Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Photo Essay: The Lost Furry Companions of LA's Pet Cemetery

If you love animals as much as I do, the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park – translation: pet cemetery – might prove to be too heartbreaking for you.



But, it turns out, I love to have my heart broken. Apparently.



All over the "park" you'll find statues of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals...



...and the origin of the Blessing of the Animals...



...which usually takes place on October 4...



...but can occur throughout the month.



I suppose you always find some animal iconography at cemeteries...



...certainly birds and bunnies and big cats and lambs...



...all of which make their appearance in the Bible (both in the Old and New Testaments)...



...but here...



...these above-ground statues and figures...



...are only a small tribute...



...to what's buried down below:



...the beloved companions of individuals and families throughout the LA area.



Some of the families are famous or prominent in some way...



...having enough money to spring for a proper resting place (replete with casket and headstone) for their furry friends...













...but in other cases...



...like Milton Sill, the famed German Shepherd "who knew everything," (even how to spell)...



...or Arras of the Los Angeles K9 unit...



...or even Blinky the Friendly Hen (infamous as a performance art piece in which a frozen Foster Farms chicken was buried and mourned)...



...the animal itself has some claim to fame.



"Room 8" was a neighborhood cat who wandered into a classroom at Echo Park's Elysian Heights Elementary School...



...and who died in 1968 at age 21, after over a dozen years of returning to the same classroom at the start of every school year. The school's students raised the money for his gravestone.



Tawny is probably the only lion buried at LA Pet Memorial Park, and reportedly one of the former MGM lions.



But even the not-so-famous pets clearly had a major impact on their families...



...who were not just "owners"...



...but considered themselves parents...



...often attributing their own salvation to their little angels...



...who were often also considered the soulmates of those they left behind.



I have never seen a cemetery in Southern California so lovingly kempt.



The lawn is green, watered and fertilized.



Many of the headstones are as large and imposing as one would be for any human dignitary or movie star.



The more modest plaques are in terrific condition...



...and are inscribed with the most adorable pet names...



...etchings of the animals...



...and the most heartwarming (and heartbreaking) epitaphs...



...in many languages...



...and for multiple faiths (many of the tombstones carrying a Star of David).



There are a few horses buried here, as well as countless cats, dogs, birds, and turtles.



There's even a mausoleum (and crematory)...



...for above-ground interments...



...including one for a 9-11 hero dog who has passed.

The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park was founded as a kind of cemetery to the stars in 1928 by celebrity veterinarian Dr. Eugene Jones (the same Dr. Jones of the doomed Jones Animal Hospital that West Hollywood just voted to demolish in favor of the Melrose Triangle development project). Although it was intended as a final resting place for Hollywood's animal kingdom, it has provided consolation and a place for bereavement for many other families – and continues to provide funeral services for new burials today, but also a supportive community for grieving, with occasional candlelight vigils.

Despite those 40,000-plus animals interred (including a number of unmarked graves), reportedly they're not running out of room anytime soon.

And yes, you guessed it: it's also haunted.