Hiding on a hillside on one of Westchester’s busiest streets, Central Avenue, is a patch of peace and serenity many have never noticed. Yet, the truth is that Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is not only the first and oldest pet cemetery in the entire nation, it thrives to this day as the final resting place for more than 75,000 occupants.
Founded by prominent veterinarian Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1896, the 7.5-acre expanse features winding footpaths along fields of small plots, most marked by headstones commemorating somebody’s beloved, longtime companion.
Here, the headstones read somewhat differently. Marigold is buried here. So are Little Rascal, Mopsy and Puffy, Freckles, Chu Chu, and Prince. “Mommy Will Always Love You,” proclaims one headstone, while another dolefully testifies that “Metzie, My One and Only Friend, Lies Here.”
Almost all the animals at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery are dogs and cats, but scattered throughout are rabbits, ferrets, monkeys, birds, turtles, the occasional snake, several horses — even a lion cub, named Goldfleck, which had belonged to esteemed Hungarian artist Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy. And just in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes: There are people here, too, whose ashes keep their pets company for eternity.
In the early days, many patrons were wealthy and/or famous. Kate Smith, Robert Merrill, Irene Castle, Xavier Cugat, and Mariah Carey all had pets interred on the verdant hillside, also known as the Peaceable Kingdom. “Now [the patrons] are plain, ordinary folks who loved their pets,” says current owner Ed Martin. “They tend to visit them frequently — some as often as once a month.” The cemetery is also the site of the War Dog Memorial, unveiled in 1923 to commemorate the military service of canines.
Next time you’re in the neighborhood, take some time to experience the unique ambience of this little oasis in Hartsdale. One thing’s for sure: You will feel the echoes of love all around you.