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Honoring Beloved Pets

Note: NEOEDD administers Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for residents of Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties. This statewide program provides a 3-to-1 savings match for people who would like to start or build a business, or enroll in higher education or vocational training. This profile highlights one of NEOEDD’s many IDA program graduates. If you would like more information about IDAs, please visit our website or contact us at the office.

Connie Melton    Connie Melton in her soon-to-be workshop

The Humane Society estimates more than 83 million dogs and 95.6 million cats live in homes across the United States. With an average life span of ten years and 15 years, respectively, this means a lot of families are grieving a deceased pet at any given time.

Without meaning to seem morbid, IDA participant Connie Melton saw this as an opportunity.

“People love their pets like family members,” she says. “I’ve shown dogs myself for 20 years. You just can’t overestimate the feelings people have for their pets. And when a pet dies, people need a way to honor it and process their grief.”

Melton, who works at Marvin Windows and Doors in Baker City, plans to roll out her business carefully and incrementally. She has done her market research—which involved speaking with people in the pet and funeral industries—and is now in the phase of accumulating the equipment and materials she will need to launch All Pets Rest, provider of custom-built pet burial vessels.

All Pets Rest’s products will not be limited to dogs or cats—Melton will make urns and caskets of any size. One of her specialties will be horse urns, which her research has revealed are not currently available.

“I know a woman who raises Fresian horses, which are so big she has to buy giant vases from furniture stores for their ashes,” Melton says. All Pets Rest’s custom-designed urns will not only accommodate a horse (or a hamster) but will also be personalized with the pet’s name, and even a design that reminds the bereaved of their pet. Melton has drawing talent and wood-carving tools.

“So, let’s say the deceased was a border collie,” she explains. “You could have a design of the dog in a pastoral scene, with sheep in the background or whatnot. That’s what going to help set these products apart; they are handmade and personalized to include whatever is meaningful to the animal owner.”

Melton also plans to become a certified pet-bereavement counselor to help with the customer-service side. She’s already attracted interest as a result of her research and informal inquiries with friends and family. Two of her colleagues at Marvin have cremains from deceased pets, which they are storing until she starts production. “They’re willing to wait it out,” she says.

Melton’s IDA savings and match funds have enabled her to buy equipment and materials, such as a lathe and sander, a trade-show booth set-up, wood, varnish, and shipping materials, and to finish building out her shop. She is in contact with all the major pet and show-animal associations and is constantly considering expansion ideas. “I have enough machinery to be flexible if a need arises that I haven’t thought of yet,” she says.

Part of the IDA process is taking a series of classes called “Business Foundations.” Melton is working with a fellow graduate to create a website and other marketing materials. All of this preparation will enable Melton to turn her idea into a well-researched, viable business.

“The IDA program,” she says, “has given me a world of possibilities.”