Pet Cemetery - A Real Life Tale of a Neglected Animal Graveyard
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