Los Angeles Pet Memorial ParkOct 15th, 2012 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
One location that I have wanted to stalk ever since first moving to Southern California in 2000 was the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas. For whatever reason, though, in over twelve years time, I had never made it out there. Then, this past September, while gathering addresses for my annual Haunted Hollywood stalkings, I was reminded of the locale, immediately added it to my To-Stalk list and dragged the Grim Cheaper right on over there just a few days later.
What I was not expecting was how humongous and absolutely beautiful the place is!
The location, which was first called the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery, was founded by a veterinarian to the stars named Dr. Eugene C. Jones. The land was originally owned by Gilbert H. Beesemyer, the one-time general manager of L.A.’s Guaranty Building and Loan Association, from which he fleeced $8 million in 1929. Shortly before he was caught and hauled off to prison to serve a 40-year term, Beesemyer began selling off his property in ten-acre plots. One of those plots was purchased by Dr. Jones, who wanted to build a pet cemetery on the site to help his clients deal with their grief over the loss of their beloved pets.
Los Angeles Pet Cemetery was officially opened on September 4th, 1928. That same year, Dr. Jones also opened a pet funeral parlor and viewing room on Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Jones’ mother and brother were in charge of driving the pets – in an actual hearse – from the parlor to the cemetery for the elaborate funerals that took place there. The funeral parlor was later moved onsite in 1969.
Dr. Jones constructed the cemetery’s brick mausoleum, which contains a crematory and a columbarium, in 1929.
The mausoleum underwent a $175,000-renovation in 2003, during which 450 new niches;
and the “Waiting Garden” area were added.
I absolutely loved walked through the mausoleum and reading the sweet inscriptions for pets who had passed away as long ago as 1940.
I also absolutely fell in love with the adorable stained glass designs in the mausoleum windows.
The image of the two cats with the intertwined tails broke my heart.
In 1973, after he retired, Jones donated the cemetery to the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Ten years later, in a maddening move that I still do not completely understand, the SPCA decided to sell the land to a developer who had plans to raze the cemetery. Thankfully, a group of concerned pet owners gathered together to form S.O.P.H.I.E. (Save Our Pets’ History in Eternity). S.O.P.H.I.E. managed to raise $100,000 to purchase the park and then lobbied for – and passed! – a state law which prevents pet cemeteries from ever being developed or destroyed. Today, Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park serves as the final resting place for over 42,000 beloved animals of all varieties, including lizards, chimpanzees, horse, ferrets, goats, pigs, and one lion.
Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park has become the final resting place for quite a few celebrity pets, including those of Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Aaron Spelling, Bob Barker, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Steven Spielberg, Bob Newhart, Adam Sandler, Diana Ross, William Shatner, Lauren Bacall, Mary Pickford, Harry James, Eva Gabor, Mae West, and Lionel Barrymore.
Some of the animals buried there are even celebrities themselves. Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park is the final resting place of both Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Topper,and Tonto’s horse from the Lone Ranger, Scout. Unfortunately, because the cemetery is so humongous we were unable to locate either gravesite.
In a December 2009 Los Angeles Times article, Stephanie LaFarge, senior director of counseling services for Urbana, Illinois’ ASPCA Animal Health Services, is quoted as saying, “Pet cemeteries tend to be utterly beautiful, joyful places. I don’t know what it is – the markings on the gravestones or the pictures of something.” And she is absolutely right! While the GC and I did find ourselves tearing up at some of the heartfelt messages written on headstones (like the one below), we also felt an immense sense of joy and love walking through the park.
It was absolutely heartwarming to see the countless flowers decorating the various gravesites and to know that these precious animals are still loved and visited all these years later. I honestly cannot recommend stalking the place enough.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park is located at 5068 Old Scandia Lane in Calabasas. The cemetery is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays and holidays from 8 a.m. to dusk. The office is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can visit the official Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park website here.