As part of my research for a book chapter in Margo DeMello’s upcoming collection, Mourning Animals (Michigan State University Press), last weekend I caught part of a special tour of the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery. Established circa 1896, the cemetery—a stone’s throw from New York City—was the first non-human animal cemetery in the U.S.
Previous to that, people with land would create their own private place and urban dwellers would be forced to leave the remains along with other trash. (Keeping in mind that the streets of, say, New York, were distinctly more foul at the time, this is and isn’t as weird as it sounds.) Hilda Kean has researched some other pet cemeteries that cropped up in the nineteenth century—in London and Paris, for example. As pets became closer companions of humans, it followed that disposing of their remains via dumpster would shock sensibilities and that alternatives would be explored.
Few headstones from the nineteenth century remain in the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery. This is believed to be the oldest (1898), inscribed with only the owner’s last name:
I’ll be posting the (many, many) pictures in parts, and conclude this first posting with some of the more uniquely shaped memorials: