Nestled between clusters of bramble bushes and pine woods lies an enclave filled with rows upon rows of granite headstones marking the names and dates of death for hundreds of animal companions who served their owners as faithfully as they served their country.
Originally founded by a local family in the 1930s under the name of the Happy Hunting Grounds Pets Cemetery, this home for the dearly departed served as the final resting place for both beloved local and nationally known animals alike. Some of the more famous residents of the graveyard buried around this time include Blizzard, a sled dog belonging to Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr., who served on the first U.S. Antarctic Expedition, as well as others such as Admiral George Dewey’s pet parrot, who served as the mascot for the U.S. Navy’s Flagship during the Spanish–American War.
After World War II, the cemetery was expanded and upgraded with the addition of a 16-ton granite monument honoring war dogs. The project was financed entirely by local residents who, after hearing about the heroism shown by military dogs during World War II, raised over $3,700 (today over $50,000) to pay for the monument’s construction.
The first official military burial to occur at the cemetery was of Sgt. Sparks, a Doberman Pinscher who served as a Marine messenger dog and survived battles on four separate islands. Sparks was present during the dedication of the monument in 1946. After being poisoned outside his home in Rochester, Michigan, a year after the monument’s dedication, Sgt. Sparks was, at the request of his owner, laid to rest at its base.
Over the decades, more and more dogs were laid to rest at the cemetery. Yet despite this, the spot slowly grew into a state of decay, so much so that by 2010, it had become so overgrown with trees that it had been turned into a heavily wooded area with only a few visible headstones buried in the overgrowth.
Locals then made a large effort to restore the area to its former glory, and eventually it was given a complete overhaul, with the addition of new monuments, such as a “Vietnam K9 Memorial Wall” that includes the names of all 4,234 war dogs who served in the Vietnam War—and were then left behind when the troops withdrew, to the horror of their dedicated handlers.
Since its restoration, a number of military and police dogs who have either died in the line of duty or passed after their retirement have been buried at the cemetery, giving the memorial the epithet, “The Arlington of dogs.”
Know Before You Go
Visiting the cemetery is free, but the organization who maintains it greatly appreciates donations.