Originally published April 12, 2015 at The Los Angeles Beat
About 40 minutes northwest of Los Angeles lies a most unusual cemetery. Traditional decorum of tastefulness and quiet mourning is replaced with blasts of color, whimsical wind spinners, laminated photos of the dearly departed and personal mementos. The epitaphs on the grave stones here are anything but dull. Declarations of extreme love are more typical than not and cutesy descriptions of the deceased will elicit a chuckle. For some odd reason, this cemetery tugs at my heart strings more than most and I experience rushes of alternating sadness and saccharin sweetness. The irony is that this is not a place where you will find your departed grandfather, aunt or neighbor, but a place to mourn the family pet.
From personal experience, I can attest that losing an adored household pet is a difficult thing to deal with. For better or worse, these pets love us unconditionally, a thing many human beings have yet to learn to master. When my beloved 17-year old tortoiseshell cat, Dagmar, passed away suddenly, I was beyond heart broken. She had been with me for a large chunk of my life, always dependable, always ready with a friendly purr. I had cuddled her through good times and bad and cried many tears onto the top of her fuzzy head. Without full knowledge of the law, I buried Dagmar in a spot on my property and painted a headstone especially for her. I have since found out that this is not legal in the city of Los Angeles. For those who yearn for a more permanent and public place of remembrance, The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, 10 acres of green grass and gently rolling hills just off the 101 freeway in Calabasas may be the answer.
Opened in 1928, by veterinarian Eugene Jones, this is the oldest pet cemetery in Southern California. It was built in faraway Calabasas due to a law forbidding the burial of animals within the Los Angeles city limits. Over the years more than 40,000 animals have crossed the “rainbow bridge” and come to rest in this memorial park. Famous pet residents include Rudolph Valentino’s dog, Kabar; Leo, the MGM lion; Petey, the circle-eyed dog from the ’30s series Our Gang; Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Spot; Charlie Chaplin’s cat; and pets that belonged to Steven Spielberg, Tori Spelling, Diana Ross, Humphrey Bogart, Mae West, William Shatner and more.
A pet burial here may set an owner back between $600 to $2,000, depending upon the size of the plot and the elaborateness of the casket. A candlelight ceremony is held once a month for those missing their beloved pets. The thing that binds all of these animals together is a strong outpouring of love. The kitsch of plastic flowers and random displays of used pet toys only confirms the fact that these animals were adored beyond measure. Tried and true, loyal and committed, most of these creatures were somebody’s best friend. They were far luckier than many human beings.
Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park: 5068 N. Old Scandia Lane, Calabasas, CA 91372; (818) 591-7037. Open Monday-Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm.