Auf Wiedersehen, Pets

DAWN Murray will happily bury your hamster or your horse and cremate anything from feathers to fins.

And, as a quirky documentary, going out on BBC1 uncovers, pet undertaking may be an unusual business...but it's a growing one!

As Scotland's first pet undertaker, Dawn provides a complete bereavement service for those who have lost their faithful friend, and she reveals that personal experience shaped her unusual career choice.

After witnessing the death of her own dog, Kaz, and watching his unceremonious exit from her house, she decided to give other pets a more memorable send-off.

She explained: ''There was absolutely no dignity in that final

ending for my pet.''

The programme follows the stories of three dog lovers.

Tracey Fletcher from Port Glasgow is the owner of three year old German Shepherd, Thor, who has a heart condition.

Geraldine Fife of East Kilbride, has arranged for her terminally ill dog Toby to be put to sleep.

And Carol MacPherson is struggling to get over the loss of her dog Sassy, who died nearly two years ago.

Dawn and her undertaker service, which is based near Hyndford Bridge, are at the centre of the documentary, but the film also introduces other key characters in the pet bereavement industry.

Paul Eddy, owner of Flatfield Garden of Rest in Errol, has buried hundreds of animals in neat plots but doesn't want people to think there's something morbid about it all.

And Gordon Smith, well known psychic, is in no doubt that our pets live on after death believing he picks up messages from them in the spirit world.

As a fledging undertaker, Dawn Murray is witnessing the changing face of seeing off man's best friend.

And the BBC1 show Auf Wiedersehen, Pets gives an insight into the curious world of pet cemetries and made-to-order caskets.

It also provides a taste of Dawn's world — its sorrow, remembrance and respect.

Dawn launched the business in August last year and, so far, it has been very well received.

''People say they are so glad that they found me,'' she said.

''There just seemed to be an area in the market that had not been covered before, this one-to-one personal service.

''That is what we are building our reputation on.''

As a qualified pet bereavement counsellor, Dawn offers owners

support before and after they have their animals put down.

She will also arrange the practical side — usually cremation — and deliver the ashes to owners, allowing them to scatter them on a favourite walk or even retain some to be placed in their own coffin in the fullness of time.

Attitudes to the end of pets' lives have changed from the days when owners simply left their beloved pet with the vet.

''We have humanised our pets,'' said Dawn. ''They are part of the

family, with human names, and they often sleep in the bedroom!

''And because of the unconditional love they give people, it is little

wonder.''

With society changing, Dawn has witnessed more young couples putting off having families and their dog or cat becoming a substitute child for a number of years.

As such, the owners want their pets to leave the world with the same

dignity as they would themselves.

And emotional support for distraught owners is vital.

''When a human dies, everyone else can relate to it,'' added Dawn. ''But it is not the entire population who can relate to someone who's grieving over a dog dying.

''For some people, it is no big issue, and owners are told just to get another animal.

''But the relationship between an owner and a pet can be nearly as strong, if not stronger, than one they had with a human.''

To find out more about Dawn's unique business, tune in to Auf Wiedersehen, Pets, on BBC1 on Tuesday, March 18, at 10.35pm.