In 2011, the State of New York decided to ban the burial of human cremains in pet cemeteries, but this ban was lifted this past August. It was a grudging retraction: pet cemeteries are still forbidden from advertising the possibility and from charging a fee (presumably as further disincentive), and must inform prospective purchasers that cremains (in the text of the NYS Register, “cremains” is defined as only human cremated remains) buried in pet cemeteries are not entitled to the same protections as those buried in designated human cemeteries (such as protection from being moved into a mass burial lot in the case of nonpayment, for example).
Many insist that these beloved animals indeed have souls, an afterlife, where the bereaved humans can reconnect with their lost loved ones. I can feel the pain behind the fervent wish to be reunited, to wish that forever is not forever.
Some of the gravestones at the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery use the rhetoric of surrogacy, identifying the non-human animal as, essentially, as good as a human relative—and in some cases, perhaps superior.
Next to Larry, the “grandson,” lays Luke, the “son.”
“Our Little Man.”
In case there was any doubt, yes, I did love my cats more than I loved you.
Unabashedly claiming interspecies family.
This one is fascinating: Mickey is not a dog; he is merely a boy in dog-face. I hope someone runs across my blog and is inspired to write a whole article about this.
Stanley Brandes has written about American pet cemetery gravestones, tracking how they evidence the increasing humanization (my word, not his) of pet animals. As they increasingly were given human names and human religious and ethnic affiliations, their gravestones also reflected the pet’s adoption of their human family’s identity.
I love this: pets so beloved, they emigrated with their humans.
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: