Pet cemetery honors beloved companions
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
Mars wasn't the smartest cat in the litter. His tongue was always halfway out, he had a funny way of chirping when he purred, and every now and then, he liked to eat cockroaches.
Garden of Love Pet Memorial Park
17027 US Highway 441, Micanopy
The pet cemetery has several options for families who want to remember their pets in a special way. For more information, call Lori Reiman at 377-7455 or go to www.gardenoflove.org.
Single pet: Rates vary by pet weight and range from $387 for a small pet (0 to 16 pounds) to $432 for a large pet (61 to 90 pounds); rate includes casket, grave site and granite memorial. Pets weighing more than 100 pounds, by arrangement.
Family Estate Burial
Multiple pets: Individual grave sites in the same plot for families with several pets. Limit four pets per plot. Rates vary by pet weight and range from $680 for a small pet (0 to 16 pounds) to $715 for a large pet (61 to 90 pounds); rate includes casket, grave site and family granite memorial.
St. Francis Garden
Owners who choose cremation for their pets can scatter the ashes in the St. Francis Garden. For $35, a 3-by-4-inch memorial plaque is placed on the remembrance wall. Cremation services are available. Call for rates.
But when he was put down after a stroke, his owners thought enough of the 11-year-old tabby to give him a final resting place.
"When I drive by, it brings back some good memories," said Judy Roberts, who buried Mars about 15 years ago.
Every day, thousands of motorists drive past the Garden of Love, a cemetery off U.S. 441 in Micanopy. The cemetery is hidden behind a white ranch-style fence, a clump of trees and a wooden sign that reads simply "Pet Cemetery."
The granite gravemarkers carry names like Foo-Foo, Mac and Jet.
One tombstone with the profile of a horse's head reads:
"Kuba La Kahn, 1967-1999
My Forever Angel
The spheres you connected created the timelessness of your soul""
The cemetery is owned and operated by Linda McCollough, a veterinarian who also runs Haile Plantation Animal Clinic in Gainesville. The cemetery has been around for 33 years, and has more than 3,500 pets buried there — some without markers. McCollough bought the 7-acre property in May 2002 after its previous owners approached her to take it over. Only about 1 acre is currently used as a cemetery.
"I like every aspect of caring for pets, including this one," said McCollough, who also runs the Haile's Angels Pet Rescue.
McCollough added a small parking lot and commissioned a statue for the entrance to the cemetery in memory of Benny, a terrier mix, and Prince, her collie, who are buried at the Garden of Love. The statue shows a crouching angel carrying a kitten, and surrounded by a dog and a horse.
A poem from Lord Byron is inscribed at the base of the statue: "In our gardens repose the remains of those that possess beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity and the virtues of man without his vices: our pets."
McCollough said she tried to install a crematorium when she first got the business, but the city of Micanopy denied the request. She works with Crevasse's Pet Funeral Home for cremations.
Rates for single-pet burials start at $387 for a pet weighing 16 pounds or less, and go to $432 for pets weighing 61 to 90 pounds. The rate includes the casket and a granite memorial. Special arrangements are made for pets that weigh more than 100 pounds.
It's difficult to keep the property maintained and beautiful, said McCollough, who keeps the buildings there empty because they've been repeatedly broken into and the lawn equipment stolen. She has found signs of mischief — empty beer cans and trash — on occasion. Two employees maintain the grounds.
Lori Reiman, who works with McCollough as a veterinary technician, also manages the Garden of Love. Most people tell her they want their pets buried or cremated so they can visit them again, said Reiman, 32.
The property can only be used as a pet cemetery, according to the deed, which means that the pets will stay buried, Reiman said.
"It does give a lot of people peace," she said. "They never have to worry about their pets having a building on them, or being disturbed," she said.
Reiman said traditional burials are becoming less popular, and most people are now cremating their pets.
"People are a lot more mobile than they used to be," she said.
Burial services are respectful events. Every animal receives a service, which includes prayers and poems.
One person left a card by the tombstone of Kirby, a cat. The card has been battered by the elements but is still legible: "My heart, my soul, my being. Rest in peace, little Friendly."
Where some leave poetry, others leave more behind.
Dave Benton, who was cremated, shares a plot with several of his pets who are buried at the Garden of Love. You can only be buried with your pets if you are cremated, McCollough said.
McCollough, who has been in practice for 18 years, said she has put down about 5 percent of the animals buried in the cemetery.
"You do it because you're dedicated to the pets," said McCollough, 48. "It's a labor of love."
Judy Roberts thinks of her cat every time she drives by. After Mars was buried, she and her husband, radio personality and WKTK 98.5 deejay Storm Roberts, made a donation for someone else to have their pet buried there if they couldn't afford it.
"In honor of Mars," he said.