Or, rather, he sees a life that should be celebrated.
The retail arm of Oklahoma Citys celebrated Museum of Osteology (the only skeleton museum in the nation, natch), Skulls Unlimited has tapped a new market: preserving the family pet by cleaning and posing its skeleton.
Sound morbid? Villemarette believes its actually a touching tribute.
The customers weve been getting recently, theyre pet lovers and they treat them like a family member, he said. Preserving them like this seems a whole lot more appropriate than just digging a hole in the backyard. At least this way, they get to preserve their pet and have them the way they remember them.
Most customers requesting this service are worried they might sound like weirdoes, said Villemarette, but hes quick to allay those fears by telling them he has about 20 people ahead of you this week.
The same kind of care and research that goes into each preservation job is the same that his team would do for a museum-quality piece.
Anybody can rot down a skull in the backyard, Villemarette said. But to make it perfect to keep the nasal bones and the eardrum bones intact and exactly where they belong thats the tedious part, and thats where experience comes in.
To get it correct, the team relies on photos of the pets and personal details provided by the owners.
They give us a lot information like, He always used to sit this way, or, Hed always wag his tail this way ... all so we can better portray that back to them, said Villemarette.
The process begins with dermestid beetles, which strip the bones clean of tissue. Then a series of chemicals turns the bones white and preserves them.
If you think it sounds like gruesome work, youre not alone. Villemarette said it takes a special person to make it through that first day on the job.
Weve had many people quit at lunchtime, he said. It takes someone with a strong stomach and an eagerness about bones and wanting to learn about them, because theres a lot to learn around here. Its just really nasty.
But worth it. When a customer finally gets their pet back and we hear all the praises, he said, thats whats really rewarding.