MARIETTA - Next to the sprawling Valley Cemetery and East Lawn Memorial Park lies the only active pet cemetery in Washington County.
Pet Rest Perpetual Care was added to the Ohio 7 cemetery in 1978 by then-owners John and Carol Santone.
According to an opinion piece by Carol in a 1991 edition of The Marietta Times, the Santones had added the pet cemetery "to fulfill the need to provide the pet owners in this area a permanent resting place for their 'special' member of the family."
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Park superintendent Larry McKitrick looks over the small plots in Pet Rest Perpetual Care, the only official pet cemetery in Washington County.
Today that tradition is still being carried on by American Cemetery Service, which maintains and operates East Lawn Memorial Park, Valley Cemetery and Pet Rest.
"It's a lot easier on people," said park superintendent Larry McKitrick of why people choose to have their pets professionally buried.
Over the years, McKitrick has seen birds, cats, dogs, and even a snake, buried at Pet Rest.
* Added to the East Lawn Memorial Park in 1978 by then-owners John and Carol Santone.
* Around 400 pets are buried there.
* Burials include birds, cats, dogs, reptiles and other companion animals.
* Just as with human burials, many pets are cremated or buried in a casket and their final resting place is marked with a stone.
* More than two decades ago, the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley allowed pets to be buried at its current location and at the previous Dodds Run Road location.
* The practice stopped in 1991 over concerns that the burials violated the law.
Source: Marietta Times research.
And just as in a human cemetery, people appreciate having a permanent final resting place where they can visit and remember their lost companion, he said.
"It's visited often. People put flowers out. I think they also have a separate Memorial Day for the pets," he said.
Though not recognized by an official legislative proclamation, the second Sunday in September is recognized as National Pet Memorial Day.
Though Pet Rest is the only active pet cemetery in the county, it has not always been that way.
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s, the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley allowed pets to be buried first at its original Dodds Run Road location and then at the current Mt. Tom Road location.
According to a 1991 article in The Marietta Times, more than 500 pets were buried at the Dodds Run Road location.
"We didn't have commercial cemeteries at that time," explained Louise Holmes, who presided over the Humane Society's board of directors when it made the move to the new location in 1984.
The humane society received permission from the Washington County Commissioners to continue burying pets at the Mt. Tom location for a $50 fee.
"People came out and they would donate. We would bury their pets out there with a little plaque," recalled Holmes.
But that all came to a crashing halt more than two decades ago when the Santones raised objections to the humane society cemetery.
Citing a 1986 pet cemetery law that stated such cemeteries must maintain a $12,000 bond for their assured continuation, the Santones asked the Washington County Commissioners to suspend burials at the humane society, which they did in 1991.
According to an article published in 1991, around 132 pets were buried at the Mt. Tom Road cemetery - deemed the Schafer Memorial Gardens - at the time it was shut down.
However, time has taken its toll on the cemetery. All but a few plaques have completely sunk into the ground, said current shelter manager Steve Herron.