“I GET lots of emails from people asking if I know anywhere they can get their pets freeze-dried,” Elaine Pritchard tells me from her Stretton home.
This may sound like a strange request, but now more than ever people want a lasting memory of their beloved animals.
Leaving a lasting legacy to a family pet that has died led Elaine to set up Lost and Fond, a website where people can leave pictures and tributes to dogs, cats, rabbits or any other animal.
Elaine, 51, has always had a love for animals and currently has a pet greyhound called Monkey, a retired racing dog that doesn’t venture very far from his spot on a cushion in the lounge. “He doesn’t realise he can move of his own accord, without a lead,” Elaine explains.
It was a past pet dog – greyhound Winnie – that led Elaine to set up Lost and Fond following her retirement from full-time work three years ago. She runs the site as a hobby with husband Bill, in between working from home as a freelance journalist. Winnie was the first tribute to be added to the site, and her ashes are kept behind a photo of her in the lounge.
“It’s been an idea I’d had for a while,” said Elaine. “Having always had dogs in the family, I thought it would be lovely to put them on the web and share memories. I had a look at what was out there and there wasn’t really anything apart from sections on charity sites, rather than a dedicated site. I decided to do it and raise money for pet charities at the same time.
“The first year we raised money for Battersea Dogs Home and the second year we had a public vote on the site. It was neck and neck between two charities – Nowzad Dogs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and last year we raised money for the ridgebacks, so this year we chose Nowzad Dogs.”
Nowzad Dogs rescues and cares for stray dogs in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, dog fighting is a massive issue,” says Elaine. “The soldiers have a lot of down time so dogs are good for morale. At the last fair we had in April to raise funds for Nowzad we had a rescue dog there from Afghanistan called Kilo. She had been found by a soldier and taken back to base, but ate all the custard creams.
“The commanding officer demanded they shoot her or take her back out to the desert and leave her there, which they did. Three days later she found her way back.
“It’s not just about getting dogs out with soldiers, it’s about raising animal welfare standards in Afghanistan. They now have a clinic and kennels there.”
Around 400 dogs have been brought over to the UK since the charity launched in 2007, and Lost and Fond has raised £500 for the charity so far this year. It hopes to have doubled that by the end of the year.
Lost and Fond has also helped raise awareness of the charities, because the site is prominent on internet search engines. It now has 1,000 unique users a month, and 180 pet tributes have been left from people all over the world, including one to Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd made famous by his film appearances in the 1930s.
Elaine also has links to some other well-known pooches, and one in particular that people will recognise.
Two years ago she sponsored the freestyle class at an event called Heelwork to Music, which sees dog owners dancing with their pooches.
The winners of the category were none other than Ashley and Pudsey, who went on to win Britain’s Got Talent.
“We picked them out before Britain’s Got Talent,” said Elaine.
During a career as a successful journalist all over the country, Elaine once found herself covering a case in court where a woman claiming to run a pet crematorium was actually dumping animal corpses in a field. She said: “More people are thinking about what happens when their pet dies, there is more potential for people to be conned.”
In terms of the requests she has from owners asking about getting their animals freeze-dried, having a lasting memoriam for a pet is something that is big business in America and is catching on in this country.
Elaine said: “The whole pet funeral business is getting bigger in this country because the Co-op has a big event for funeral directors every year.
“It has had approval from the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria for the first time this year, because funeral directors are now getting so many inquiries about pet cremations. I think people should have the choice.”
A charity fair to raise cash for Nowzad Dogs will be held at The Priory Centre, in Church Road, Stretton, from noon until 3pm on Sunday, October 13.
Lost and Fond is currently undergoing a review and users are being asked for feedback. Visit Lost and Fond at lostandfond.co.uk