Ask any pet owner and they’ll probably say that their pets are a part of the family. When their time with us comes to an end, that sentiment carries into the afterlife.
Some people choose to have their own private home burial in the backyard, or have their pets cremated and kept in an urn or a custom glass pendant. There are some who even choose to have their beloved companions taxidermized.
All of these options are ways to keep the memories of our pets alive, but one of the most interesting forms of pet memorial is the pet cemetery. Archaeologists estimate that pet burial dates back to the time when animals were first domesticated, more than 14,000 years ago.
The earliest known fossils suggest that the first pet burials were dogs, and that many of them were buried with valuable belongings alongside their owners. Of course, some of the most famous ancient pet burials are the cats found mummified in Egypt, believed to be deities.
The use of the more modern pet cemetery became popular in Europe and the U.S. at the turn of the century. The oldest and largest pet cemetery in the U.S. is the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y.
It was established in 1896 when Manhattan veterinarian Dr. Samuel Johnson volunteered to bury a dog in his apple orchard. Now, more than 70,000 animals are interred there, including Laika, the Soviet space dog. The cemetery also holds a memorial to dogs of war and has a service in their honor every June.
The second largest pet cemetery in the U.S., and one of the most well-known, is Aspin Hill Memorial Park in Silver Spring, Md. This cemetery began in the early 1900s as the location of a dog breeder’s kennel and personal pet burial site, but soon grew as the need for pet interment became necessary.
The cemetery is the final resting place of more than 50,000 pets, including three of J. Edgar Hoover’s dogs. In addition to elaborate headstones, statues and even a mausoleum, there are also 30 humans buried on the grounds. There are two animal memorials found in the cemetery — one in honor of rats used in medical experimentation and another for animals of the fur industry.
The Humane Society of Greater Nashua was founded in 1900 by Mary Jane Kendall. Roscoe F. Proctor donated land to the humane society in 1929 at which time Mrs. Kendall established Proctor Pet Cemetery, the first in New Hampshire.
Mrs. Kendall’s cat Creampot passed away in the Great Nashua Fire of 1930, and is interred in a front row plot, along with more than 3,000 other pets. The facility still offers plots today.
There are at least 300 active pet cemeteries in the U.S. alone, and many in other countries around the world, including France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Taiwan, Thailand and the UK. Whichever way we choose to memorialize and lay to rest our furry, scaly or feathered family members, such care shows the compassion, respect and regard many cultures hold for their pets.
Shay Riley is Assistant Director of Digital + Design at The Keene Sentinel.