AR-News: (MN - US) Hunters preserve dogs' ashes in decoy urns
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Ashes to ashes: Hunters preserve dogs' ashes in decoy urns
BY CHRIS NISKANEN
Knight Ridder Newspapers
ST. PAUL, Minn. - (KRT) - Nellie, the faithful golden retriever, sat in Marc
Ree's closet for nearly six years.
In a cardboard box.
Like many dog owners, Ree couldn't part with the ashes of his beloved pet,
nor could he find the perfect place to store her remains. So the box with
Nellie's ashes, like so many memories, was tucked away from view.
Enter his brother, Steve, who carves duck decoys and is a partner with Marc
in a decoy business, Jennings Decoy Co. of St. Cloud, Minn.
Steve came up with the idea of carving a duck decoy with an internal,
waterproof chamber in which Nellie's ashes could be stored. That way Marc, an avid
duck hunter, could hunt with the decoy and have Nellie's ashes with him in the
"Marc and I have made a lot of decoys together, and he thought this was a
pretty cool idea," Steve Ree said. "I've found a few other people in the same
situation, with a box in the closet with their dog's ashes. Now you can take them
hunting with you."
After carving a few examples for customers, Steve has started making an
entire line of dog decoy urns. He's geared up to hand-carve between 20 and 40 for
Christmas. Nellie's remains are stored in a canvasback decoy, but Steve can
make the dog urns in any duck species. So far he's carved mallards and bluebills.
The "working" decoy, which has a waterproof compartment, sells for $259; an
additional walnut base for displaying the decoy costs $35. Decorative decoy dog
urns, which wouldn't be used for hunting, cost $169. Both models include a
bronze plate for name, dates and special phrases. Nellie's inscription reads:
"Nellie, 1989-1994. Never did a greater golden live."
Steve is also selling a series of oak boxes with dog figurines on top for
storing dog ashes for $99. He offers three breeds: Labrador retriever, golden
retriever and springer spaniel.
An avid waterfowl hunter, Steve has been in the decoy-carving business for 21
years and with Marc operates Jennings Decoy Co. along U.S. Highway 10 in St.
Cloud. The Rees sell decorative and working decoys, as well as other carved
animals and carving tools. Their clients include Cabela's, Gander Mountain and
Sportsman's Warehouse, but the dog urns are available only though Jennings
The decoy urn is not the first time a hunter has come up with a creative way
to store or dispose of the ashes of loved ones.
In the early 1990s, Jay Knudsen Sr. of Des Moines, Iowa, made national
headlines when he began loading the ashes of hunters into shotgun shells.
Relatives requested the special shotgun shells so the deceased hunters could
be blasted at their favorite game - duck or pheasant, for example - as a final
Over the years, Knudson has also worked the anglers' ashes into fishing
lures, catfish bait and tackle boxes. The tackle box was sunk over a dead angler's
favorite fishing hole.
Knudson still operates his small business, Canuck's Sportsman's Memorials,
and gets a special request every few months. His memorial services are a
"We did one last week," said Knudson, whose other job is operating a
landscaping company. "We loaded some shotgun shells and shot a couple of pheasants.
The gentleman was from South Dakota and a real pheasant hunter."
© 2003, Saint Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.).
Visit the World Wide Web site of the Pioneer Press at <A HREF="http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/">
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune
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