Aspin Hill Memorial Park
On the first day of the road trip I took with my mom back in October, our last stop for the day was in Silver Spring, Maryland (after visiting Divine and the Enchanted Forest). I knew there was a pet cemetery there, but I didn't know much about it, so my expectations weren't very high. What we found was much larger and more elaborate than I had anticipated, and if it weren't for the swarms of bugs (mosquitoes? fleas?) preying on every inch of our exposed flesh, we could've explored for hours.
Established in 1921, Aspin Hill Memorial Park is thought to be the country's second-oldest pet cemetery, after the one in Hartsdale, New York. Two local dog breeders purchased the land to build a kennel and, inspired by a trip to Hartsdale, they added a cemetery a year later. It was originally used only to bury their own dogs, but they soon began offering plots for sale, advertising it as "one of the most attractive cemeteries in the country," and claiming that it was “destined to become one of the most noted canine cemeteries in the world.”
I think their marketing materials were a little ambitious—and Aspin Hill is no Hartsdale—but it was a popular place. More than 50,000 pets are buried here and more than two dozen humans are buried near their beloved pets (!!). Notable residents include seven of J. Edgar Hoover's dogs and World War I veteran Rags. Lyndon Johnson had his beagles cremated here (they were interred at his ranch in Texas) and it's rumored to be the final resting place of Jiggs, one of the Petey's from Our Gang. Perhaps not as famous, but still worthy mentioning: Andy the well-dressed monkey, Poor Alphie, Napoleon Pierre, Mustard, Flippy, Nabby, Pooky, Bingo, Bunny, Little Boy Baby Thing and Napoleon the Weather Prophet of Baltimore, MD.
The cemetery is now owned by the Montgomery County Humane Society and it's still technically an active cemetery, although they are not currently selling plots. They rely on donations to fund property maintenance, and although it's obviously not abandoned it is not as well-maintained as Hartsdale. In addition to the hordes of biting bugs (seriously these things were such a menace my mom was back in the car in minutes), there are fallen trees, broken stones, crumbling statues and other signs of neglect.
This was my fourth pet cemetery (I visited my fifth near Palm Springs in December) and my mom's second (her first was Clara Glen). I think two pet cemeteries in two years officially counts as a mother-daughter tradition, one that I definitely don't mind trying to maintain.
I don't think I'll ever feel as removed from the deceased in pet cemeteries like I do in human cemeteries. Epitaphs to beloved animals such as "I will always love you," and "Faithful to the end" will always make me tear up. And then, because pet cemeteries are such strange places, the next minute I'll be laughing at a ceramic portrait of Frosty the cat (a pal) in a dress.
Aspin Hill Memorial Park
13630 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20906