The Cimetière des Chiens is a pet cemetery in Paris. The cemetery, one of the oldest in the world, opened in 1899. It is home to thousands of graves of animals, including that of the canine Hollywood star Rin Tin Tin.
Despite its name (lit. ‘Dog Cemetery’) there are all sorts of pets buried here, from cats and rabbits to ponies, monkeys and even a chicken!
Until the end of the nineteenth century, there were few regulations on the burial of pets; most cadavers were either taken to a knacker or simply dumped into the river. In 1898 a law was created that allowed for the interment of animals. Less than twelve months later, the first pet cemetery, called ‘Cimetière des Chiens’, was created on the Île des Ravageurs, at the time a small narrow island in the Seine river occupied by ragpickers (the island has been attached to the riverbank since 1976 when an inlet of the Seine was filled in).
Several structures were planned for the cemetery, of which only the entrance and a necropolis were created. The entrance is the most notable, a beautiful creation in Art Nouveau style designed by Eugène Petit, a local architect.
Tens of thousands of animals have been buried at the Cimetière des Chiens. Most of these were buried anonymously, while others are honored with sculptures and small tombs. Today you can find some three thousand graves here.
The largest monument is not an actual tomb but a memorial to Barry, a mountain rescue dog who lived in Switzerland at the Great St Bernard Hospice and who is credited with saving the lives of forty people in the early nineteenth century.
The most famous animal buried at the cemetery is Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd born in France who was adopted by an American soldier and went on to become a Hollywood star in the 1920s. He even received his own Walk of Fame star.
While Rin Tin Tin’s marble grave is very sober, a surprising number of graves are ornately decorated, and many feature a statue or a photo of the animal. Some have very original decorations; the tombstone of Arry for instance has a globe with tennis balls in it, surely the dog’s favorite toy.
Most interesting are the inscriptions on the tombstones, which can be very touching :’Faithful company in my days of sadness’, ‘Deceived by people but never by my dog’ are just two of the many tributes to the deceased animals. There’s also a – pretty sad – long poem inscribed on the tomb of Dick, a World War I trench dog.
The cemetery is situated in Asnières-sur-Seine, a suburb just northwest of Paris proper, but you can still get there by metro. Take line 13 to the ‘Mairie-de-Clichy’ metro stop. From there, walk northwest along the Rue Martre and cross the Pont de Clichy bridge. The entrance to the cemetery is on the left-hand side, right across the river. There’s a small entrance fee, but it comes with a helpful brochure that’ll guide you to some of the interesting graves.