Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Sad Saturday as Dog Owners Mourn the Loss of their Pets

On a windy Saturday morning, a parking lot slowly filled up with cars and trucks in front of Candi’s Scissors & Suds II Pet Palace Inn in Lake Hopatcong where a memorial was held at 10:00 AM. This was following a recent fire that killed nine dogs there on December 30th, shortly before the New Year began.

“I don’t think some people understand that dogs [can become] an extension of the family,” says Trish Dancy, who worked the late shift at Candi’s store, but wasn’t there when the incident occurred at 5:30 in the morning. She said this aptly in front of a poster filled with the pictures of the deceased dogs that read, “To Our Beloved Children.” And to all who lost a pet, or even for those who didn’t and just came to pay their respects, the animals were just that to them—beloved children to the community at large.

Their names were Belle, Gypsy, Olaf, Jet, Eros, Ruby, Yentil, May, and Cocoa, and all of them passed when smoke filled the room due to a malfunction in the building.

“The fire wasn’t because of a space heater like everybody is saying,” said Gary Cirincione, who is the owner of the shop and fiancé of Candi Coon, “It was because of a wall-mounted [detector] that the smoke alarms didn’t go off.”

He said this as he looked over at Candi, who cried uncontrollably staring down at the memorial, and then he walked slowly into the tent that was set up for the people who showed up to pay their condolences to the dead.

Inside the tent, a warm sort of air filled the place as people huddled inside the small area. Some people brought their dogs, while others just stood there with their hands in their pockets, surveying the area. One such of the latter was Chris Villanova who has a Siberian Husky at home named Cyrus. Cyrus is named after the constellation, Sirius, which is part of a band of constellations that actually make up what is known as Canis Major in the solar system, or, the Great Dog due to its shape.

Mr. Villanova never brought his dog to Candi’s, due to the fact that he’s constantly worried about leaving his dog with other people, but he still thinks highly of the place and the owners of the animals.

“Even though this place is on the cutting edge of boarding places,” Chris said, smiling over at another Siberian Husky that he says looks just like his own at home, “And granted everybody takes care of the animals here, you just can’t tell [what’s going to happen when you leave them].”

And he’s right when he says that the shop is on the cutting edge of boarding houses, as there are no cages and also cameras sprinkled about inside so people can see their animals online when they’re on vacation.

These are all factors that make pet owners agree that Candi’s is the best place in town to leave their dog when they’re away.

“This was the only kennel where my dogs didn’t get sick,” Margie Mills says as the mayor of Jefferson walked up front to introduce the priest from St. Teresa’s who came in to say a sermon.

“I don’t know where we’re going to take them now,” Mills said.

“Oh, God, this is so terrible,” another said regarding the situation as the priest went up and read a poem called, “Just a dog.”

But while tears and tissues were a major part of the ceremony, it wasn’t all about sadness and remorse, as comfort was also a part of the proceedings.

“This was needed for closure,” says Jefferson Mayor, Russell Felter, who has three dogs named Oreo, Cookie, and Sandi, and is also married to Tami who works at the store and helped set up the event. “There’s an amazing turnout here.”

And in that turnout, people hugged, cried, and said thank you, making it so nobody was left alone in their suffering and heartache on that windy Saturday morning, when patrons huddled inside a tent.

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