Earlier this year, I interviewed the owners of Resting Waters, a company that dedicates its work to providing sustainable pet aftercare in Seattle, Washington, about pet loss. The following are Joslin Roth, owner and CEO, and Darci Bressler's, owner and COO, thoughts.
How did you and your sister decide to open your business? Do you have a background in death care?
Resting Waters: Joslin read an article online that featured a gentleman who owns an aquamation facility for pets in Malibu, California. Right away she fell in love with the science of aquamation and the idea of creating a space for families to bring their loved ones to grieve and to celebrate the relationship they have with them. After a quick Google search, she realized that no one was offering aquamation for pets anywhere in Washington State and that the closest pet death care center was 20 miles outside of the city of Seattle. And at that moment Resting Waters was born. At the same time, Darci happened to be leaving her career of 8 years as she had been with the same company since graduating from college and wanted a fresh start. We have always been extremely close, lifelong best friends, so we thought working together would be a great fit!
While we had never worked in death care before opening Resting Waters nor do we have any formal training in this field we do have personal experiences that have helped us know the work we do now. Joslin began volunteering for hospice at the age of 18, and through Darci's career as a non-profit event fundraiser, she worked closely with a hospice center to coordinate their annual luncheon. We were raised playing in cemeteries, and both of us have always been comfortable with death and aware of our mortality. So, going into death care was not far fetched for us. And we have learned so much in practice and are always looking for ways to self educate as a way to best serve our families.
Why is Aquamation a good option for body disposal? Can you detail why it's a sustainable option?
Resting Waters: The most prominent reason we believe it is a good option for disposition is just that: it is another option for families. Our families come to us for many reasons. Be it because they perceive our water option as gentler than flame-based cremation or because of the ecological benefits of aquamation; whatever the reason is that they chose us and aquamation they always express how happy they are to have this as an option for their companion animal.
Aquamation is energy efficient with greater than 90 percent energy savings compared to cremation, and there are no direct greenhouse gas emissions during the aquamation. Pet aquamations are even more eco-friendly than the human process because our system is partitioned — meaning there are multiple bodies present in the cycle. Keeping each body segregated using 6-sided stainless steel baskets within the system, we end up using the same amount of water per animal that you would to bath them. We also can run a full or half-cycle based on the bodies we have in our care, which adds even more to the low water usage factor. When a family chooses aquamation, the funerary rites remain unchanged as the body can be prepared for a viewing in the traditional way and they receive the same powered remains they are used to, which is so important. One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, "what do I get back at the end of the process?!"
Could you detail how you came to provide a space for pet funerals? Possibly how the presentation of the body and that final "goodbye" help pet caregivers grieve.
Resting Waters: Living in the pet-friendly city of Seattle we were shocked to learn that a place like Resting Waters did not already exist. You can do standup paddleboard yoga with your dog in the city, but there was not a place where you could take your loved one after they die to meet the people who would be caring for them and to spend time with their body. We knew this needed to change! So we looked to progressive human death care providers for guidance on how the body should be prepared and presented to the family. Again, a lot of what we do came naturally, and we always think about how we would like our companions treated in death and how we would like our final goodbye to look. If there is a smell, use essential oils. If there is an open wound, wrap them tightly in a blanket to conceal it.
Being present with your loved one after they die is something we feel is very important in grief. Seeing changes in the body allows our minds to truly comprehend what has occurred and that they are not just sleeping but that their body has died. Many of our families do not even think about spending any time with the body, let alone a significant amount of time, as that has never been presented as an option to them before. So when we ask to lay out their loved one for them, even those who are hesitant to have us do that, we always hear how helpful it was to see them again in such a beautiful space. We have even had families who have kept their loved one at home for days and have had a wake with friends and family present and have still expressed how powerful it was to spend time with them again in our space. But, everything we do here at Resting Waters can be done at home by the family, which is something we always encourage and try to assist them with to help the family feel empowered to care for their companion themselves after they die.
Do you have a specific funeral or goodbye pet service you particularly enjoyed doing?
Resting Waters: As cliche as it sounds they are all really special and unique in their ways. Some of our favorite moments have also been some of the simplest, organic of them all. Walking into a home to do a removal to find all three kids, under the age of five, piled on top of their dead dog petting and loving on them is so special and was so neat to see. Or like the time a guardian took shots of whiskey, listened to music, and smudged the room while we prepared her loved one's take-home remains. Most people feel comfortable being around their deceased pet so many times we walk into a family home, and the owner will ask if we can wait just a moment for them to finish washing the body.
How do you prepare a person for viewing, touching, or bathing their pet who has passed? Are there any things a pet caregiver should know about the euthanasia process, or how the body will change once your pet has passed?
Resting Waters: Being honest with the family about the state of their companion's body is always the best practice. Whether that be that their eyes are still open, they are cold from being frozen at the veterinarian's office, or any other information that we think is important is told to the family before the viewing. We also prepare families who want to keep their loved one at home for extended periods after death or those who want to transport the body to us themselves, that their pet will more than likely urinate and defecate when they die and the best ways to handle that. We also prepare them for things like their companion bleeding from their nostrils and other things that happen to the body like rigor mortis. Setting expectations is key to families feeling comfortable and empowered to see and touch their companion after death.
Do you hope to expand your business? Provide other services in the future?
Resting Waters: Our biggest goal is to one day have a natural burial space in the area for families who want that service.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to advocate for aquamation and other sustainable body disposal options in their city or state?
Resting Waters: The best thing people can do is contact their state legislators. If a bill is being considered in your state, try to find out the date the house or Senate will hear it and testify. You can also sign-in as pro the bill but not testify. Make others in your community aware of the bill and try to gather support from them as well.