"No matter how perfect your pet comes out, there can still be something wrong," said Festus, who owns Little Creek Taxidermy in Festus, Mo. "When you go deer hunting, you don't know what that deer looks like. Everybody knows exactly what their pets look like."
Debbie Rosa, a 59-year-old teacher who splits her time between southern Maine and Port Charlotte, Fla., had her 17-year-old fox terrier Lexi preserved by Eddy when the dog died just before Christmas 2005. She said the choice was an easy one.
"I could stare at an urn, or I could stare at the ground in the cemetery, or I could hold and pet her," Rosa said. "Her spirit is in heaven, but her body is here on Earth."
Eddy and Calvert estimate they receive two to three pets each week, every week. The studio charges $850 for pets under 10 pounds and another $40 per additional pound.
Allen McConnell, a psychology professor at Miami University in Ohio who studies pet owners' behavior, said those who opt for animal preservation can be motivated by grief, a need for belonging and anthropomorphism - the act of ascribing human attributes to animals or even inanimate objects.
"It's very common for people to memorialize important members of their family," he said. "We often visit relatives in family gravesites on birthdays. . . . It's part of an extended connection that people have."
Eddy said he is no longer surprised by unusual requests from customers. It seems that as long as humans embrace animals as four-legged friends, those bonds will continue past the pet's expiration date.
"It runs the whole gamut," he said, mentioning turtles, guinea pigs, snakes and more. "If you've got a pet of some kind, somebody's going to want you to preserve it."