Mankato pet cremator sees grief ‘compounded’ amid COVID-19

Some of the businesses deemed essential amid the coronavirus pandemic are those we don’t think about until it’s urgent. One of those businesses is pet cremation. 

A woman holds a puppy
“Anything that we can do to lessen someone else's load at this time, especially over the loss of people and pets," Wendy June says.
Submitted image

And one of the handful of people offering the service in Minnesota does so from her home just outside Mankato. 

Wendy June, 57, has run Mankato Pet Cremation since summer 2018. It’s mostly a one-woman operation, with veterinarian Karen Exline of Le Sueur helping with in-home euthanasia. 

June is a sign-language interpreter for her main job, but came into pet cremation almost by accident. While driving to St. Cloud one day, she passed by a pet cremation business in Dassel, Minn., and got thinking.

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“I just thought, oh, my God, that is the most amazing idea. And we need that so badly in Mankato,” she said. 

Fast-forward to 2020 and pet cremation is her main job, with interpreting work largely sidelined due to the coronavirus. While June is glad to have time to focus on her cremation work, she said the people coming to her are struggling even more than usual. 

“I can see their grief. The grief is so much compounded right now,” June said. “They look more overwhelmed to me, to be honest. They're just shaking their heads. They look numb, almost like they can't even process all those things that are going on in their lives right now.”

The cremation business is June’s plan for retirement — she said she needs to stay busy. And, like every other essential worker, she’ll keep pressing on through the COVID-19 pandemic, too. 

“Anything that we can do to lessen someone else's load at this time, especially over the loss of people and pets,” she said,” I think that's extremely important right now.”

Hands put together to form the shape of a heart
Jiwon Choi | MPR News

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