OKEECHOBEE — Friday, Oct. 4, is the day when the annual “Blessing of the Animals” is celebrated. It coincides with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Twin Oaks Pet Cemetery and Crematorium will conduct a special service to honor this day, and all are invited to attend, said business development manager Catherine Nolfo. The service will begin out in the gardens at 6 p.m. and will be performed by operations manager Christina Trojanowski, who is ordained.
They are doing the blessing of the pets because it is a recognized tradition on Oct. 4 to memorialize the passing of pets and to have living pets blessed, she explained. They do not have a chapel but will perform the service outside on the grounds. Ms. Trojanowski will perform a ceremony blessing the pets who have passed and then the ones that have been brought to the service as well. The service will last about an hour, depending on how many people come with their pets. Often those who have pets buried in the cemetery enjoy participating in the ceremony, said Ms. Nolfo. After the service, there will be refreshments and tours provided if anyone would like to look around.
Twin Oaks was first opened in 1997 by Dr. Thomas K. Nicholl, who was a veterinarian. The first pet that was buried there was one of his rescues. Since then, the business has grown and flourished in this area by serving all of the veterinarians. If a pet dies at the hospital, they facilitate that with the veterinarian. They go out to the facility, pick up the pet, bring it back, cremate it, pack it carefully and return it. They also welcome the public. All of their facilities are open-door.
Twin Oaks has a beautiful cemetery and a crematory. “A lot of folks don’t stay in their homes the way they used to,” said Ms. Nolfo. “When the children leave, they downsize and they move. So, we noticed a need a very long time ago for a different option, cremation versus burials. We give the pet parents the opportunity to move and take the pet with them.” They even supply urns and boxes if they are needed. The crematory is multi-chambered so only one pet goes in a chamber at a time, and you can be absolutely certain the remains you receive are your pet’s remains. They have a very large unit for horses so they are able to cremate a horse without dismembering it.
They have benches in several places throughout the grounds for the pet owners to sit on when they come to visit their pets. Clients are given a choice of where they would like to have their pet buried. Some are right near the front of the building and some are way out back in the gardens. They even have space for horses. A whole section is devoted to their equine owners. They do a full burial with a headstone, or they can do a cremation. Another option is to have your pet cremated and scatter the ashes in their scattering gardens and then put a plaque on the wall of memories as a way to pay tribute to your pet.
Pet owners are welcome to come out any time day or night to visit the graves of their pets. Most of the area is lighted. Twin Oaks is located at 251 Northeast 300th Street, and the phone number is 863-467-6377.