Pet cemetery lets best friends stay together after death

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Rhona Levy gazed into the small oak casket and stroked the soft hair lying on the white satin pillow.

“I will always be with you,” she said, leaning down to kiss the tiny forehead.

Then Levy removed a pendant from her neck and clasped it around the throat of her loved one: Twinkie.

The
16-year-old tuxedo cat now lies beneath a heart-shaped pink granite
headstone at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the world’s largest burial ground
for pets. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, goldfish, horses, rabbits, turtles, a
lion cub, lizards and more are buried at Hartsdale, which covers five
bucolic acres on a former apple orchard in this suburb north of New York
City.

Human remains rest here too. Someday, Levy’s will join
them, with half her ashes in the plot with Twinkie and half in a plot
holding her three other late pets: cats Pumpkin and Putchke, and a dog
named Snow.

“Who
do you want to be with when you’re dead?” said Levy, 65, a vivacious
administrative assistant at a real estate firm who visits her pets’
graves weekly. “You want to be with your family.”

The
International Center of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories in Atlanta lists
more than 200 pet crematoriums and burial grounds across the U.S.
Hartsdale, established in 1896, is on the National Register of Historic
Places. The Lonely Planet travel guidebook has listed it as one of the
world’s top 10 burial grounds.

Hartsdale was in the news this year
when the state formally changed its law to permit cremated human
remains to be buried with pets. That ended a long-running battle between
the state and the family of a New York City policeman, Thomas Ryan, who
died in 2011 and wanted his ashes buried with his dogs in Hartsdale.

“The
right to be buried with your family, whether it’s four-legged or
two-legged, seems so fundamental, yet it’s still something that upsets a
lot of people,” said Edward C. Martin Jr., the cemetery director since
1974.

Martin cannot understand the objections. His large family
plot holds “more than five and less than 10” animals, including dogs and
his grandchildren’s goldfish. The ashes of his parents and his wife’s
parents are also there.

From the moment you walk through the iron
gate, pass beneath a canopy of shade trees and take in the thousands of
graves planted with pink begonias, it becomes clear that Hartsdale is
not your usual cemetery.

Just past the entrance to the right, a
small stone slab marks the grave of one Anwar Sadat, who lived from 1985
to 1997. Fluffy (1983-96) rests above him.

A wide, paved path
leads uphill to a towering monument to war dogs that died serving the
country. A small granite marker at its foot pays tribute to Laika, the
bright-eyed stray sent into space by the Soviets in 1957 and left to die
in orbit.

 – LA Times

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