Alex is a 16-year-old golden retriever who was recently diagnosed with a slow-growing cancer in his left thigh.
His age make surgery undesirable. So Alex’s owners have chosen a treatment plan that includes veterinary chiropractic manipulations, physical therapy and cold laser therapy.
On Sunday, Cyndi and John Palmer of Overland Park added spiritual care to their dog’s regimen. Alex was blessed during a Blessing of the Animals service at Rolling Acres Memorial Gardens in rural Platte County.
“It gives us a sense of calm and it’s a little extra protection for Alex,” said Cyndi Palmer.
Alex was one of three well-loved rescue dogs the Palmers own and brought to be blessed.
About 20 pet owners and 10 dogs participated in the service conducted by Nancy Piper, who owns the pet cemetery with her husband. She is ordained by Universal Ministries and also officiates at pet burials and memorial services. Piper was assisted by Karen Ziegler, a chaplain from Platte City.
“All pets are gifts from God,” Piper told those assembled on the front lawn of the house that serves as an office for the cemetery.
Piper said in her 34 years as a pet cemeterian, she has seen the role of pets in families move “from the barn to the house to the bed — pets have become part of the family.”
Joyce Whitcomb of Smithville brought her year-old miniature Australian shepherd, Chance, to the service so he could be “blessed just as we are when we go to church,” Whitcomb said.
The service was a celebration of the abiding bond between owners and their pets, punctuated with an occasional bark and at times, the tears of owners whose pets “have left this world but not our hearts,” Piper said.
Ziegler played her guitar and sang about “how deeply connected” pets are to their owners’ souls in the anthem, “How Could Anyone.”
All pet owners received a St. Francis of Assisi medallion for their dogs’ collars. St. Francis is known as the patron saint of animals.
Earlier in the day, Jerry and Georgia Katz of Overland Park arrived with violets for the graves of Jerry Katz’s five dogs. His first dog was buried at Rolling Acres in 1978.
Nearly 5,000 pets are buried on the grounds. Along with dogs and cats are parakeets, rabbits, hamsters, horses, pot-bellied pigs and a pet steer named Moo.
The cemetery was established 40 years ago on 13 acres of pastoral hillside in Kansas City, North. Piper purchased the property in 1978.
Last year, the old office building was torn down and construction on a new one begun in the same location. Projected to open at the end of this year, the new 11,000-square-foot building will house the crematory, a chapel, a meeting room, patio, offices, a showroom of urns and caskets, a comfort room and space for other services.
Piper is a certified pet crematory operator, grief recovery specialist and pet loss professional. She performs an average of 50 funeral services annually on site.
As for the spiritual whereabouts of the pets buried there, Piper says that yes, pets do go to heaven.
“I believe they live on after death — that they have a soul or spirit.”