Stumbling upon a pet cemetery is usually a delight, because they're quite sweet and touching.
I like being greeted by smiling dog statues and stone sculptures of bunnies and lambs and things.
Just inside its entrance, the Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery in Huntington Beach is downright cheerful: nearly every grave appears to be decked out with fresh and silk flowers, pinwheels, stuffed animals, and Easter decorations.
But when you walk a bit farther in, it turns darker...
...and more morose.
Even though visitors can come 24/7 to place decorations, there are none toward the rear of the cemetery, where the older plots are.
I wondered why people had stopped decorating these graves.
But Sea Breeze opened in 1961, so there are lots of markers dating back to the 1970s and 80s, and some more than 50 years old.
Had Mommy and Daddy already reunited with these little boys and girls on the other side?
Or are they still on this earth, but just too sick or feeble to get there in person?
It's hard to imagine them just abandoning the little guys...
...after all that despair...
...the incredible loss...
...and the void left behind...
...by these creatures that were as close as children to their humans.
It's so lonely there.
Thankfully, the caretakers keep the graves in (mostly) pristine condition.
It's really hard to walk around a place like this as an animal lover...
...because when you commit to a pet, you're making a lifetime commitment to an animal whose lifetime is most certainly shorter than yours. You're going to see them grow up and die, and you'll still be around. It's heartbreaking.
But given the joy that they bring, it must be worth the pain...right?
I've never seen such an outpouring of love and devotion as on those granite markers. The love between man and man's best friend is probably the simplest and most genuine love there is.
I can only hope to experience that kind of love someday.
Note to self: it is currently illegal for pets to be buried in human cemeteries, but it's not impossible for a human to be buried in a pet cemetery near their beloveds.
Photo Essay: The Lost Furry Companions of LA's Pet Cemetery