Tag Archives: paws

Paws to Angels

July 19, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Families dealing with the loss of a pet now have a helping hand—or paw or two—to turn to, in the form of Paws To Angels, the only full-service pet loss center in Nebraska.

Owner Cherie Fry started Paws to Angels after the death of her dog, Chadz. Fry considered herself a “pet parent,” to Chadz, and was shocked to hear what traditional pet death care consisted of—deceased pets are put into garbage bags and kept in a freezer until a garbage truck comes around.

“Two weeks later, [after Chadz’s death] I began my business plan. I made a vow to change the way things are for pet parents—to provide them a more respectful, dignified aftercare with a personalized touch,” Fry says.

Fry turned to other pet owners in the community, and found a coalition of pet lovers who were as eager as her to see a change in animal death care. With no centers in Nebraska that dealt with pet loss, Fry found herself on the forefront of a new movement in pet care.

“They [pet owners] want pets treated more like family. And we’re here to do that,” Fry says.

Keeping this community of pet lovers at the core of her business, Fry’s goal is to guide a family through the loss of their pet at their own pace, and make them aware of what options are available in animal death care.

While Paws to Angels specializes in organizing the final arrangements for their customers’ pets, they also offer a variety of services that are free to the public. Fry is on call 24 hours a day, and leads grief support groups for both adults and children.

It’s this personalized care that has gained Fry a loyal following. Sondra Akrin approached Fry around Thanksgiving when her 12-year-old cat, Louie, was diagnosed with renal failure.

Within days of her cat’s diagnosis, Akrin heard about Paws to Angels, and knew she wanted Fry to take care of Louie when he passed. Akrin was in and out of contact with Fry in the weeks leading up to Louie’s death in January, pre-planning for his euthanasia and final arrangements. While Akrin had lost human members of her family, it was her first time losing a close feline member.

“What I wanted to do was to honor the 11 years I had him [Louie]. He was like my kid, and so what was nice about the process was that Cherie was very flexible about, ‘whatever you need, I’m here for you,’” Akrin says.

Linda Hester had a similar experience to Akrin. Hester previously owned three other pets, and she buried them at Tully’s Kennel after they died. But when she put down her 14-year-old cat Cosmo in February, her veterinarian informed her Tully’s no longer did burials.

Grief-stricken, Hester received Fry’s phone number from a veterinary technician. Fry immediately picked Cosmo up from the vet’s office, and met with Hester and her husband. They opted to have a single chapel ceremony with Paws to Angels, before cremating Cosmo. They were able to incorporate some personal mementos into their ceremony, such as Cosmo’s favorite blanket.

In return, Hester has become a firm advocate for Paws to Angels. She even wrote a letter to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, notifying her of Fry’s work. Hester believes that the help she received from Fry after Cosmo’s death helped prepare her for her mother’s death a month later.

“I’d been trying to help do a little bit of stuff for Cherie, paperwork or whatever, and I told her about it [my mother’s death], and she texted me every day to see if I was ok,” says Hester.

For Fry, that’s just another part of her job.  As the sole employee of Paws to Angels (with the exception of her two cats, Garfield and Cleya, who serve as the general manager and  grief counselor respectively), Fry has a lot on her plate, but she just wants to give pet owners the options that she never had.

“I have walked my grave journey, and it is really an honor for me to be here for families,” Fry says.


A Pet’s Paradise

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When many people think of pet boarding, they envision a city of kennels resembling a prison housing dozens of bored, cramped pets. But these days, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A growing number of pet care facilities now offer posh boarding accommodations, as well as a slew of activities and playtime options for your furry friends. Whether it be for a week-long stay or daily daycare, these pet hotels and spas provide your animal fun interaction with other four-legged friends and caring staff members who will pamper your pet just as you would. So while you and your family are vacationing this summer, don’t fret; the family pet can be taking a “vacay” all its own.

Three of the most well-known independent pet hotels and spas in the Omaha area include Cottonwood Pet Resort, Bark Avenue Grooming and Dog Daycare, and The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

Guests at the The Paw Spa Pet Resort take a refreshing dip in a bone-shaped pool.

