The secret afterlife of pets

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Beth Beverly works in her studio where she makes hats, jewelry and home decor items with parts of dead animals. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

Beth Beverly works in her studio where she makes hats, jewelry and home decor items with parts of dead animals. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

Beth Beverly’s basement looks like a workshop – with a twist.

A meat hook dangles from the ceiling. A head mount of a bull sits on a shelf, wrapped in plastic. There’s a cat’s skull, dyed red.

Beverly opens a small freezer chest. “In here, I have a pet cat thawing out,” she says. “She’s still frozen solid.”

Beverly’s business, Diamond Tooth Taxidermy, specializes in couture taxidermy. She makes hats, jewelry and home decor items with parts of dead animals. Fur, hooves, skulls, claws or paws. She also occasionally stuffs people’s pets. Dead pets, of course.

“A lot of people want, instead of burying or cremating their pets, [to have this] as a physical totem for their memories.”

Most recently, Beverly was working to immortalize a small Pekinese named Pearl. She had skinned the dog and had the hide tanned. She had made a cast of Pearl’s carcass out of hard foam.

“It’s not the prettiest thing to look at, because you’re looking at an exact replication of the carcass of a skinned dog. Once you put some fur on, it will look cute again,” she explained.

Before starting with a job like this, Beverly asks pet owners for lots of photographs so that her work will look as close to the original as possible.

“The more references I have, the better a job I can do, but I also make it clear, you are not going to have your pet back.”

Fitting the hide on the foam mold is tough.

“There’s usually a tight spot around the neck.”

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Beth Beverly pulls the hide of a dog named Pearl onto a mold of the Pekinese’s body. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

Beverly tugs and pulls on the hide, and files away at the cast, or adds clay in other places.

“Once I have it on the mannequin, stitched up and positioned the way I like it, then I’ll comb it out and blow-dry it. I have more hair products here than I have ever use for myself.”

Preserving a pet for eternity in this way is expensive. It costs several hundred dollars.

Beverly says many people decide to just preserve a part of their pet – perhaps a claw, or a skull, or the fur – to hold on to.

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