Sunday, July 16, 2006
The British like to think of themselves as a nation of animal lovers, it appeals to their sense of identity. Having lived in the UK for most of my life, I'm not so sure that it's true. It seems that stories such as this one are all too commonplace in the news.
The French on the other hand, they make no such claims, stick something with four legs, fur and a cute face in front of them and they're as likely to eat is as they are to cuddle it.
Having said that, if they do take an animal as a pet, you can be sure it will be treated with a care and attention so often found lacking in the way UK pets get treated. Yesterday I visited Cimetière des Chiens on the banks of the river Seine in the Asnières district of Paris. This is the worlds first recorded Pet Cemetery (opened in 1899 ) and counts some rather famous residents amongst it's internees, including, I was surprised to learn, Rin Tin Tin , Star of the silver screen. Of course when one hears the words Pet Cemetary one tends to think of a shoebox containing deceased hamster, hastily buried at the bottom of the garden, with maybe a little makeshift cross fashioned out of lollipop sticks. This place couldn't be further from that image, it is to all intents and purposes a typical cemetery with the sole exception that it contains animals and not humans. The gravestones are laid out in traditional style, some simple and dignified, some overbearing and kitsch to a degree that would have caused Liberace to blush with embarrassment. Standing proudly at the entrance to the cemetery is a monument to a Saint Bernard who went by the name of Barry. Barry was a mountain rescue dog, his monument tells us, he saved 40 people and died in 1841 saving the 41st. It isn't just domesticated animals who are buried here either, there is at least one wolf, one bear, various monkeys and the occasional horse. One last thing to note about Cimetière des Chiens is that a well as it's inhabitants who have passed on, there is a thriving colony of cats who have made it their home. they spend the day sunning themselves around and on the marble headstones, probably to the great consternation of the the doggy spirits buried there.
Check out more photos at my flckr account