Guests at the The Paw Spa Pet Resort take a refreshing dip in a bone-shaped pool.

Cottonwood Pet Resort in Waterloo sits on 11 acres of land with a 10,000-square- foot indoor area. Family-owned by the Dvorak family since 1992, Cottonwood works much like a hotel—pets check in and check out of pet suites, which vary in size from modest to quite roomy. All dog accommodations provide sheepskin rugs for bedding and outdoor access to exercise yards. Some suites, like the Cabana, offer private access to an outdoor patio and include TVs tuned to the Animal Planet channel.

Cottonwood also offers a dedicated area for cats—completely separate from the dogs—where feline friends can either lounge in their individual suites or romp with other cats in the playroom. Cat areas are equipped with climbing options and perches, as well as TVs and music. Cottonwood also boards exotic pets, such as rabbits, parrots, guinea pigs, and turtles.

With 43 years in the pet grooming industry, Sue Wilke was one of the first to offer doggie daycare services in Omaha. Nine years ago, she went to Washington, D.C., to learn about dog daycare because there were very few in Omaha at the time. Today, she owns two Bark Avenue locations in town: the original location at 156th & Maple streets, which specializes in daycare and grooming; and a second at 137th and C streets, which provides long stays and boarding. The business provides complimentary transportation between its two locations for the customer’s convenience.

Camera-shy cats hide in the playroom at The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

Camera-shy cats hide in the playroom at The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

While visiting Bark Avenue’s C Street location, canine guests can play all day with others their own size in three different indoor playrooms or lounge in individual suites. Suites range in size from 5×5-ft. to 8×8-ft. and feature laminate walls and glass doors and fronts, which allow easy visibility and enhance cleanliness. Multi-dog suites are available if your pet has “brothers and sisters” you’d like them to stay with. The new facility also features a 2,000-sq.ft. secure, fenced outdoor area. Dogs are taken outside eight times daily for a minimum of 20 minutes each visit. Daycare playtime with staff is also available upon request.

Wilke says her business strives for socialization and minimal stress for its guests. “We want the pets’ experience to be as close to home as possible. We just want what’s best for the dog.”

The Paw Spa Pet Resort is the newest pet spa and hotel in Omaha. The facility specializes in overnights, daycare, and grooming of pets and features a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled air-circulation system, which helps to prevent airborne illnesses. The Paw Spa offers brightly colored, 9×9-ft. suites that come equipped with TVs and Kuranda beds, which are slightly elevated and chew-proof. Owners are encouraged to bring toys, blankets, or anything else that may make their pet feel more at home to leave in the suite.

Kevin Irish and Sheila Kusmierski in a play area at the resort.

Irish and Kusmierski in a play area at the resort.

Co-owner Kevin Irish says, “We’re animal lovers. We have three dogs and a cat,” who hang out with the animal guests to promote socialization. “I always wanted to be a vet,” he says, “and this is my second shot at a career with animals.

The Paw Spa also features a 1,000-sq.ft. indoor doggie play area for exercise and mingling, complete with palm trees, toys, and a special turf that guarantees cleanliness for animal guests. Next door is a second enclosed area for the swimmers, where canine guests can take a refreshing dip in the bone-shaped, 85-degree indoor pool (no deeper than two feet deep for safety). “We have hip-waders for the little guys,” explains Irish. “This lets them learn to swim in a controlled environment.”

Both play areas are constantly supervised by staff and are equipped with cameras so pet owners can view their animals from home or while on the road. Paw Spa’s Kitty City provides cats with condos that have separate compartments for food and bathroom breaks, and even a digital aquarium for entertainment. Cats can also hang out and climb the large, indoor structure in the Catio.

All three pet spas provide personalized attention, 24-hour monitoring by staff, on-call veterinarians, and frequent potty and playtime breaks. With accommodations like these, your beloved Fido or Fluffy will definitely be in good hands while you enjoy your summer vacation guilt-free.