is on the rise today due to the ever-increasing bond between owners and pets, and to an increasingly mobile society that no longer stays in the family home for 30 or 40 years, where a backyard can make the ideal burial plot for Fifi or Brutus. In fact, some states — not Maine — no longer permit burials of this nature.

The mechanical aspects of the pet cremation process — code requirements for the facility and equipment — have become stringent enough in recent years that many veterinarians who were in the pet cremation business have gotten out.

Because of that, the vast majority of pets arrive at one of Maine’s 23 licensed pet crematories via a veterinarian’s office. Most crematories don’t deal directly with the public. And, unlike the process of human cremation, there are no regulations on how an animal’s body must be treated or how the remains must be handled.

According to Lewiston Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Forest Clark, pet owners today treat “the loss of a pet more like a family member than an animal.” To that end, owners worry that because they can’t be part of the cremation process, their pet’s body won’t be handled with care and dignity, and that their pet’s ashes could be mixed with other pets’ ashes in a mass cremation.

As the popularity of pet cremation has increased and as more pet owners want a greater connection with the cremation process and more assurance of the outcome, some crematories have begun to offer more personal services, like Fluke’s Aftercare.

Death results in birth of an idea

For Desrosier, a life-changing experience when her 6-year-old shepherd mix, Fluke, died of cancer in 2003 precipitated her personal plunge into the pet cremation business.

“Although he’d undergone chemo for a year, when cancer dogs crash, they crash quickly,” said Desrosier, who is among the founders of the nonprofit Canine Cancer Awareness. “When we had to make that dreaded decision and then decided on cremation, I wanted to know where he was going. I wanted to bring him there and be with him during the process, or at least know the hour of cremation to say a prayer. And I wanted to be sure what came back was Fluke,” she said.

Because it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, Desrosier learned Fluke’s body would need to spend at least four days in their Portland veterinary oncologist’s freezer with other deceased pets before being collected for cremation. Told that the cremation facility did not deal directly with the public, and realizing it would be a couple of weeks before she could make the drive back down to the Portland vet to pick up the ash remains (known as “cremains”), Desrosier got busy.

A search at that time revealed that if she wanted to participate, the closest facility was in New Brunswick, Canada — six hours away. A licensed practical nurse by profession, Desrosier was legal guardian for an aunt with Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s, with whom she and husband John, a truck driver, shared their home, so a long trip was impossible.

Without options and out of time, she ultimately persuaded the vet to provide the phone number to the crematory in question. Following an emotional phone call to the crematory, which was located much closer to her home than her veterinarian, they agreed to give her the cremains directly. But she was devastated when they presented her with a nondescript cardboard box without a certificate or acknowledgment of death and cremation date. “I cried all the way home,” she said. “Fluke deserved better.”

Seven months later, the Desrosiers mortgaged their home, invested $50,000 in equipment and engaged contractors to build a 27-by-38-foot facility at an enormous additional cost. Fluke’s Aftercare was born, the eponymous venture named for the treatment the Desrosiers believe their dog, and his family, should have received.

Amenities include carved wooden cremains boxes with glass pockets for fur clippings and photos, paw prints in white clay, cremation certificates with inked paw prints (and extra paw-printed blank pages for children to write their good-byes), a candle lit memorial service next to the body at the time of cremation (known as “witnessed private cremation”) and the opportunity for the client to remain in the facility during the entire three-to-five-hour cremation process where they get to share stories of their pet’s life.

Whether working directly with clients or through a veterinarian, Desrosier said her objective is to demystify cremation and be more like a pet funeral director. “We’re here to provide dignity for their animal, not just perform a service, and that’s the difference.”

Dogs don’t die ‘on cue’

For school bus driver Suzanne Collins of Collins Wildwood Pet Cremations Inc. in Enfield, Maine, volunteering at a local shelter where she’d heard staff discussing the process of pet cremation precipitated her immersion into the industry. Displeased with the impersonal procedure she’d observed at vets’ offices — including deceased animals being packed up into large freezer trucks and delivered back an agonizing (for some owners) two weeks later — Collins and husband, George, started their business in October 2001.

“The whole idea with us is that you definitely get back what you bring,” she said, adding they allow the owner to observe the process from an archway in the building, if desired. Noting they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Collins said animals “don’t die on cue.

“People have called at 10 o’clock at night, panicked, because it’s cold or snowing and they don’t know what to do with their pet. We tell them to put him in a cool place and cover him, and we’ll be right there to pick him up,” she explained of the service offered within a radius of her business, which involves an additional cost.

Collins said that in addition to dogs and cats, they have cremated goats, ferrets, parrots and iguanas, and work with individuals as well as vet offices. At a cost of $95 for the cremation process and then a dollar per pound for the animal, which is standard for most pet crematories of this type, the ovens or “retorts,” in industry vernacular, accommodate animals up to about 150 pounds. But no matter what the weight, and unless requested otherwise for a reduced fee, animals are always cremated separately.

A better season

At the time of year when most people joyfully anticipate the holidays, Bethany and Paul Whalon of Litchfield used to face their annual season of sorrow. With the help of their large animal vet, they would decide which of the goats and sheep in their small menagerie — which they consider pets — might not make it through the winter. They would then euthanize them and bury them before the ground froze.

It was a gut-wrenching decision, according to Bethany, a biochemistry lab instructor at Bates College, because it was always possible the animals they put down may have made it through the winter after all.

Referred to Fluke’s Aftercare by Lewiston’s Animal Emergency Hospital after the death of a family dog in 2005, the Whalons have cremated four goats, a sheep and their a dog only after they died naturally or were near death and euthanized. The farm animals have been allowed to live out their lives, months and even years beyond the time they might have, had they been euthanized solely for weather purposes. “In the fall, vets around here feel like the Grim Reaper,” Whalon said. “Now they don’t have to.”

Former K-9 officer Morin, who now co-owns Shaker Hill Outdoors in Poland (formerly Shaker Hill Landscape and Nursery), left the force in 2008 after 13 years because, among other things, his work was never the same without his dog. “Sarge changed my career tremendously,” Morin said. “As for cremation, the way it was done gave me such peace of mind, and I really owed it to him.”

Final cremains

According to

, cremains can be returned to pet owners in “processed” or “unprocessed” forms.

The so-called industry standard is a fine, powdery product. Special equipment grinds remaining bone and tooth fragments after the chamber, or retort, has reduced the body to skeletal remains.

“It’s not like going to the Museum of Natural History and seeing a dinosaur standing there,” Desrosier explained, referring to the remains that first come out of the retort, “because it’s fragments, but it isn’t the final step.”

Some people prefer unprocessed cremains because they represent something more tangible about their pet, she said, which is why she offers both forms to her clients. It was an alternative she wasn’t offered when she had her dog Fluke cremated.


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