2001-Wed Mar 01 10:59:05 MST 2017
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It's Halloween, and nothing says spooky like a graveyard. And, in the tradition of Stephen King, the scariest graveyard is the pet cemetery. Or is it?
If you seek proof that pets live on after death, you can find it etched in stone at a narrow strip of land overlooking the Seine River on the outskirts of Paris. Chipped statuary, faded lettering and newer monuments to pets now passed mark the
Cimetiere des Chiens, the world’s first public pet cemetery. But rather than calling up terrifying images of reanimated pet corpses, this peaceful park has been the final resting place of dogs, cats, bunnies and other animals since it was founded in 1899, and headstone inscriptions bear mute witness to the grief their people felt at their loss.
Ici repose Love.
Missing you Bunga.
Humans have buried pets with ritual, and no doubt regret, for millennia. In a
study published last year in the online journal Plos One, Russian, European and American researchers found that hunter-gatherer societies in eastern Siberia buried dogs with tokens of affection or in ways that suggested a special bond with them. “One
dog skeleton was laid to rest in a sleeping position; others were buried with small ornaments or implements, some resembling toys," wrote the study's authors. "One man was buried with two dogs laid on either side of him, while another dog was placed in his grave wearing a necklace fashioned from four deer’s teeth.”
A stroll through a pet cemetery offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of pets and their people — and at the timelessness of the human-animal bond. For a fee of about $4.50 for adults and $2 for children, visitors can spend an afternoon touring the Cimetiere des Chiens. Famed canine actor
Rin Tin Tin, French by birth, is buried in the cemetery, as is Barry, a
Saint Bernard renowned for saving 40 lives, who gave his own in an attempt to save a 41
Pets don’t have to be famous or heroic, though, to warrant a spot in the Cimetiere des Chiens. Headstones
Yorkshire Terrier Melanie;
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Rumba and Cindy; a
Siamese cat aptly named My Lord; dogs named Rex, Boy, Mister, Willy and Leo; and gray
Persian cats Pacha and Darius.
A pet cemetery is a democratic space. Sharing the grounds at the Cimetiere des Chiens are Drac (1941-1953), the beloved
dog of Princess Elisabeth of Romania; Sully, who belonged to the Comte and Comtesse Alexandre Dumas; Marquise and Tony, the dogs of Princess Lobanof; show dogs such as those described as “
les premiers Komondors de France, celebres champions nationaux, internationaux et mondiaux” (roughly translated: the best
Komondors in France, famous national, international and world champions); as well as the pets of more anonymous people, who left records only of their animals’ names and years of life, sometimes accompanied by pictures.
And it's not just dogs that are buried with honors: A crypt for Mimi at Cimetiere des Chiens has three cat-shaped openings, no doubt so the little ghost
cat can flit in and out without needing someone to open a door for her. Admirers leave dog treats on Rin Tin Tin’s grave, and fresh flowers and live plants decorate many of the sites, placed by visiting pet owners and the cemetery’s caretakers.
Visitors to the Cimetiere des Chiens include animals as well as humans:
Feral cats nap on headstones or wend their way along the paths. A small building with a
cat door provides them with shelter and food, and a fountain dispenses water.
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