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Pet memorial stones: Something to remember them by

When Debra Lindberg lost two dogs in as many months she was heartbroken. The self-described pet fanatic spent hours cruising eBay and searching elsewhere to find the perfect memorial. She wanted something unique, but about the best she could come up with was an urn shaped like a golden retriever.

Then she found Linda Schindeldecker. More to the point, she found Schindeldecker's new business.

A year ago almost to the day Schindeldecker, an office employee at Farmington Veterinary Clinic, started using the ashes of beloved pets to create concrete garden stones complete with stained glass hearts and the animal's name. Lindberg thought the idea was perfect.

"I'm pretty into my pets," Lindberg said. "There's your fanatics and then there's your, 'Oh, it's just a dog,' people. I'm one of the fanatics."

Those stones, for golden retrievers named Henry and Barkley, were among the first Schindeldecker made for her then-new business. And it took some persuasion from co-workers to get that far. Schindeldecker got the idea for the stones from a television news story, but while she'd done plenty of stained glass work for herself she had trouble believing what she'd produce would be good enough for anyone else.

Her experience with Lindberg helped change that thinking, and Schindeldecker has been serving happy customers ever since. In her first year she's created 11 stones and she said business has picked up steadily as customers spread the word or vet clinic customers have seen a poster put up on the bulletin board there.

Some customers put the stones in their gardens. Others use them as headstones to mark their pets' final resting place.

"I think it's nice that they can remember them," Schindeldecker said. "Every time they go outside, there's their pet."

There's nothing elaborate about the stones. Schindeldecker uses a heart-shaped mold and mixes about a cup of the pet's ashes with the concrete she uses to fill it. She embeds a red stained glass heart with white wings on the top of the stone and presses the animal's name above it. The whole process takes about two weeks. The bone fragments in the ashes are visible as white specks in the finished product.

A few people have thought the memorials were odd, but Schindeldecker said most people like the idea.

Lindberg is in the process of building a memorial garden for her two dogs. For now, though, she's got the thick cement stones displayed on her mantle. She even brought them along to show the breeder when she went to pick up her new puppy. She said getting the stones helped her through the process of grieving for her lost pets. Even the wait for the stones to be finished was helpful, she said. It gave her some time to heal.

Lindberg said she burst into tears when she picked up her stones. They were just so beautiful.

"I took the lid off and I saw Barkley's name and I just broke down," she said. "It was something that built up for a long time and I saw the stones and ... it was like it cleansed me."

Schindeldecker likes the idea her stones can help people like that. She likes seeing the reactions people have when they see their stones for the first time.

"When they say, 'Oh, my God, this is beautiful,' that makes me feel really good," she said. "Everybody's been really happy with them so far."

Schindeldecker has helped nearly a dozen pet owners remember their lost companions. But there's still one stone she hasn't been able to make. Her own dog died two years ago but she's still holding on to her ashes.

"I can't do it," she said. "She's just sitting there in her box."

The stones

Each of the stones costs $40. Anyone interested in ordering one can contact Schindeldecker at the Farmington Veterinary Clinic. Call the clinic at 651-463-8985.