A lifelong resident of Baltimore, Dolores loves to share her interest in the historic spots of her beautiful and quirky home town.
How many times have I driven past the Oakleigh Pet Cemetery? For how many years side glanced at the poufs of shrubbery, caught a whiff of the cat piss scented boxwood, peered into the dark shadows of summer in the place of dead animal companions?
Finally, on a whim one winter afternoon, I turned right and parked beside a crumpled chain link fence. Skeletal winter trees punctured the leaden sky as I kicked my way through fallen leaves and discarded beer cans. Ankle deep oak leaves hid the holes of collapsed graves. Crows, passing like wraiths (or flying monkeys) soared overhead. A four foot tall line of dead-fall created a Stephen Kingesque border below a monstrous fallen evergreen tree.
Some say that Shirley Temple's pet monkey (or was it a rabbit?) is buried here, a pet that perished when the famous child star visited Baltimore way back in the day.
There was something deliciously creepy here - the dilapidated caretaker's house that oozed depression and neglect. The work shed with broken windows and dented metal doors.
The Neighbors Are Hopping Mad
The current owner of the Pet Cemetery avoids visitors, slams the door on reporters, and slinks out of county meetings. He chased off volunteers who valiantly attempted to clear the debris.
Neighbors and local politicians file grievances against him. The Pet Cemetery is a blight on the neighborhood, attracting vermin and dissolute teenagers. In an area of well maintained townhouses, not far from a beautiful and popular church, the pet cemetery is like a haunted spot in a 1980s Stephen King novel. Any moment, you expect a glassy eyed cat to yeowl and spring for your throat. Zombie dogs seem to lurk behind dead trees.
Spooky Pet Cemetery
In these modern times, we, as a community, strive to keep order, to maintain property values,and keep our neighborhoods attractive. Everything must be neat and tidy.
A recent local newspaper article reported that a developer wants the land to build new homes. Of course, there are regulations, some problems with building on a property that's filled to capacity with dead animals. And what about the people who paid good money to have their beloved pets laid to rest? What about respect for the deceased, pets so missed that their grief stricken owners erected little tombstones with touching sayings.
But there is a terrible kind of beauty there. Like a haunted house, the Oakleigh Pet Cemetery lurks under gnarled old oaks. The littered ground is booby trapped with the holes of open graves where rotten little coffins collapsed.
There aren't many spooky places left around these parts. This place of newly remodeled shopping centers, schools with bright new facades, spanking new sidewalks with freshly cemented gutters, and edged lawns, of parking lots, and busy intersections. It can all seem, so frankly, dull.
Sympathy for the Devil
Of course, blight can lay waste to a neighborhood. Blight grows like cancer, spreading ragged, mangy, stinking pest holes of despair. Broken glass, broken hearts and families, hopes lost in the path of abandonment.
The owner of the Pet Cemetery has been vilified for his neglect of the property and his disrespect for dead pets, the owners of dead pets, and the surrounding community. He owes the local government, some say close to $30,000 in back taxes, fees, and fines.
I imagine that the man bought the place hoping for a peaceful kind of business. Who doesn't have a secret yearning to live in the caretakers cottage of a cemetery filled with mature trees, boxwood, and dead monkeys?
Maybe it was all too much for him. Looking around the place (actually trespassing) I could not help but start on my own plan. Of course, the removal of several very large, very dead trees would be expensive. But hand me a leaf blower, a rake even, and I'd have that place spic and span in a month. Prune those sprawling boxwoods. Reset Sparky's tombstone on its base - the grave stones are small and manageable.
But, then there is the house and shed, the unpaid fees and taxes. And the dilapidated house is not quite as romantic as one might imagine.
Pet Cemetery Angel
The Romance of Dilapidation
I recall stopping here when I was a child. There was a palatable sweetness in the remembrance of lost pets. The boxwoods were neatly trimmed then; the paths well mulched and the grass fresh and green. Old Bowzer lay at rest in a quiet park like setting as the noisy world fell away, hushed by trees and shrubbery and mossy old stones. A cement angel guarded the gate, a tear forever embossed on his time weathered face.
A sprig of wild flowers lay at the tomb of a long gone collie. A toy mouse faded beneath a stone inscription for a deceased kitty cat.
But creepy places have a Gothic kind of romance too. Someday soon, developer's bulldozers will churn over the bones of Skippy and Queenie. Cracked tombstones piled in a truck for the dump, or snatched up at night by morbid gardeners. The oaks will be chopped down.
