Monday, August 22, 2016

Pine Forest Pet Cemetery

What’s a vacation without a trip to a cemetery? If you’re a regular reader of The Cemetery Traveler, you know that I usually combine family trips to the Jersey shore with a stop at a couple graveyards. This past July was no exception.

Now, I don’t subject my family to my eccentricities – I usually sate my cemeterial desires early in the morning, before my wife and six-and-a-half year old daughter awaken. This July trip was no exception. During a few days’ vacation on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, I took an early-morning trip inland, through Manahawkin, up Route 70, to the little rural town of Warren Grove. The Internet told me there was a pet cemetery there. Truth be told, without the GPS in my smartphone, I never would have found this place. The Pine Forest Pet Cemetery is so far off the beaten path that my GPS couldn’t map the roads through the Pine Barrens (the Wharton National Forest) when I got within a mile of the place.

Gazebo at center of  the Pine Forest Pet Cemetery

I found it though. Very rural, quite large (as pet cemeteries go) - 26 acres, says their website. It is very well-cared for, and tastefully appointed. A small gazebo at center, with maybe a hundred graves spread out from there. The pine forest surrounds it on three sides. The mostly canine grave markers (there are some felines too) are arranged in rows and are mostly flush-to-the-ground memorial park style, perhaps indicative of buried cremains. There were a few monuments, of sorts - heartfelt things, small sculptures, handmade remembrances, small plaster statues of dogs with wings.

"Wishbone," the Hearing-Ear Dog
If you stop and read some of the headstone inscriptions, epitaphs, you’ll agree some are incredibly poignant. Witness the inscription on the “hearing-ear dog” headstone above. At the back of the cemetery is a special K-9 grave plot, reserved for police dogs who had served on the Stafford Township, New Jersey police force. I was surprised to see this ceramic badge on several of the grave markers.

This is the same type of medallion used for the death portraits we see on humans' grave stones.

Established in 1984, “This serene twenty-six acre tract of land is nestled in the forest zone of the protected Pine Barrens. It has been set aside to honor our departed pets that fill our hearts and minds with loving memories.” - from the Pine Forest Pet Cemetery website

"Born to Love, Trained to Serve, Loyal to the End"
“Pet Memorial Sunday” – September 11, 2016

If you are a pet owner – I caught myself there – “pet owner” sounds a bit crass to describe the humans involved in this memorialization of their animals. I should instead say “If you have an animal companion”…. or are just interested in the type of person who would go to the trouble of creating a permanent memorial to an animal, consider a visit to Pine Forest Pet Cemetery the second Sunday of September. You can witness their annual “Pet Memorial Sunday" - this year, it will be held on September 11, 2016. See their link for more detail.

"Heaven is a bit brighter now"

If you ever wonder what might possess someone to cremate and bury their pet, just read this grave marker above to "Patches" and "JJ." It certainly gave me a few new things to think about. The poem below, Rainbow Bridge, gave me a lot more to think about. I had never seen this before. Apparently, there is an entire WORLD of pet grief-and-loss out there. You can read the poem, then check out this website, “Quest for the Rainbow Bridge,” which describes its purpose, its origins, its meaning to those who have lost an animal loved one. The poem, The Rainbow Bridge, is reproduced on Pine Forest Pet Cemetery‘s website.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven lies the Rainbow Bridge.
When a beloved pet dies, it goes to the Rainbow Bridge.
It makes friends with other animals and frolics over rolling hills
And peaceful lush meadows of green. They are as healthy
And playful as we remember them in days gone by.

Together, the animals chase and play, but the day comes
When a pet will suddenly stop and look into the distance...
Bright eyes intent, eager body quivering.
Suddenly recognizing you, your pet bounds quickly
Across the green fields and into your embrace.
You celebrate in joyous reunion. You will never again separate.

Happy tears and kisses are warm and plentiful, your hands caress the face you missed.
You look into the loving eyes of your pet and know that you never really parted.
You realize that though out of sight, your love had been remembered.
You cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

Reference and Further Reading:
Pine Forest Pet Cemetery
Funeral and Memorial·
1285 Grays Rd
Warren Grove, NJ 08005
 609) 698-7600