Chuck and Linda Hutchinson were out of options for their two dogs 33 years ago. Their family dog Shellie was in failing health, and Chuck and Linda could tell that Buster was not far behind, so they made the decision to euthanize the dogs.
"We knew that once one was gone, that would be the end of it," Linda said. "We just went to the vet, and the vet said, 'I'll take care of it. Bye.' There was no personal touch."
Brian Hutchinson, who helps his parents run the Austin Pet Memorial Center in Buda, compared the experience to flushing a goldfish down a toilet.
The experience stuck with the Hutchinsons so much that when they moved to Buda from Sugar Land in 2012, Chuck and Brian decided to make a business out of providing the personal touch the family missed more than three decades earlier.
The APMC opened in May and provides a service known in the pet loss industry as truly private pet cremation, meaning that owners can be assured their pet was the only animal in the furnace during cremation.
The center's cremation furnace, which can reach temperatures of up to 1625 degrees, can handle animals that weigh up to 300 pounds, Chuck said.
The business also includes a retail center that provides urns, jewelry infused with pet cremated remains, a visitation room and other touches that can help ease people through the grieving process.
Chuck is quick to point out that while the APMC provides highly personalized services, they believe mass cremators provide a necessary service.
"We don't feel like we have competition because we do something that's pretty unique," he said. "What we're doing is different. [Mass cremators] do a wonderful job at what they do. We're a niche deal."
Chuck said the business has taken the Hutchinsons to trailer houses, mansions and everywhere in between. The one unifying factor has been their customers' love of their pets. For Linda, that has been refreshing.
When Chuck and Brian decided to start the business, Linda was skeptical about the work. Since then, she has come to relish opportunities to console the business's customers.
"I didn't know how I would deal with death," she said. "I thought it would get to me. But it's kind of done something different. It has renewed my faith in people. The news is so good at showing us the people who abuse animals and are horrible to animals, and I just couldn't handle that. But the people we get, they adore their animals. It has reminded me that there are some very good people in this world."
Chuck said the business aims to help people through the grieving process and get them to a point where they are ready to re-engage with a new pet.
"We hug a lot," Chuck said. "And we use a lot of Kleenex."