GA Voice - - Work It! -

Chris­tine Hun­saker is in the death care busi­ness, which is ac­tu­ally not sur­pris­ing once you learn that much of her child­hood was spent in a fu­neral home owned and op­er­ated by her fa­ther. As the Pres­i­dent and CEO of Hun­saker Part­ners, LLC, which op­er­ates South­ern Cre­ma­tions & Fu­ner­als, Holy Hill Me­mo­rial Park, and Paws, Whiskers & Wags—Hun­saker’s com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing ex­cep­tional end-of-life ser­vices to hu­mans, pets and the loved ones left be­hind is un­matched. Sim­ply put: death be­comes her.

And while that may sound a bit mor­bid, Hun­saker’s approach to the cy­cle of life we must all com­plete is any­thing but. The proof is in the suc­cess of Paws, Whiskers & Wags, the clients who be­come rav­ing fans and the low turnover rate of over 100 em­ploy­ees in three states.

Ge­or­gia Voice caught up with the les­bian CEO at her De­catur of­fice to gain more in­sight into what makes Paws, Whiskers & Wags the go-to busi­ness for pet own­ers and how she’s built a ca­reer on be­ing the very best at say­ing good­bye.

Paws, Whiskers & Wags op­er­ates un­der full dis­clo­sure. Tell us why that’s so im­por­tant for you and your cus­tomers?

Any­one can watch us work. We keep it all recorded on the cloud so that we can prove that one pet goes in [the cre­ma­to­rium] and one pet goes out. Ev­ery­thing is tracked on­line through our pet por­tal. Every pet that comes into our care is bar­coded and we know when they left your home or vet­eri­nary prac-

July 8, 2016

tice, when their cre­ma­tion started and ended and when they went home. There’s an ac­tual time­stamp.

It’s not a loved one that’s cre­mated with oth­ers—that loved one is cre­mated alone every time and we can prove it. We’re the only ones that can prove it. And we go to great lengths be­cause peo­ple need to know. We live in a very liti­gious and skep­ti­cal so­ci­ety and ev­ery­body wants to know. I did and that’s why I got into the pet busi­ness.

Your busi­ness is unique in the sense that pet own­ers are able to view the ac­tual cre­ma­tion process.

Yes. Un­til our com­pany ar­rived it was very sin­is­ter. It was very…put your pet in a trash bag, leave him at your vet and come back two weeks later and pick up some­thing. And you didn’t know what you were get­ting. And there were no checks and bal­ances. It was very se­cre­tive. Pets were trav­el­ing clear out of town way be­yond places like Athens and else­where to fa­cil­i­ties with high walls and closed doors.

And your busi­ness of­fers sup­port for pet own­ers who are griev­ing every first Tues­day of the month.

Christy Simp­son is our li­censed coun­selor. Our grief group is huge! Some­times we have Chris­tine Hun­saker, owner of Paws, Whiskers & Wags, has cre­ated rav­ing fans by pro­vid­ing ex­cep­tional end-of-life care. (Photo by Dar­ian Aaron)

Paws, Whiskers & Wags, Your Pet Cre­ma­tory

2800 E. Ponce De Leon Ave. De­catur, GA 30030 404-609-1072 www.pawswhisker­sand­ 20 to 30 peo­ple here and some­times we have eight or nine. We stay open af­ter we close and have this free grief group. A lot of times peo­ple have un­rec­on­ciled grief or they don’t know how to han­dle it. Or they’re not get­ting the sup­port from home or their co-work­ers or their com­mu­nity that they need. I’ve heard it a mil­lion times up here—peo­ple just sob. “I called out of work to­day and my boss said, ‘What are you cry­ing for? It’s just a dog.’” Well, it’s not just a dog, it’s fam­ily. Christy has done an amaz­ing job of help­ing peo­ple heal.

Do you take the grief home with you?

The first month I started this com­pany, I called my dad and said, “Dad, I think I need to close the pet busi­ness.” He asked if it was strug­gling. I said, “No, it’s do­ing great but I just cry all the time.” He said, “Chris­tine you will learn to chan­nel that grief. And know that when they leave you they will feel bet­ter. It’s the worst day of their life and you have a call­ing to help them through it. Don’t get in their grief; rec­og­nize their grief, love them through it and you’ll feel bet­ter for your­self at the end of the day. You will learn to man­age it.”

What do you know for sure?

I don’t know a sin­gle per­son that if you come through our door with your loved one in your arms that some­body isn’t gonna give you a hug and say, “Hey, come on in here. I’m so sorry about your day to­day. And what’s that baby’s name you’re hold­ing?” When your heart is bro­ken and you’re dev­as­tated, what you want more than any­thing is some­one to love you, respect your jour­ney and to re­ally take care of your loved one. And we’re bet­ter at it in this town than any­one else.

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