NANCHANG, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Wan Yiwei takes care of pets as they take their last breaths.
Whenever he welcomes a customer, he sees a crying face. He is an encoffiner, for pets.
"When I picked Beibei up from a roadside three years ago, he was dirty and shivering with cold. We gave him a bath and some food, and he gradually recovered and has hence become a member of our family," said Lin Yan (pseudonym) while gently patting her dog.
"He's very clever. He learned to use the toilet by himself after a little training, and would greet me with cheers whenever he heard my footsteps. When I was giving birth, he stayed all night outside the delivery room," said the 31-year-old.
Wan carefully cleaned Beibei's body, put him on a bed decorated with fake flowers and held a 15-minute funeral for the white dog before sending him for cremation.
"My two kids were heartbroken, they loved him so much," said Lin while wiping away her tears.
Pet lovers in China are becoming deeply attached to their animal friends. A 2019 white paper on China's pet industry showed about 87 percent of pet owners regarded pets as members of their family.
"Sometimes I'm like a psychologist, listening to every customer share their pet's story and venting out their emotions," said Wan, who believes pet funerals can help ease the pain.
Wan ran a pet hospital before becoming a pet encoffiner. After witnessing so many tearful partings, he began to consider how to let pet owners say goodbye to their beloved animal friends in a more proper, acceptable manner.
"I don't want pets to be randomly buried or thrown away after they die. I want to draw a complete end to the life of these animals," said Wan, who keeps two dogs and strongly empathizes with his customers.
He therefore went to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and other places last year to learn how to become a pet mortician.
Wan currently works with eight pet hospitals in Nanchang, east China's Jiangxi Province and has held "farewell ceremonies" for 30 pets in the past seven months.
Zhang Hongwei, president of a pet hospital, said his hospital sometimes receives stray dogs for adoption by the public. However, some dogs may die from injuries, and the disposal of their carcasses has been a major problem.
"Dead pets can easily breed bacteria. Cremation is the best way to deal with their bodies. It's also environmentally friendly," said Zhang.
Wan always keeps his mobile phone on. He once received a call at 11 p.m. on a winter night, and a man wanted his beloved dog that had just passed away to be cremated right away. "It was a 37-kg Alaskan malamute and I worked until 4 a.m. The owner was crying taking home the ashes," he said.
"We also provide tree burials, but most still prefer cremation," said Wan.
"Choosing to cremate their pet is a form of respect for life and an embodiment of social progress," said Wan.
Wan is also quietly altering the minds of local villagers, many of whom keep pets.
More and more villagers are sending their dead pets to Wan. "People realize that throwing away dead pets at will will do harm to the environment," said Wan. "More importantly, they've been with us for so many years, they deserve a good end."