Dry Tortuga

“It’s the real muscle, the real skeleton, the brain is all still with the pet,” said taxidermist Anthony Eddy in a news report on KDSK-TV. The St. Louis station ran a story about freeze-dried pets near the end of February sweeps. The website for Anthony Eddy’s Wildlife Studio is pet-animalpreservation.com. Most of his business comes from dog and cat owners but I noticed at least one freeze-dried rat in the TV report.

The word taxidermy is derived from the Greek words for movement and skin. Normally, just the skin of a deer or other game animal is preserved and stretched over an artificial frame. That work would be extremely difficult with small animals like house pets. Instead of skinning them, all the moisture is slowly removed during the freeze-drying process. I learned all this when my pet tortoise died.

About eight years ago there was another news story about another taxidermist. When I couldn’t imagine burying my deceased tortoise, I called the Al Holmes Taxidermy Studio & Wildlife Museum in Wetumpka, Alabama. I hadn’t started my blog yet, but I did write about the experience elsewhere on my website.

When Mo died, I wasn’t even going to say anything on the air. He was supposed to live longer than me and I felt somehow at fault for his respiratory infection. Thankfully my partner, Ashley Adams, saw the humor in the situation when I told her that I hadn’t buried Mo but instead put him in the freezer next to the Turtle Tracks ice cream.
The saga of Mo played out over the next six months on our show. We called local taxidermists trying to find one who would preserve him. One refused to do reptiles. Another said that small animals were too difficult. A third refused to do pets. A listener called and reminded us that several months earlier we had interviewed a taxidermist who specialized in pets. We made a call to that taxidermist, Al Holmes of the Al Holmes Taxidermy Studio and Wildlife Museum in Wetumpka, Alabama. Al explained that he freeze-dries the smaller critters and would be happy to “fix Mo up” for me.
Mo, my freeze-dried pet tortoise, on the console at Oldies 95.7 By a strange coincidence, my co-host had relatives in Wetumpka and was planning to bring her 2-month old son to visit them on Mother’s Day weekend. Rather than pay shipping charges, I wanted to somehow convince her to take Mo’s carcass along on the six hour drive. I waited until we were live on the air to spring the idea on her and asked listeners to help me convince her.
After she reluctantly agreed, we asked Al Holmes how to pack Mo for the trip. He was already in a Ziploc bag in my freezer. I wrapped him (and the bag) in newspaper and put him in a Styrofoam cooler surrounded by some frozen bottles of Aquafina. I taped the cooler shut and brought it to work with me. It sat on the studio floor during our whole show that Friday. The next day Ashley delivered the cooler to Al Holmes. When he opened it, they drank the Aquafinas which had thawed but were still cool and refreshing. Creepy.

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