France: The Pet Cemetery in Paris- Till Death Do Us Paw-t

What?
The world's oldest pet cemetery.

Why visit?
Maybe you're an animal lover? Or maybe you have a slight morbid streak? Maybe both?

Cemeteries have always been tourist attractions: Paris's best-known burial ground, Père Lachaise, attracts a steady stream of potheads wanting to see Jim Morrison's grave.

The city has other cemeteries, but none can compare with this unique place where cats, dogs and even a few horses found their final resting place after they bit the big one...

Where?
In the Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine, still on the metro network. Map.


IT WASN'T EASY to be an animal in 19th century Paris. Animals were mostly beasts of burden, not companions providing emotional support. 

However, with the growth of an affluent urban middle class the view on animals changed. 1848 saw the foundation of the French Society for the Protection of Animals. Animals became pets (a few lucky ones at least- many remained either vermin or forced labour!)

People were attached to their pets but when they kicked the proverbial bucket they ended up in the trash- which of course horrified true pet lovers. But in 1898 a law was passed that for the first time made it possible to bury animals- provided it was at least 100 meters away from the nearest human settlement.

Taking advantage of this new law, some caring Parisians founded the world's first pet cemetery in 1899, just outside of Paris proper on a bank of the river Seine.

Fast forward 116 years, and the Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques (Cemetery for Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) is still going strong, with burials still taking place on a regular basis. 

It's a fascinating and beautiful place to visit. Who wouldn't be touched by the tearful epitaphs and loving words carved on the many gravestones, some of them quite elaborate?
Classic....
...versus contemporary.
The Cemetery's equivalent to Jim Morrison is Rin Tin Tin, an American movie star/dog who died in 1932. (Legend has it he was nominated for an Oscar but was disqualified for not being human. Grossly unfair.) But most of the other more than 100.000 animals that have been interred here were only known to their owners.

Obviously, most of the cemetery's inhabitants are dogs and cats, but there are also birds (including at least one chicken), a monkey, hamsters, several ponies, horses, and other selected furry friends. 

Some of the graves are real works of art, many of them are touching memorials. Like the massive tombstone for the aristocratic sounding Kinshasa de Cabotcove Coon, who, according to his grieving owner, had a 'fascinating intelligence, comparable to an evolved primate' and would drink with his paw (presumably holding his pinkie in the air). And if you're incredulous, there are photos to prove it. 
Then there is Tamise, a retriever who expired in May 2012, but whose 'Waouh Waouh' (that's 'Woof Woof' in French) is still being missed... It's easy to be dismissive but the touching recollections (as well as the amount of €€€ spent on minor mausoleums) bear witness to real love and deep grief. Bring some kleenex... 
Some of the earlier tombs (back when labour was cheap) feature elaborately carved statues, like these princeling dogs, Marquise and Tony, who belonged to the Russian Princess Lobanof.

Art Nouveau elegance for Dash.
But there are more contemporary statues too, like Goliath, who died in 2006, and cute little Putsik the Pussycat, who passed on in 2002. 
Fast asleep- eternally. 
I'm guessing Arry liked his tennis balls...
Kids might enjoy this place- there are lots of cute pictures of animals- or you can, as at human cemeteries, look at the names to see if any sound familiar.... 



Getting there: 
Although not in Paris proper, in practice you can just take Metro line 13 to Gabriel Péri, using a standard Parisian Metro ticket.

Useful links:
It's useful to have a map of the Cemetery. A paper copy is included with the entry price but it is also downloadable here.

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