It's not unusual to find a crying customer at Trev Fuller's Columbus business. That's because for some pet owners, it's emotional to discuss the cremation arrangements for a beloved animal.
Fuller is co-owner and co-founder of Pet Cremation Services of Columbus LLC, a pet funeral home and crematory that offers services for all kinds of creatures — from dogs to fish.
Fuller and Scott M. Jones — the business' other owner and founder — are no strangers to the general funeral business. Jones owns Service Casket Company and Columbus Cremation Service. Fuller is a licensed funeral director and embalmer.
Both know that due to the nature of their business, they encounter plenty of customers who are already distraught upon entering Pet Cremation Services of Columbus.
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So how can a business owner interact with this set of delicate customers?
With empathy, compassion and care, Fuller said.
"We want to help them with a normal grieving process," he said.
Pets like family
"People now, their pets are just like their own children, their family," Jones said.
At the pet funeral home and crematory, family members are offered a variety of options for their deceased pet: decorative urns, caskets, monuments and even jewelry that carries a small amount of pet ashes.
The business is not limited to servicing the typical dogs and cats. Pet Cremation Services of Columbus also can cremate birds, turtles, fish, snakes and rabbits, among other types of animals.
"It's not what cremation is, it's what cremation does," Fuller said. "It's not the physical cremation of the pet and returning it to the family. It's what it does — it helps them with the next few steps to go back to living a somewhat normal life."
"And closure, too," Jones added.
Dealing with upset customers
With pets being treated as family members in some cases, the loss can be devastating for owners.
So Fuller knows he must handle each customer with care.
"The No. 1 thing is to listen," Fuller said. "That's the most important key to helping a distraught family."
When a pet owner comes in, Fuller will sit down and gather information about the pet — such as its name, age, size, veterinarian's name, and so on.
He will also listen to customers share memories about the pet.
"When they physically and verbally express their feelings, that's the first step they take," Fuller said.
The business — which opened its doors this past January — will eventually support the hiring of more employees, Fuller said.
And he knows exactly what kind of characteristics they will look for.
"An empathetic listener, trustworthy, a person with propriety," he said.
Jones said they also want someone who is "compassionate, sympathetic, and a pet lover."
"We wouldn't want someone to work for us who thought, 'It's just a dog,' " Jones said.
Fuller said he can relate to the heartbreak over a deceased pet. A few years ago, his 9-year-old Weimeraner Blue passed away.
He admits that seeing someone else going through similar anguish can be emotionally draining.
"I cry with them because I'm so involved with what's going on," Fuller said. "It's very taxing because they're sharing these experiences and I allow myself to go where they are so I can see how they feel. . .I truly believe that when the day comes where I don't feel empathetic, I feel I need to do something else."
Despite the emotions that run through the office each day, Fuller continues to run the business. The various thank-you notes and pictures taped to his office filing cabinet seem to be an indication why.
"It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life — to help families in their time of grief," he said. "There's nothing like helping a family and they'll never forget how you treated them."
On the day of the cremation, owners can watch their pet be placed into the cremation machine — at their request.