Saying goodbye to your pet

Pee Dee Pet Cremation provides service for pet owners

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

Providing an alternative to the traditional back yard burial of beloved pets, the Pee Dee Pet Cremation business in Darlington has been providing a much-needed service for bereaved pet owners across the Pee Dee area since 2010. According to owner Charles Miles, the popularity of pet cremation has grown, and the business is now set to expand to the Low Country- just as Miles opened a second business for pet owners.

“I’ve always loved animals,” said Miles. “And with this business, I have been in contact with so many pet owners and veterinarians that I saw the need for a boarding facility in our area.”

Kathy and Sammy Byrd of Pee Dee Pet Cremation.                                     Photo by Jana E. Pye

Kathy and Sammy Byrd of Pee Dee Pet Cremation. Photo by Jana E. Pye

The pet cremation business was formerly run by Miles’ girlfriend, Jeanne Lambert, who made it a business priority from the beginning to help families by being available 24 hours a day. Lambert chose to pursue another career path, and when the full time positions became available in November, 2014, Kathy and Sammy Byrd transitioned from part time to run the business.

“I have another job and travel a good bit, and they handle it all.” said Miles. “The transition was easy, we’ve never had a complaint.”

Kathy Byrd worked for local veterinarian, Dr. Davis, for years. She and her husband Sammy are pet owners themselves, and have great empathy for the families that use the service.

“This is their family member, not just a pet,” said Kathy. “I tell families this all the time, that they are going to grieve just as if you would a brother or sister, or child. I had one customer the other day that referred to his pet as his son- because that’s all he had. It’s a hard time. But we are glad we are able to help heal some of the hurt, and get the pet back home in a timely manner to help with the healing process.”

Families have many options for keeping their pet’s ashes, should they choose to do so. Several websites are available to choose urns, and a selection is available on display at the Darlington office. A new addition is called “Palmetto Pride”, with blue urns with the white South Carolina Palmetto tree and crescent moon in keepsake sizes.

Also available are blown glass beads with a portion of the pet’s ashes enclosed; paperweights with ashes, one with a space to add a collar or favorite toy; small wooden chests; small keychain urns; keepsake tins; and many more options.

Sammy picks up the pets from the veterinarian’s office, or to the family’s home.

The cremations are performed off site. Each pet is “tagged” with an identifying number with their paperwork, which is verified. Cremations for families that wish to have their pet returned are done separately; there is never any mixing of ashes.

Although primarily a service for dog and cat owners, Pee Dee Pet Cremation has also done other animals.

“We have done a goat, squirrels, fish, gerbils, Quaker parrots, rabbits, fish, fancy rats, guinea pigs, and a monkey,” said Kathy. “A cotton topped Tamarin.”
“It is unusual,” continued Sammy. “A lot of people think there is not a service for the exotic pets, but there is. And size of the pets can be varied, we’ve done up to 150 – 200 pound animals- and we may expand in the future do even larger animals. We’ve actually even done raccoons and squirrels- they are pets, that is their baby.”

Another unusual cremation was done for a blue heron crane that a homeowner was dismayed to find dead after several ice storms last winter.

“The gentleman had been feeding the bird, and said the heron deserved more dignity than to be tossed out in a garbage bag. We really were impressed by that.”
The Byrds state that the service is also useful for pet owners with non-traditional housing arrangements, such as:

• shut-ins that cannot bury a pet on their own
• pet owners that live in assisted living, condominiums, or apartments
• military families that move often
• business professionals that move often for their careers

By far, however, the individuals that use the service are pet owners that wish to keep a bit of their pet close by.

“There is a broad spectrum of services and what they are for not only to bring peace of mind and bring the pet home, everyday they know the pet is with them – or even keep them In their cars. I have people that do that,” said Sammy. “As a matter of fact, a young man last week said, ‘He rode everywhere with me, so he still does.’ Some families choose to scatter the ashes.”

Kathy nodded. “We had a gentleman that his dog passed in December, and the family planned to scatter the ashes when the grandchildren visited in June because the dog loved the lake. They were going to off the end of the pontoon boat where he stood, and scatter the ashes in the lake.”

Some pet owners save their pet’s ashes, and request in their own funeral arrangements to be buried with their beloved pet.

Pet owners that choose to not have their pet returned are processed in what is called a communal cremation. “We do communals the humane way,” said Sammy. “We cremate them and process with a water burial, with as much dignity as all our pet cremations. We don’t throw them in the trash. It is just like people want to go to the beach or the lake and have their ashes scattered.”

The couple said they see so much emotions from pet owners, often heartbroken.

“Nine times out of ten, I’m crying,” said Kathy. “I look over there, and he’s over there with tears (Sammy). Some people come in, tell the pet they love them and go – and as soon as they get behind the wheel of their car, you see the trembling and shaking. I have had men say, ‘I’m sorry you’ve seen me cry’, and I tell them, ‘Jesus wept and he was a man.’ I’ve seen a 6’6”, 250 pound man hit the floor in there over his dog, and then get up and apologize. I just say, there is no need to apologize- there is none.”

Just as with human funeral arrangements, pre-planning is encouraged with the pet cremation services.

“It’s so much easier to come in and plan and go ahead and pick it out than to wait til after,” said Kathy. ”I never understood when my mother said go ahead and make my arrangements while I’m still living. I thought that was just awful. But now, I’m glad we did that. So I am able to reference that. So why cremate? Because you think you are prepared, you know your dog is sick, but it’s not going to be what you think it’s going to be. I have calls where people say, I wish I had listened, but I don’t say I told you so. I tell them, ‘we’ll get through this’- and we do.”

Pee Dee Pet Cremation is located at 118 W Smith Avenue, Unit D in Darlington. They may be reached at: 843-254-9557 and online at:

Author: Duane Childers

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