And spanking new homes will grow there, a brand new housing development built over a cemetery. Perhaps it will look better. Maybe it will improve the neighborhood. But, somehow, the fresh new scene will still remind me of a 1980s horror movie
Pet Cemetery Gravestone
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on August 06, 2018:
Hi Virginia - this cemetery is tucked away and hard to notice. I am sure that we have met! I've visited the Parkville library every two weeks or so for the past I don't know how many years! I hope that you are enjoying Florida!
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on August 01, 2018:
Your descriptions really captured my imagination. I used to work at the Parkville Branch of the public library system but never knew about this little cemetery. When you are zipping along in rush hour traffic back and forth to work, I guess you miss a lot.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on October 27, 2017:
Hi beachfeet - when I last visited the place there were holes in the ground, toppled trees and stones making it dangerous. Also, since it is private property you may be trespassing. If neighbors attempt to do the work themselves, then get hurt, would they then try to sue the owner? Neighborhood problems like this can be complicated. We have a neighbor who, for whatever reasons, refuses to mow the lawn. My son mows it without permission or compensation. So I just contradicted myself didn't I?
beachfeet on October 26, 2017:
I had just stumbled on your article and I can agree the property is in shambles. I grew up 2 houses away from this cemetery when the Greens owned the cemetery. The neighbors used to take care of the cemetery including myself, sisters and father. I loved walking through and reading the grave stones as a kid. It is very sad to see it in this kind of shape. If the neighbors are that upset, get to work and clean it up. I used too!
momheck on June 08, 2015:
Reading this , I felt I was right there with you, great descriptions! Thanks for the shout out to good ole Sparky(Whom is in my backyard)
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on July 08, 2013:
sgbrown - Hi Sheila, I like your idea better, to bury the pets right at home. But some areas forbid that practice! And you are almost forced to pay for cremation.
I must say that I have seen human cemeteries in worse condition.
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on July 04, 2013:
This is such a wonderful hub! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is said that all these beloved pets are neglected now. I would be upset too if I had one of my pets laid to rest there and it had become so neglected. The man should be forced to either get it cleaned up or he should be evicted from the place someway. We have our own little pet cemetery near the creek on or property. Two of our son's dogs, one of ours, one cat and a rabbit.
I loved your story and the pictures. Voting up, awesome and sharing! :)
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on May 22, 2013:
Hi FlourishAnyway - thank you! It is sad but there are human cemeteries that I've visited that are even worse. I always thought that if I had a pet (nothing huge) and it died, I'd bury it in the back yard, as you said. Someone told me that is against the law in these parts. I love the orange rose bush for the orange tabby, that is so beautiful and sweet!
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 15, 2013:
Very nice hub and topic! This looks like an eerie, melancholy, enchanting place. I feel sad for the pet owners who never intended this to be their loved ones' tribute. I prefer my animals to return to the earth simply with a rose bush or other nice living memorial planted on top. That way, each time I see the thriving plant, I know how well my deceased animal's body is nourishing it. My first cat, Oscar, an orange tabby, reminds us of his love when his orange rose bush blooms.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on April 23, 2013:
Becca's Blog - well to me it does, but there are lots of places with historical value that have fallen into neglect. There are, for instance, a pair of older homes that were built in the late 1700's that sit abandoned and deteriorating in the city. Thanks!
Rebecca Furtado from A Cornfied in the Midwest on April 20, 2013:
I wonder if this place could be of some historical value, given the age of some of the graves. Especially, since it would have been considered extremely fivolous to pay for tombstones for pets during the depression. It seems to me that it is a rare place worth preservation.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on March 30, 2013:
LongTimeMother - well I am with you and would prefer to inter my animal companion on my own property and I love the idea of planting a memorial tree. I hate to say that I can see the kid's point, but that would be kind of morbid.
Pet cemeteries are not exactly a big thing here and are kinda rare. Thank you very much!
LongTimeMother from Australia on March 26, 2013:
We picked apples from our Daisy tree this year. Daisy was one of our much loved dogs. We bought my daughter's favourite apple tree (Pink Lady Apples) and planted it over Daisy.
We did a similar thing years ago, and used to pick apricots from our Willow tree. The kids wanted us to dig up Willow and the apricot tree when we sold the property, but we all agreed Willow would be left to rest in peace by the new owners because everyone loves fresh apricots.
I think pet cemeteries are relatively new in Australia. I'd never heard of one until recently.
