|Office entrance, Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery, Huntington Beach, California|
The vicinity is about an hour south of Los Angeles. It is beautiful – Southern California at its finest. To say that Newport Beach, where I was actually staying, is an affluent area is like saying the Pope is an okay guy. In Newport Beach, even the pizza delivery guy drives a Porsche! (I swear I saw this during my visit.) Wealth, it seems, allows you to grieve any way you like. As I walked through the front half of this several-acre cemetery past the life-sized statue of “Old Sarge,” the U.S. Marine dog, I got a better idea of just how large the place is. The office entrance, shown above, is about a third of the way into the cemetery, which comprises several acres in total.
There was an article published by the University of Pittsburgh in May, 2015, called, “Deathscapes in Metropolitan Colombia,” (written by Christien Klaufus) which was basically about how the affluent dead are memorialized (because they can afford it) and the non-affluent are forgotten (and sometimes obliterated). I thought about this as I visited the Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery in the next town over, Huntington Beach.
Other star-quality animals buried here, according to Roadside America: "Rumored to be the last resting place of John Wayne's German Shepherd and a few pets belonging to Karen Carpenter." John Wayne apparently lived in the area - the local Orange County airport into which I flew is called the John Wayne Airport. A statue of him sculpted in his famous cowboy swagger pose holds a prominent place in the lobby.
For the most part, the animals buried here are day-to-day common companions which residents felt very strongly about, and therefore went to the expense of cremating, burying, and memorializing here at Sea Breeze. And they have been doing this since 1961, according to The Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery website.
|"He knew he was human?" - Cat grave, Sea Breeze Cemetery|
Hearkening oddly to the segregation burial practices in Columbia described in the University of Pittsburgh article, dogs are buried away from cats, cats away from birds, and so on. There is even a separate Jewish section, as we commonly find in human cemeteries! Though the South American practices of burying the rich away from the poor is not quite the same thing, these separate sections do make one wonder.
The crematory, with its requisite chimney, sits behind the office building. As it was late in the day, the place was closed. There were no employees about. This was unfortunate for me, as I had many questions. The fast food joint next door was open for business, however. Mercifully, there was a high brick wall separating it from the cemetery. One may not want to idly survey such a deathscape while munching on one’s tacos.