The Gore You Never Asked For, Pt. 3

The Gore You Never Asked For: The Scary Sh*t We Do in Real Life, Pt. 3Taxidermy


L. Marie Wood

The removal of skin, scored in such a way that the cuts can be hidden later; the tanning of the skin; the repositioning, the eye cast gluing… Nothing says I love you like stuffing and mounting your carcass on the wall of the den, Whiskers.

What? Was that description off-putting? That’s what taxidermy is—the preservation of an animal’s flesh after its demise. Considered an art form by many, this process can take anywhere from two months to over a year to complete. You might have thought it was just for game; the traditional deer head probably came to mind when you read the title. But more and more pet owners choose this option for their beloved animal family. They put their kitty in their cat bed or lay their pooch by their dog bowl, their bodies lying in state in their favorite spots. This means that the reminder of death is always present. The feeling of loss is always within reach.

But isn’t that also true of ashes left in an urn? Whether displayed on a mantel or packed away in a box in the storage room, the ashes are never forgotten, are they? You know they are there all the time, the memory of putting them in a specific spot, easy to call up when needed. Is that any healthier a reminder of the circle of life? One could argue that the beloved animal being reduced to ashes was akin to closing the book as if finished. They might also argue that taxidermy allows the pet to remain present in daily life, and therefore, immortal in memory. Many pet taxidermy enthusiasts—not sure if this is a thing, but let’s go with it for now—stage their animals in humorous poses reflecting the personalities they had before death. I read an article similar to this about humans, something about themed funerals and people being buried in their cars or being funeralized with playing cards or cigarettes in their hands. These funerals were staged to reflect the person’s interests…maybe those in attendance enjoyed the memory of poker night with them one last time because of it… I digress. These people, while funeralized in unique ways, were buried when all the pomp and circumstance was over. Pets that have gone through the taxidermic process stay in the home…with the people who loved them…forever… and ever…and ever… (cue creepy kids’ voices from The Shining). Seriously. Good taxidermy can last for years, like 20 years. That means that the adults who chose to taxidermy Whiskers might have themselves died and passed him onto their child, who would then be an adult, maybe with a child of their own…a child who has no connection to Whiskers other than the occasional story that their parent might tell, or an old picture…a child who thinks that Whiskers’ eyes are following him around the room.

But maybe people are more okay with it that than this author might assume. This must be true or else there wouldn’t be pictures of dead people in their caskets tucked inconspicuously in the back of old photo albums waiting for some poor unsuspecting soul to happen upon them, or pictures of living people posing with dead people in studio photo shoots, or open-casket funerals. Yes. This must be true because, heck, there’s even a touring exhibition that shows skinless and dissected human bodies in all manner of positions for those who want to view muscles and tendons as they stretch and reach and bend. So, maybe taxidermy isn’t as outside the circle of an idea as it might have seemed at the beginning of this article…maybe…