When your loyal pet crosses the Rainbow Bridge, you want them to rest in peace in a place fitting their position in your family. It’s little wonder that these pet cemeteries have gained world-wide praise and acknowledgement.
When I was a kid, pets who had passed were simply buried in our back yard. From my cat, Smoky to our two painted turtles, numerous goldfish, a gerbil and even a number of baby birds that we had found and tried (but failed) to nurse back to health. All were eventually interred in the garden.
And while I’m inclined to say “times have changed” and pet parents are just now opting for a more formal good bye for their loved ones, the truth is that pet cemeteries have been around for centuries and for those inclined to splurge, they provide a more respectable resting place for Rover than was the base of the old apple tree in my childhood yard.
In fact, there are over 700 registered pet cemeteries in the United States alone with a few – such as Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park – providing the final resting place to upwards of 40,000 beloved pets. And according to the International Association of Pet Cemeteries (yes, there is such an organization), there are probably hundreds more “less formal” sites that have never been registered.
Today, many of the official graveyards offer much more than just a plot of land to bury your pet. They provide several of the same amenities you would expect from traditional cemeteries, including caskets, customized head-stones, funeral services and grief counselling. In fact, many “human” cemeteries in North America will now allow pets to be interred with their owner or in non-consecrated grounds located within the cemetery boundaries.
And this isn’t just a North American phenomenon. Established more than a century ago, many of these pet cemeteries have become unique tourist destinations and even lay claim to some pretty pricey real estate throughout the world.
Let’s take a look at eight of the more interesting public and private pet cemeteries:
Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, New York City
The home of America’s first ever pet cemetery, this pricey five-acre plot near New York City was established back in 1896 when real estate prices were substantially lower and the land was the veterinarian’s apple orchard. While originally intended to provide a final resting place for pets owned by area residents, its locale made it rather popular. Today, its home to more than 100,000 pets including not only dogs, cats, rabbits and more, but a lion named Goldfleck who lived at the Plaza Hotel, as well as the pets of celebs such as Mariah Carey and Diana Ross.
Aarrowood Pet Cemetery, Illinois
Not all pets are of the feline or lap-dog persuasion. In fact, some beloved besties are of the rather large, equine variety. Yes, in the tony North Shore suburb of Vernon Hills where the horsey-set live, the after-life care of such a large favored animal can present a rather challenging situation. And for those who consider a formal grave important to the grieving process, the burial of a show-horse is no small task. But at Aarrowood Pet Cemetery, your beloved pet will be laid to rest upon a bed of hay and with a suitable marker to acknowledge his life.
War Dog Memorial Cemetery, Michigan
This touching locale is the final resting place for the many dogs who served their country in WWI and WWII as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. These dogs were trained to find wounded soldiers, to act as guard sentries, navigate enemy territory to deliver messages and to sniff out bombs and IEDs. Sadly, they too became casualties of war and following their deaths, many of these brave dogs were interred at the War Dog Memorial Cemetery in Michigan. Today, a handsome memorial wall honors their contribution and individual headstones bear their names.
Victorian Pet Cemetery of Hyde Park
London’s Hyde Park has a little secret. Or rather 300 of them. Nestled in behind Victoria Gate Lodge at the northern edge of the city’s 350-acre urban oasis lay the final resting places of many of the beloved cats and dogs that once upon a time called the mansions rimming the perimeter of this park, home. Yes, London’s most distinguished members of society said their final good bye’s standing in this somber little nook that’s located in the heart of England’s bustling capital. Established by the Victoria Lodge’s gatekeeper back in 1881, it accepted its final pet in 1903.
The Stanley Hotel, Staff Pet Cemetery, Colorado
When you work in a hotel that sits beside the vast, 265,000-acre Rocky Mountain National Park, it can get kind of lonely in the winter. At least it sure did for Jack Nicholson’s character when the solitude ultimately drove him insane. Who can forget that the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was the inspiration for Steven King’s horror story, “The Shining”. For staff working the graveyard shift at this isolated snow-bound location, a furry companion has always been welcome. And because all things must one day pass, hotel management created a small pet cemetery for their staff’s dearly departed fur-kids.
Hemingway House, Key West, Florida
Back in the 1940s, Ernest Hemingway’s two sons were gifted with a polydactyl cat that resided with them in their home in Key West, Florida. Fast forward several decades and the lineage of these cats has been preserved. Today, you can visit the famed author’s house and meet some 40-plus six-toed descendants of the original feline who now stroll the grounds and are cared for by staff and volunteers. But there’s more… because tucked in the lush tropical gardens of the house lies the cemetery where dozens of the past house felines are buried and their unique monikers formally recognized by a plaque.
Aspin Hill Memorial Park, Maryland
This Humane Society-run pet cemetery was established back in 1920 and is the final resting place for upwards of 55,000 beloved pets that include everything from dogs and cats to frogs, squirrels and even a woodchuck. Hey, love knows no bounds, right? While its most famous permanent resident is likely FBI Head Honcho J. Edgar Hoover’s beloved Cairn terrier Spee-De-Bozo who crossed over back in 1934, what makes this graveyard really unique is that a number of humans are also buried alongside their pet. Yes, it houses over 50 humans who felt it was important to stay forever close to their furry beloved.
Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, LA
Nestled in the hills of California’s San Fernando Valley lays the final resting place of many of Hollywood’s four-legged elite. This pet cemetery was founded back in 1928 by a local veterinarian who wanted to help his celebrity clientele honor their furry side-kicks. Today this 10-acre plot of primo L.A. real estate is the eternal home of more than 42,000 much loved pets. It has also seen more stars gather than a Hollywood premier: Charlie Chaplin’s feline friend is buried here, as is Rudolph Valentino’s beloved Doberman Pinscher, the horse of cowboy Hop-Along-Cassidy and even the Jack Russell terrier that kept Steven Spielberg company.
Mary Simpson is a writer and communications professional from Port Credit, Ontario. A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include Schnoodles, Lexie and Ruby James as well as tuxedo Simon, and ginger Harry. She enjoys running, politics, exploring the wine regions of Niagara and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.