Anyone who has ever enjoyed the pleasure, and the company, of a pet animal will understand why there are pet cemeteries. It isn’t always possible to bury them in a back garden and some will want a memorial, an acknowledgement that their pet is much missed and was much loved. I still miss my little tabby cat, Twinky, who was run over and killed during the day while I was at work. She ended up being buried in a neighbour’s back garden which was very kind of him but I did miss the chance to say my final goodbye.
Pet cemeteries’ little memorials may seem mawkish but a pet becomes part of the family and part of your life. One of the saddest and most poignant postings I have seen on Facebook was from an urban explorer who had been exploring and photographing an old, abandoned house and had found two small coffins under a bed. Both coffins had nameplates on and, by the names,
the explorer knew that they couldn’t be children. She opened them and discovered the small bodies of the owner’s dogs. It seemed very sad that the owner had loved these pets so much that she had kept them with her until the end and, now, except for the explorer’s chance encounter, no-one would know they were there and they would be swept away when the house was demolished.
The Ancient Egyptians mummified and buried cats who they considered to be gods (and cats have never forgotten this) and Ashkelon in Israel has the largest dog cemetery in the world. The largest animal necropolis in the world at Hartsdale, NY, with 70,000 burials and began because of a sympathetic vet.
In 1899, the Cimetiere des Chiens in et Autres Animaux Domestiques, opened in Asnieres-sur-Seine near Paris. Its oldest grave is a dog from Napoleon’s Grande Armee and burials continue up to the present day. In 1958, it interred its 40,000th burial which was an anonymous stray dog who died outside the cemetery gates. The Cimetiere isn’t just for dogs though as it also contains cats, horses, a monkey, a sheep and 16 year old hen. It’s definitely on my list to visit as a visitor has described it as uplifting and joyful to be amongst these well-loved pets who obviously had very good lives.
I have visited several pet cemeteries: Preston Park, Brighton, Wrest Park and London’s Hyde Park and I was struck by the poignant epitaphs. The animals had names, characters and had been much loved. There’s also the odd little memorial in a stately home or a garden.
I found this little marker in a corner of the lovely gardens at Great Dixter, Sussex, UK. What a wonderful place for a dog to go walkies in!
Gone for (a very long)walkies….Cimitiere des Chiens at Autres Animaux Domestiques, by Marion Houghton, Friends of Nunhead Cemetery News,
No 129, Sep-Nov 2015
Text and photo copyright Carole Tyrrell