Tue, Aug 20, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Taxidermy offers way to help pet owners grieve

By Chiang Kai-ling and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Taxidermist Kuo Wei-hung sits among some of the specimens he made in his Yunlin County studio on Friday.

Photo: Li Hui-chou, Taipei Times

Taxidermist Kuo Wei-hung (郭偉宏) has always wanted to provide pet owners with a different way to remember their pets, something more than photographs or videos.

His father was a taxidermist, and he grew up watching his father work at the family shop, so he was familiar with the process since he was a youngster, Kuo said.

However, he had not always wanted to follow in the family trade; instead he had dreamed of being a chef, he said.

“I started out just to help my father, who had some health problems,” but once he began talking with pet owners, it changed his mind about taking up the family business, he said.

“I came to realize they really wanted to keep their deceased pets by their side,” Kuo said, adding that he had been moved by the deep bonds between owners and pets.

“Taxidermy is not a familiar trade for most Taiwanese, but we can help pet owners preserve their pets in perfect form,” Kuo said.

Studying the anatomy, characteristics and habits of different animals helps him navigate possible difficulties in preserving them, and allows him to discuss with the owners how they want their pets preserved, he said.

“We respect the wishes of the owner and will try to comply with any requests they have,” Kuo said.

Taxidermists also try to preserve as much of the animals’ bones and internal organs as possible, as “we feel that in so doing, we give the pets the utmost respect,” Kuo said.

“After finding out how an owner wishes to have their pet’s body preserved, we usually clean the body before setting it in the desired posture,” Kuo said, adding that these processes are usually conducted at room temperature.

Then the body is dried, either by air-drying or freeze-drying, and stuffing is added during the process if areas of the body start to collapse, he said.

Sculpting putty is used to adjust the eyes, while old wounds or injuries are sewn up, Kuo said.

“We always try to be careful and tell our clients that the process is to help keep the pets by their side,” Kuo said.

“We tell them that if bald spots appear, they might wish to cover the spots with clothing,” he added.

Animals’ bodies can lose fur for a variety of reasons after death, such as health issues or surgery prior to death, having their fur cut just before they died or a failure to properly preserve the body, Kuo said.

If pet owners do not want to preserve their pets, the store also offers cremation services, he said.

Asked about difficult experiences, Kuo said it had been difficult to preserve an Asian arowana specimen, while working on a sea turtle had made him sad, because one of the turtle’s fins was broken and its stomach was filled with plastic and other trash.

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