BROOKSVILLE — At Natures Pet Loss Center, which recently celebrated its grand opening, deceased pets and their owners are granted the gentle touch, dignity and serene surroundings more commonly associated with funeral homes for human loved ones.
Such, perhaps, is the result of owner Joyce Moreau having funeral home experience on her resume.
More unique is the center's ecofriendly and gentle cremation process, said Moreau, 54. Known as aquamation, the method utilizes an alkaline water solution rather than a superheated flame to decompose body remains.
Potassium-based sodium hydroxide and caustic potash are added, according to a chemical equation, to a water bath contained in a large stainless steel tank. The bath dissolves all soft tissue, leaving only bones. The bones are air dried in a small environmentally controlled room. The overall process takes four to eight days, depending on the size of the corpse.
By hand, Moreau pulverizes the bones of small animals, such as birds. Larger and heavier bones are reduced to a coarse powder in an electric-powered grinder. The result is 20 percent more remains than with flame cremation, Moreau said.
Aquamation produces a carbon print only 10 percent that of flaming, she said, and puts no particulates or residue into the atmosphere.
"I went to a seminar, then classes, on cremation," the entrepreneur said. "When I saw this process, I said why aren't more people doing this? It's more humane, more gentle, more eco-friendly — all that I believe in."
Moreau is in the forefront of offering the aquamation cremation process, said Joe Wilson, CEO of Bio-Response Solutions Inc. in Danville, Ind., which manufactured the business' equipment. A Los Angeles company was the first to install Bio-Response's system two years ago, Wilson said, with 16 now in operation across the country.
Other manufacturers produce similar components for aquamation, a method founded in Australia and first offered by the Mayo Clinic in the United States in 2006 for human remains.
Moreau acknowledges the process "is not for everyone, but is a choice."
Moreau is scrupulous about maintaining the integrity of each pet's remains and ensuring no mingling. She provides a numbered metal tag that accompanies a corpse throughout the reduction process and that is returned to the owner when the process is finished.
Aquamation also enables the return of a computer chip or prosthesis contained in a body, further proof of the remains' identity. Flame cremation decimates those items.
In a loving touch, Moreau provides to a pet's owner a hair, fur or feather clipping, along with a paw print in a naturally drying clay.
All of the items are assembled in a wooden box, but an owner can choose from a wide variety of keepsake urns, from brushed pewter or brass to enameled ceramics, many etched with a likeness of a cat or dog. Also offered are handmade boxes by Brooksville woodcrafter Johnny Morton, in cedar, walnut, cherry and cypress.
The center, staffed by Moreau and two technicians, includes a tastefully furnished viewing chapel where families may conduct a remembrance service. There, Moreau showcases remains wrapped in a blanket and reposed in a pet bed.
Fees start at $109 for a pet of 10 pounds or less. There's a sliding scale, based on animal weight. Urns are priced from $25 for Morton's woodworks, and from $43 to $295 for metal and ceramics.