Some people grow so attached to their pets they don’t want to ever let go of them.
Enter Oscar Silvestre León, an Argentinean, who makes it possible for pets to hang around forever.
Dubbed “Jíbaro of the Pampas,” León carries out a bizarre ritual when an animal dies: he shrinks it and does some sort of mummification process to the animal's head so the owner can keep the animal as a memento of sorts. The animal ends up looking like a miniature version of its life-like self.
His rite is so secretive, he said, it will “die with him.”
He has no problem performing his "magic" on dogs, cats or even chickens – but his work does have limits.
“There are boundaries that I don’t cross. We are temples of the Holy Spirit and I have refused any offer to do this to people,” he told Fox News Latino. “We are God creatures and I respect that.”
While stuffing animals is a common practice in hunting –we've all seen those stuffed deer heads or bears that hang on walls as a kind of hunting trophy– what’s different here is these are actual pets people had grown attached to.
As an only child, León said he was fascinated by animals. And while he performs a sort of surgical procedure to the dead creatures, he’s adamant that he’s never done this to animals that were alive.
“People bring me their pets when they die because they don’t want to accept their absence and they wanted to preserve their bodies,” he said.
León said he also does work for hunters, who want to stuff goats or antelopes.
The 67-year-old, who has been written about in publications all across the world, has been doing this work for 50 years. It takes him about six months to complete the process, and the animal ends up seven times smaller than they originally were.
Unlike a mummification –which entails emptying the animal of their organs and keeping the skin to wrap over a sort of stuffing– León keeps the animal's head intact and just shrinks it in size.
His strange work has also brought tons of tourists to his workshop — people from England to Asia to Africa have come to see his work in a rural section of Buenos Aires called Lobos.
León has no children, has never been married and said he’s never left his hometown.
“I could live anywhere I want – I have no roots. But I’m happy here. I like to be alone with the animals, silently,” he said.
Teresa Sofía Buscaglia is a freelance writer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.