Lovely hub, beautifully written. Voted up :)
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 17, 2013:
Hi Green Art - thank you very much. The place isn't really that old. I'm sure there is a lot of resentment from people who paid good money to bury their pets here.
Laura Ross on February 16, 2013:
I totally enjoyed your description of this unique pet cemetery. The photographs are beautiful too. It's sad to see what time and neglect has done to this special place that once memorialized someones precious pet.
Your article at least gives the animals within the cemetery a voice once again. Voted up and beautiful.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 14, 2013:
DDE - one should but one does not. Of course, I was highly amused by my little adventure but it is not funny really.
Hi James - well thank you so kindly! Oh me too. It is my dream to be the caretaker of an old cemetery and live in a quaint old house. The house is not really quaint btw that's why no pix.
James A Watkins from Chicago on February 09, 2013:
You are a truly gifted writer. I love this piece, it is wonderfully made. You surely know how to turn a phrase. You made me smile by your wit and made me sad for the place. I think you would be a great caretaker for it. :-)
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 06, 2013:
A pet cemetery, hmm, one should try make the necessary changes and take care of the place. You made your share of points here.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 03, 2013:
Dream On - haha, dream on. The 2 1/2 acre pet cemetery certainly would be a cool park and was treated as such by local kids for years. But it is private property. Actually, volunteers did attempt a clean up but were chased off by the owner. Thank you!
DREAM ON on January 30, 2013:
To bad the local businesses couldn't donate to pay the back taxes and neighbors could volunteer to get the pet cemetery back looking good and maybe in return all could enjoy the cemetery for it's new look covered with flowers and turn it into a cemetery/park.I think we are to quick to go modern with high rises and big developments.I am curious how much land is there?I am one to bring back beauty of nature.Interesting hub.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on January 17, 2013:
onegreenparachute - while I admit the place is a bit more than creepy, I have long had a desire to be a graveyard keeper and live in a cute little old cottage. Thanks!
Hi drbj - well I had a lot of fun writing this one! There was a movie back in the 80's about a haunted house built on top of an old graveyard from which they did not remove the bodies. Was it Amityville Horror?
Thank you so kindly my friend!
lovebuglena - there are several in my state, maybe there is one near you! Thanks!
Hi ishwaryaa - well the neighbors did not mind it when it was kept up. When my father was a little boy, they dug up the cemetery across the street and moved the bodies. They built a playground there. The big old cypress trees are still there. How 'bout that for weird? (Sounds like another hub!) Thank you for stopping in!
Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on January 17, 2013:
An engaging and well-written hub with well-captured photos! I have seen the movie 'Pet Semetary' and it was very scary! It is better that the pet cemetary be left alone rather than be destroyed for constructing new homes. Well-done!
Thanks for SHARING. Interesting. Voted up
Lena Kovadlo from Staten Island, NY on January 16, 2013:
I never knew there was a pet cemetery out there...
drbj and sherry from south Florida on January 16, 2013:
Can't help but wonder, Dolores, when that future developer starts building homes on that property, will the residents know they are living atop a pet cemetery. Just wonderin'.
BTW - have to commend you, m'dear, for your very picturesque language.
Carol from Greenwood, B.C., Canada on January 16, 2013:
I'm with moonlake and wouldn't want to live there! The bones may go but will the spirit linger? Well written!!
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on January 16, 2013:
truthfornow - well maybe not bulldozed soon, that is my own view. But when I think of how the county close to that area looked 50 years ago, I have to wonder. It was beautiful, all farmland and woods. Thanks for reading!
Hi moonlake - I am sure that they would have to remove the current "residents." In the past, human cemeteries have been "moved." The whole concept is spooky any way you look at it. Thank you!
moonlake from America on January 15, 2013:
Sad that it will someday be gone. I wouldn't want to live in the house that would be built over it, spooky I think. Interesting hub voted up.
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on January 15, 2013:
It is sad that this pet cemetery is being neglected and that it could all be bulldozed soon. The people who buried their pets here really loved them.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on January 15, 2013:
Hi billybuc - well I love it too but wonder if I would want it in my neighborhood what with the trash (not pictured) and fallen trees, etc. Also, when a developer wants a property, it can often be called a blight, condemned, sold for back taxes, to the developer! Thank you!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 15, 2013:
This is a beautifully written piece; you are quite a writer my friend. I'm afraid I don't know what all the fuss is about; I think the place is charming and kind of sweet. :)