TRAVERSE CITY — Kerri Collier knows better than most the grief that can follow the death of a beloved pet.
She sees it all as owner of Great Lakes Pet Memorial and Crematory in Traverse City.
"Most people are sad when they're here. There's a lot of tears shared," said Collier, who opened the business in 2007 with her husband, Dustin. "Most people just want to talk about their pet and what they meant to them. Sometimes it's a tragedy — they were hit by a car. If they were taken before their time, it's just a little harder."
The business will sponsor a “Pet Celebration of Life" Remembrance & Healing Ceremony May 30 to honor the memories of pets loved and lost. The 7 p.m. service at Living Hope Church will feature guest speakers, poetry readings, a remembrance slideshow and a "Rainbow Bridge" video tribute to animal companions. The Rainbow Bridge is a popular poem among animal lovers which refers to a mythical place "just this side of heaven" where a pet goes upon its death, eventually to be reunited with its owner.
Collier said the service is modeled after others many successful pet memorial businesses organize annually for their clients. It's a chance for people who have experienced the death of a pet to meet others, tell their stories and "know that they're not alone."
"It's to honor the memories of people’s pets, to acknowledge that this is a real loss and that people can be sad for a long time," said Collier, who lost her own pet — Dexter, a Dalmation — in February. "Non-pet people don’t understand the loss. They say, 'Aren’t you going to get another dog?' 'I can’t believe you’re crying over a dog.' They don't understand that pets provide that unconditional love and acceptance. We don’t get that from most people."