As an animal chaplain who works with people to help them prepare for, cope with and move on after pet loss, I think this pet cemetery is a wonderful idea, especially for those who prefer to bury rather than cremate their pets. It is largely illegal in the city to bury animals, and then there’s always the concern that if you do it anyway you may someday move to another home and have to leave behind your departed animals’ graves. I just helped a woman through the euthanasia of her beloved cockatoo, Cuddles, yesterday. She lives in a condo and is Jewish—her faith disallows cremation—so she had to bury her bird in her mother’s garden. She may still someday have to face her mother moving from that house and leaving Cuddles behind. Having access to a permanent, preserved burial space might have brought her an additional measure of comfort.

In my research and writing of my book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” people all over the globe submitted stories of how bonded they were with their animals and how important memorializing them is to their own heart’s healing. I agree fully with Ms. Ayl, in the following article, when she writes, “Places like this and memorializing your pet are very important. Humans need symbolism. It’s very powerful. It’s very healing.”—Sid

Where Pets Rest in Peace

The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas offers a final resting place for beloved animals as well as comfort for their grieving owners.

By Reza Gostar | Email the author | August 11, 2010

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Flory DeVoe buried her dog Bijou at the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas. Credit Flory DeVoe

About 40,000 pets are buried at the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas, and each tombstone and grave tells its own uniquely bittersweet story.

Although not the largest pet cemetery, the park is the second oldest in the country. A far cry from Stephen King’s “Pet Cemetery,” the Calabasas memorial park has a tranquil atmosphere where many animal lovers have found comfort.

Kathleen Ayl, pet loss support specialist, says people need emotional healing when a beloved animal dies.

“The amount of grief someone goes through is in direct proportion to the amount of connection they shared,” said Ayl.

According to Ayl, places like the memorial park and the burial or cremation ceremony help people find closure and aid them in the recovery process.

“People need to be aware that there are beautiful places that handle your animal in a loving and spiritual way and in a very respectful way,” said Ayl. “Places like this and memorializing your pet are very important. Humans need symbolism. It’s very powerful. It’s very healing.”

At the center of the park grounds a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the animals, stands with his arms outstretched. Names such as Mittens, Spanky, Corky and Chipper are etched into the flower-adorned headstones surrounding it.

A statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the animals, is one of the statues scattered throughout the park. Credit Reza Gostar

The park’s prices vary depending on the size of the animal and the amenities requested, employee Donna J. Robinson explained. The cost for a cremation depends on the pet’s weight and runs from $90 for a small cat to $310 for a large dog. For a headstone, casket, plot and service the total can range from $550 to $1,250. For larger pets such as horses the price can go up as high as $4,750.

People come to the Calabasas park for different reasons. Raphael Briliant was visiting with her rescued boxer Marcelle, who she explained is still a little aggressive as a result of his past abuse. Briliant, who had her cat Esmeralda cremated at the park, finds the grounds’ peacefulness redeeming and a start contrast to the brutality and neglect that she often witnesses in her rescue work.

“I remember walking through the park and reading some of these things . . . When you work in rescue and you see some people give up on their pets,” she said as tears formed. “Then you read some of the testimonies here and you realize that there are good people out there.”

Clarence and Flory DeVoe came to the Calabasas park because they didn’t want to bury their dog Bijou in the backyard. They wanted a more dignified and traditional service.

“The animal is a big part of the family,” said Clarence DeVoe of his pet. “My wife still talks about Bijou . . . I took my grandson down there a few weeks ago.”

The park can be a setting for young ones to learn about life and death and respect, Clarence DeVoe said.

Many people come to the park asking about a great-grandmother’s or great-grandfather’s pet. Some of the records date to 1928, the park’s inception, said Robinson.

A group of pet owners formed Save Our Pets’ History in Eternity (SOPHIE) to preserve the cemetery, which was founded by Eugene C. Jones and his family. A nine-person board of directors runs SOPHIE.

David Stiller, president of SOPHIE’s board, offered to show a Patch reporter around. The first stop was a mausoleum, which was erected in 1929 and stands at the highest point in the cemetery overlooking the grass below. Inside the building are the cremated remains of birds, dogs and cats safeguarded behind engraved marble-covered niches.

The oldest structure in the park is a mausoleum built in 1929. Credit Reza Gostar

In the oldest part of the park, Stiller walked toward his cat Majesty’s grave, laid to rest 21 years ago, and quickly arranged the flowers placed on top.

“My cat Majesty was the kind of cat that would not be in the sun, so his little plot is in a shaded area underneath a big tree,” Stiller said. “This is the real, real old section if you look at the headstones . . . 1937, 1936, 1929.”

Many famous names can be found at the park including Hopalong Cassidy’s horse Topper, Rudolph Valentino’s Great Dane Kabar and The Little Rascals’ playful Pete the Pup. In other areas of the park, visitors can find Charlie Chaplin’s cat or Humphrey Bogart’s dog.

credit Reza Gostar”]

“We will be here for another fifteen years, roughly and then we’ll be full,” said Stiller. “We have an endowment to maintain the insurance, the water and the groundskeepers in perpetuity.”

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