‘He is Always With Me’: Austin Woman Reunites with Golden Retriever in Diamond Form
What will you do when your beloved pet passes away? It's a question that we never want to think about, much less have to answer.
Brittany Stanton unfortunately had to walk through this when she unexpectedly lost her dog Ollie in 2019 after he ingested toxic algae while they were kayaking. Having lost Ollie so quickly and tragically, Stanton was desperate for a way to memorialize Ollie and the impact he had on her life.
Research led Stanton to Eterneva, a cutting-edge lab-grown diamond company that is on a mission to change the culture around death, grief, and remembrance. Eterneva extracts carbon out of ashes (human or pet) to create a meaningful lab-grown diamond.
While living in Seattle in 2018, Stanton was going through a difficult personal time. She already had a dog named Covan, but she was ready to get him a sibling. Having grown up with a golden retriever, she knew she wanted to add this breed to her family. Golden retriever Oliver, aka Ollie, was born on June 9, 2018, and came home at 10 weeks old.
"He was just the perfect companion for Covan and myself," Stanton says. The trio moved to Austin, Texas, for Stanton's graduate school and later to San Antonio. "He was my little adventure buddy," she says. Ollie loved outdoor adventures like hiking and swimming.
On August 4, 2019, Stanton took 2-year-old Ollie to Lady Bird Lake in Austin to kayak. "He sat on the boat with me and would occasionally jump in the lake and come back in the boat," Stanton says.
After kayaking, Stanton and Ollie went to Zilker Park nearby to play fetch. "Within probably 20 minutes of being there, he started to display symptoms," Stanton says. While they were playing, Ollie's back leg gave in. He was lying down and having a hard time getting up. "He was still smiling and panting like normal, but I knew something was starting to happen," she says. When Ollie finally stood up, his gait was very off and his back legs were wobbly. He took a few steps and collapsed into a puddle of water.
Stanton called her boyfriend and frantically searched on her phone for the nearest emergency vet. Other people at the park started to see her panicking and came over to ask how to help. They stayed with Ollie while Stanton sprinted to her car and drove it up onto the lawn. A couple of guys helped load Ollie into the back of Stanton's car. "He was basically limp at this time," she says.
A lady, who Stanton calls her "lifesaver," noticed how shaken Stanton was and offered to ride with her to the vet. She got in the back of the car with Ollie and her own dog. This woman ended up doing CPR on Ollie in Stanton's car. There was a line of cars trying to leave the park, but the woman encouraged Stanton to go around them. "I honked my horn and drove around them like a crazy person," Stanton says. "I went through every red light to get to the vet."
"On the way there she asked me what time it was, and I knew that meant he had probably stopped breathing at that point," she says. When they reached the vet, veterinarians tried to save Ollie but he was already gone. "It was a really, really horrific experience," Stanton says.
So how did Ollie, a completely healthy dog, get sick and die so quickly? Blue-green algae. At some point during the ordeal, the woman who rode in Stanton's car mentioned that a toxic algae may exist in the water. "I didn't think anything of it at the time," Stanton says, "but that's exactly what happened." When dogs are exposed to blue-green algae, they can experience severe neurologic or liver damage, and even death.
As Stanton grieved the tragic loss, her boyfriend came across news articles about two other dogs who had recently passed away after ingesting algae in Lady Bird Lake. "We all met up to talk through our experiences, and they were all essentially identical," Stanton says.
"After everything happened, I was obviously heartbroken and not in a state to process anything," Stanton says. Her boyfriend was the one reading news articles and trying to come up with a way to make her smile. One day he semi-jokingly brought up that you can make a diamond from ashes of a loved one who has passed away.
Stanton had never heard of this, but she was immediately intrigued. "After I had a couple more days to get myself together, I started looking into how the process works," she says. She discovered a company called Eterneva. When she saw that the company was based in Austin, she took it as a sign.
"I knew that I could have him with me in a way that wasn't just in an urn," Stanton says. "This was an option where I could actually have him on my physical person."
Stanton knew that she wanted to set the diamond in a ring. A ring allowed her to look at it, and at him, whenever she wanted. She chose a one carat yellow diamond to match Ollie's golden color. When she sent in Ollie's ashes, she also added some of her hair and Covan's fur so that the diamond represented the three of them together forever. "Him being with me and it being his actual colors makes it feel a little more alive and vibrant," she says.
Eterneva: Death Care and Diamonds
Eterneva was founded by Adelle Archer and Garrett Ozar in 2016 after Archer lost her close friend and business partner, Tracey Kaufman, to pancreatic cancer. Archer was looking for a meaningful and special way to honor her friend but found that all of the available options were trinket-y, cheap, and "not meaningful enough for somebody that was so special."
Archer and Ozar had already been planning to start a lab-grown diamond company. "We started talking about the idea of extracting carbon from cremated remains and using that carbon source to grow a lab-grown diamond," Archer says. "That's an idea that I became completely obsessed with." Kaufman was the first diamond Eterneva ever made.
From the beginning, Eterneva has created diamonds from the ashes of both people and pets. "A loved one is a loved one," Archer says. "When we talk to our pet parents, the relationship that they had with each other a lot of the time was closer than any human connection that they had," Archer says. "We know that they're grieving just as much as somebody who's grieving a person." Pet parents get the exact same experience through Eterneva. "For a lot of our pet parents, they view the diamond as that continued connection and bond with their pet," she says.
Growing a diamond in a lab from beginning to end takes eight months, and an Eterneva diamond starts at $3,000, with prices based on the size and color of the diamonds.
The inauguration is a tradition that occurs at the beginning of the Eterneva process where they share some words about the person or pet. When the time came to inaugurate Ollie, Stanton wrote a beautiful letter to him that was read at the ceremony. "There was not a dry eye in the house," Archer says.
Here is just one part of Stanton's touching tribute to Ollie:
"You didn't know, but when I got you I was going through a very difficult time, emotionally and with my personal health. You gave me structure. You gave me routine. You gave me optimism and love, and you brought back the positivity to life. The adventures we went on, the mountains we climbed, the states we drove across, the snow we played in, and water we swam … will never compare to any other. Our experiences together were beautiful, unique, and unlike any other, to this day, that I have ever experienced. Thank you. Thank you for being my baby.
Once Ollie's diamond was complete, she was invited back to experience what Eterneva calls the Homecoming. Stanton, her boyfriend, and the Eterneva team drank champagne and celebrated Stanton getting to open Ollie's diamond for the first time.
Stanton's reaction to finally seeing the ring in-person and putting it on was captured in a video that Eterneva posted to TikTok. The emotional reunion of Stanton and Ollie helped the video go viral.
"I don't even know if there's a word for it," Stanton says. "I honestly just wanted him to be back with me." She says that she could have opened the box and found the complete wrong ring style and still would have been elated to have Ollie back with her. "I broke down in tears," she says. "It felt like a sense of closure in a way that is really hard to find through an experience that started off so terrible.
"It's surreal to look at a piece of jewelry and think that that is someone," Stanton says. "It means everything to be able to have done that and know that he is always with me."