Anthony Eddy Wildlife Studio, located on Main Street in Slater, is one of only a handful of businesses that "freeze dry" small mammals, including dogs and cats, for grieving pet owners.
"We've done between 100-150 last year. It's growing more and more. When I first started here, we did two pets a year. It just gradually started growing in popularity," said Lessie Calvert, shop manager, who has been with the company for 13 years.
To see the rest of this story and other stories about Slater, see the special section -- "Taking Strides for the Future: Slater" -- included in the Friday, Feb. 13, edition of The Marshall Democrat-News.
Although it may be more traditional in Missouri and rural areas to bury a beloved pet, Calvert said the pet owners who choose to preserve their pets say it brings them peace.
The company freeze dries other small mammals, many for other taxidermists across the U.S.
"In the freeze dry department we do small mammals like fawns, squirrels, snakes, rabbits, chipmunks," said Calvert. They also have done an Alpaca, a miniature donkey, as well as parrots, parakeets, hamsters, snakes, iguanas and macaws.
However, it is the dogs and cats, which when preserved look "like they could jump right up and play," which has gotten the Slater business national publicity.
"We've been on Inside Edition," said Calvert, "They were doing a piece on how losing a pet has come more than just burial. It was very tasteful."
St. Louis and Kansas City news crews, as well as the Wall Street Journal, the Columbia Missourian and an Omaha paper have also interviewed them.
They still laugh about the Comedy Channel piece that Stephen Colbert and John Stewart did on the business.
After owner Anthony Eddy agreed to do the piece, Calvert said they told him the comedy show would "rake you over the coals and make fun of what we do."
"But you know they did do a little bit of a spoof, but it was still tasteful," she said.
The owners who choose to preserve their dogs often are elderly couples, single people or even married couples who don't have any children of their own and think of their pet as their child or family member.
"A lot of these people, they can't bring themselves to bury them or cremate them so they get on the Internet and start searching," she said, adding that others may call taxidermists in their area. "Most of them give them our name because we are so well known, we have been doing it for so long."
To the pet owner, it is often devastating when their pet dies and part of Calvert's job is to deal with the grieving owners.
"When they lose them, it is very devastating to them," she said.
Editor's note: The rest of this story can be found in "Taking Strides for the Future: Slater," a special edition included in the Friday, Feb. 13, edition of The Marshall Democrat-News.