“Through a combination of very low temperature and vacuum application, all moisture is removed, leaving the tissues otherwise unaltered,” explains the website of the US-based Perpetual Pet. “The pet is returned to room temperature, and remains indefinitely in the same condition.”
Still creepy? Yep. But after speaking with a woman about the comfort she gets from having her freeze-dried Staffordshire terrier still lounging about on his favourite blanket, I’m rethinking my position on “life” after death.
For more than a decade, Kathy and her mate Oddball were pretty much inseparable. When he died at their home near Gympie, Queensland, five years ago, Kathy had already decided to have him preserved.
She put him on ice and took him to Markus Michalowitz at Down Under Taxidermy & Pet Preservation. After three months in the drying chamber (larger animals take longer), Oddball – reclining, with head resting on one leg – came home again.
“I’ve no kids and have been pretty lonely,” says Kathy. “Now, when I walk through my house, I can see Oddball in his usual sunny spot in the front room.”
Does she move him about?
Kathy: “Actually, I did the other day. Because every few months you’ve got to spray him to stop moths and cockroaches eating him.” (Michalowitz warns that freeze-dried animals are also susceptible to humidity, and “should never be kept near an open fireplace”.)
Kathy seems surprised when asked if Oddball’s presence ever makes her uncomfortable: “No, absolutely not … I gave that little fella all the love I possibly could, and it’s a real comfort to still have him around.”
Freeze-drying isn’t cheap. With financial help from an ex, Kathy paid almost $4000 to have Oddball immortalised. She has no regrets. “They did a lovely job,” she tells me, “and now I’ve got him for the rest of my life. And if anything happens to me, my ex has agreed to take him.”
Frank Robson is a regular columnist and feature writer with Good Weekend.