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Paula Quam, Published September 23 2013

Cremation helps pet owners say farewell

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Pets have a way of nuzzling their way into our hearts forever, so what happens when those furry, four-legged friends pass away?

One woman in Detroit Lakes recently opened up a big option when she started her business, Forever in Our Hearts.

The pet cremation place, which opened in May, is 4 miles east of Detroit Lakes on Highway 34.

And although some may not have the best visuals when thinking of a pet cremation facility, Forever in Our Hearts owner Cheryl Behlmer takes care to make sure her place has a warm, caring feeling to it.

“Almost like a funeral home,” she said, “I want people to feel like their pet is going to a good place where there’s somebody there who cares.”

Behlmer, an animal lover who has six dogs of her own (Ike, Socks, Lucy, Pete, Sparky … and a new little puppy), got the idea of opening up a business like this when she had her little Yorkie, Pippi, cremated over a year ago through a local veterinarian that contracts the job out.

“And I was told it would take four weeks to get her back, and in the wintertime, it’s even longer,” she said, adding that the job is actually done in North Dakota.

“And I missed her – I just wanted to get her home because I think that’s such a big part of the healing process,” said Behlmer, who also didn’t like the idea of mass cremations.

“My big fear was … am I getting my own dog back? You just don’t really know for sure,” said Behlmer.

Although Behlmer is now the person who does cremation for the Detroit Lakes Animal Hospital, she does say it’s less expensive to contact her directly.

The cremation room of Forever in Our Hearts has the large, shiny burner you’d expect it to, but at the same time is also cheerily adorned with sweet animal decorations and a sparkly painted ceiling.

“And I also do clay paw prints, too, so if somebody wants that done beforehand, I can do that,” said Behlmer, adding that she is working on getting her sandblasting and engraving capabilities up and running soon.

A variety of big, shiny rocks already sit outside the facility ready to be picked out and personalized.

“And there are people, too, who don’t want the ashes back, so what I do then is dig a little spot in my garden out front here and put them in there because they need a place to go, too,” she said.

Behlmer said she sees a lot of tears in her new profession, and knows it’s just too difficult for some people to bring their pets in themselves.

“So, I will go out within like a 25-mile radius and pick them up if they need me to do that,” she said, adding that she will take care of dogs, cats, birds – whatever pet somebody wants to keep forever.

Behlmer says she has great compassion for those grieving, as she has lived through the ultimate pain of losing a child.

“And she really has been my inspiration through all of this,” said Behlmer, who lost her 30-year-old daughter, Amanda, in a snowmobile accident three and a half years ago.

“And she was such an animal lover,” said Behlmer, glancing at the many photos of Amanda sprinkled throughout the room – some of them with animals.

One photo is of a bench that sits next to Amanda’s grave that says “Forever in Our Hearts” – the inspiration behind her business’s name.