By Cindy Atoji Keene
Bereaved pet owners will often spare no expense to bury their beloved companion, said Ed Hildebrandt, proprietor of Pleasant Mountain Pet Rest in Plymouth. “Gone are the days when pets were simply buried in the backyard; now a proper burial is seen as a way of providing a compassionate and dignified after-life,” said Hildebrandt, who also operates a crematorium on the 3-acre cemetery where 4,000 animals are buried. It’s not unusual for a longtime family pet to receive a burial replete with flowers, poetry readings, casket and grave marker, said Hildebrandt, 74, who bought the cemetery almost four decades ago as a side business, when there were only 35 graves at the time. He added later added the crematorium, which he says is the predominant business at the time, serving not only the cemetery but also area vets. “I initially got into this line of work because returning the dignity of pets really appealed to me and still does to this day,” Hildebrandt.
Q: What sort of animals are buried at Pleasant Mountain Pet Rest?
A: I won’t take farm animals although I do have a couple pork-bellied pigs here. I have white rats that were family pets as well as rabbits and one boa constrictor. I also accept gerbils; sometimes parents want to teach children about the dying process and ask to have the gerbils buried here. We do that quite often and don’t charge a lot of money because the grave is so small.
Q: How much does it cost for pet burial?
A: Let’s take a cocker spaniel as an example. For a medium-sized animal like this to be buried here with a complete package – plot, casket, marker, and in our case, perpetual care of the grave is included – is $400-$450; for smaller animals such as cats, $375-$400; larger dogs are $450-$500. Cremation for a cocker spaniel, on the other hand, is cheaper at $150.
Q: What are some epitaphs on the graves?
A: Some of the grave markers say, “Siam, 1988-1997, ‘You were purrr-fect;” “Spunky, 1975-1983, ‘Our family boss;’ “Merry Mug Winston, ‘Now Cracks a Noble Heart, Good Night Sweet Prince.”
Q: Do some people bury multiple pets?
A: A wealthy lady from Marblehead told her executors she wanted all her pets be interned in a cemetery of her choice, which happened to be mine. She had urns all over her house with pets that had been cremated over the years. The executor of the state approached me – would I sell them a plot? I said, ‘Of course,’ and asked how many animals we were talking about and she said, “51.” So all the pets are in one large plot with 51 animals, all in urns.
Q: What items do people bury with their pets?
A: It’s often heartwrenching. Kids write their last goodbyes and place the piece of paper in the casket. Others put in religious items such as crosses or crucifixes. Others put food in a basket or maybe a biscuit to have in heaven. A lot of them say at the viewing, ‘I know you think this is crazy but I want to put this in.” Some of the oddest things were locks of hair or even a McDonald hamburger.