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Cemetery of the hairy stars: Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park has welcomed the furry and famous since 1928.
Cemetery of the hairy stars: Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park has welcomed the furry and famous since 1928.

Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park

Field review by the editors.

Calabasas, California

Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park was not created as a tourist attraction, but it was inevitable that it would become one.

Tawny the MGM lion and his tomcat pal are buried together.
Tawny the MGM lion and his tomcat pal are buried together.

The cemetery was the idea of Eugene C. Jones, a 1920s Hollywood veterinarian-to-the-stars. Celebrities were forbidden by city law from burying their pampered pets in their Hollywood lawns, so in 1928 Jones bought ten acres of pasture land at the western edge of the San Fernando Valley and opened Los Angeles Pet Cemetery (now Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park). At the time, a graveyard for pets was viewed as a peculiar and extravagant luxury.

The Park's then-remote location gave its burials (and later mausoleum interments) some measure of privacy to the grief-stricken stars (Although their pets' obituaries were often placed in newspapers by their press agents). According to Park manager Stacy Tanner, the first burial may have been actress Deloris Del Rio's dog, DaDa. Charlie Chaplin's cat (Boots) resides eternally, along with Humphrey Bogart's dog (Droopy), Hopalong Cassidy's horse (Topper), and Mae West's monkey (Boogie).

Stained glass windows in the mausoleum.
Stained glass windows in the mausoleum.

Rudolph Valentino's dog (Kabar) died of a broken heart, according to the tabloids, after his master's unexpected demise (Rudolph is buried elsewhere, at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park).

Animals who were themselves celebrities are here, too, such as Puzzums the cat (he appeared in dozens of movies); Tarzan's chimpanzee, Cheeta; Chief Thundercloud's horse, Sunny; and Leo the MGM Lion (real name: Tawny). The lion's imposing stone monument features a photo of Tawny with a tabby cat sitting on his rump: "his adored tomcat pal," according to the inscription. The two died separately but are buried together.

The cemetery averages a fresh burial every day. Some owners purchase multiple plots for a single tiny pet.
The cemetery averages a fresh burial every day. Some owners purchase multiple plots for a single tiny pet.

Park manager Stacy, in what she described as a labor of love, spent years pinpointing the location of every vintage celebrity grave, then used the information to create a brochure map for the Park's frequent visitors (In deference to privacy, she did not include the pet graves of more recent A-listers such as William Shatner and Steven Spielberg). Included on the map is the Park's non-famous alligator ("Because, come on, he was an alligator!" said Stacy). Not on the map is Pete the Pup from the Our Gang/Little Rascals films. Although he's often been reported as buried here, he isn't.

Room 8 hung out at a local school for nearly 20 years.
Room 8 hung out at a local school for nearly 20 years.

Another headline-worthy resident at the Park is "Room 8," a California feline who became famous in the 1950s and '60s when he would show up at the Elysian Heights Elementary School, hang out for the duration of the academic year, then disappear each summer. When the cat died of old age in 1968 his obituary ran across three columns with a photograph in the Los Angeles Times. Befitting his status as a celebrity, Room 8 was buried at the Park with a prominent headstone.

Despite its Tinseltown sparkle, Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park is a public cemetery, still active. The once-rural graveyard was threatened by developers in the 1980s, but a law passed by the California legislature protected the property in perpetuity. Now wedged between an office park and million dollar mansions -- "A little oasis in the middle of all the madness," said Stacy -- it is the final resting place of nearly 50,000 animals. Most were known only to their bereaved owners, with names such as Poocharooney (a dog), Draggy (an iguana), Helen of Troy (a parakeet), and Poots, Waffles, and Satan (unspecified). There are graves, crypts, and niches with turtles, ferrets, goats, pigs, rabbits, lambs, hamsters, squirrels, fish, guinea pigs, a salamander, and at least one chicken (Blinky, the Friendly Hen -- bought frozen at a grocery store in 1978 and interred as an artist's project). There is no segregation by owner status or animal species in the Park. "Everybody's one happy kingdom," said Stacy.

Rudolph Valentino's faithful dog died of a broken heart.
Rudolph Valentino's faithful dog died of a broken heart.

The cemetery, on a gently sloping hill under pepper and eucalyptus trees, is carefully maintained and frequently visited. Numerous statues of animals and Saint Francis populate the grounds. The mausoleum has stained glass windows of adorable cats, dogs, and bunnies. Many of the graves are accessorized with cheerful offerings. "The flowers, the decorations; oh my god, it's amazing," said Stacy. "I drive by a couple of human graveyards on my way to work, and it's just, like, how boring! There's nothing there!"

"We are definitely more well-traveled than human cemeteries," Stacy said. "And animals are just way better than people anyway."

Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park

Address:
5068 Old Scandia Lane, Calabasas, CA
Directions:
US-101/Ventura Fwy exit 30. Turn north, then east onto Ventura Blvd, then make a quick left (no stoplight) onto Old Scandia Lane (look for the small L.A. Pet Memorial Park sign). Drive behind the office park to the cemetery, on the right.
Hours:
M-T Th-Sa 8-5, Su 9-4. Gated after hours. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
818-591-7037
Admission:
Free
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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