The wild world of pet cremation

His part-time job is definitely not what you would expect, but hey, somebody’s got to do it.

Middlesboro junior Jacob Schneider sat across from me all semester in my software studio class.

On the first day of class, he made an impression by making his avi on our class’ Google Plus site a photo of a pug. It was cute.

A couple weeks ago, he made another big impression by casually mentioning that he worked in a pet crematorium.

I know multiple people who have had their fur babies cremated, but I never really stopped to consider the people who do this odd job, so I jumped at the chance to talk with Schneider about his work and what it’s like in the wild world of pet cremation.

Every summer, Schneider goes back to his hometown of Middlesboro and works at Tri State Pet Loss, an animal-only cremation service. He got the hookup from a neighbor and family friend, who just so happens to be a funeral director who started to receive requests from people wanting to cremate their dogs.

“He decided there was money to be made in the business and hired me as soon as they had the crematory set up,” Schneider said. “I work there because it’s an easy enough job, and I know they need the help. It’s enjoyable enough, but I wouldn’t say I’m super pumped to go into work every day. Who is?”

Schneider said that all kinds of animals come in and out of the crematorium, including ferrets, rabbits and cats. Once, he even cremated a horse head. But it’s mostly dogs.

Since it’s a small, locally-owned business, Schneider basically does “anything and everything,” he said, from picking up the animals, cremating them and dropping off the ashes.

I was especially curious about the process of cremation, but Schneider said it was “pretty simple.”

First, he said he takes an animal out of the freezer — the only way in which it can be stored sanitarily. Then, he puts it in the crematory and turns on the gas for 45 minutes to several hours, depending on the size of the animal.

Periodically, he peeks in to see if it has been completely cremated. If not, he starts the crematory again.

Once the animal is finished cremating, he waits until the crematory cools down from about 1500 degrees. Then, he uses a retrieval tool to scrape ashes out of the bottom.

“Once we have the ashes, we go over them with a magnet to make sure there is no metal in the remains (we’ve found TONS of different things that animals have swallowed), and after this we essentially blend the ashes to make them smaller and unidentifiable as bones, then put them in whatever urn the person has picked for their animal,” Schneider said.

It’s not all smooth sailing at the crematorium. When he was first starting out, Schneider said he accidentally added too much weight to the furnace, and the building nearly caught on fire. Thankfully, there were fire extinguishers on hand.

I, myself, am a lover of all things furry and pure. I am also very emotional about everything, especially animals, so I jumped to the conclusion that I would never be able to do this job. Schnieder, however, says that you have to love dogs to work at the crematory.

“You have to be able to understand the pain that people are going through as many of them are losing their best friend,” he said. “It is sad to have to process them, but if you don’t care for them, you won’t respect them, which is really important to me.”

While his is an uncommon job, Schneider said he is thankful for the experience.

“It has helped me with my people skills definitely,” Schneider said. “Being able to deal with people who are distraught on a regular basis is very challenging and really puts you out of your comfort zone. More importantly it sparks a lot of conversations with people because it is such an obscure job, which makes interviews really interesting since this job is on my resume.”

It’s good to know that even quirky jobs like this can still be applicable on a resume.

I applaud Jacob and his emotional vigor for taking on a job that often goes overlooked but is so impactful to animal lovers everywhere.

If you ever have an animal that needs to be cremated, Jacob Schneider is your guy.