There’s just something about a graveyard, eh? The mossy tombstones, the history, the chance to ponder the nature of life and death, and the serene peace that is unique to a garden full of dead bodies. Like any historic capital, Paris has its fair share of gorgeous old cemeteries that provide eternal resting places for the famous, infamous, and not-so-famous. While some visitors may tour around Pere Lachaise or Montparnasse to seek out notable names and ogle magnificent monuments, for animal lovers there is The Cemetery of Dogs.
Located in a northern suburb of Paris, Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques (Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) is officially the world’s oldest pet cemetery, having been founded in 1899 after a change in French law that no longer allowed people to throw away or bury where they like the bodies of their beloved animal companions. Unlike the pet cemeteries of fiction, this place is less creep than kitsch, and it stands as a kind of testament to humankind’s adoration and attachment to animals that sometimes veers slightly into madness.
The tombs themselves range from modest markers to veritable shrines, and despite the nickname “Cemetery of Dogs” the park also houses graves of cats, a few rabbits, birds, and even a monkey and a horse. Many of the plots are shared by several animals, with owners adding to the headstones with the death of each successive pet. The oldest I could find was from 1903, but there were some tombstones that had eroded and were covered in moss. There are also many newer graves, and when we visited there were a few groups of owners pampering the plots of the recently deceased. Like the human versions, Le Cimetière des Chiens also has a few notable animals interred, the most famous of all being Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd that appeared in 27 Hollywood films.
For animal lovers like myself, it’s easy to feel a bit emotional while touring through the final resting places of so many beloved pets, seeing the dedication of the humans they belonged to, and wondering about the owners of the plots that have been long abandoned. But on the other hand, a lot of the graves are more lavish and extravagant than many poor humans have the fortune to posthumously “enjoy”, and some of them are pretty OTT. They definitely say more about the owners than they do about the pets.
Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques is located in Asnières-sur-Seine, just north of Paris, and easily accessible from the station Gabriel Peri Asnieres Gennevilliers on the M14 line.