We Take a Photo Tour of a Cemetery for Dogs in France
Le Cimetière des Chiens is in Asnières-sur-Seine, a commune in the suburbs just to the northwest of Paris proper. Don't despair, it's really not very far; only a 25-minute Métro ride (if that) from central Paris -- plenty close for you to pay a quick visit during your Parisian vacation!
While the cemetery is commonly referred to as simply "Le Cimetière des Chiens," you'll see a few places where the longer name of "Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques" (the cemetery of dogs and other pets) is given, including an inscription in stone on a monument near the entrance. The cemetery has welcomed non-canine animals as well for a long time, perhaps since the place first opened in 1899. There are tons of cat graves, as well as some horses, at least one monkey, a sheep, a hen, etc.
Here's the front gate. This was locked when we got there, and we were worried the place was closed, but then we found a side entrance off to the right (more on that below).
This monument, right inside the front entrance of the cemetery, is a statue of Barry, a World War I trench dog. The inscription is pretty crazy: "He saved the lives of 40 people. He was killed by the 41st." Whoa!
My friend and I asked the guy who was working at the little front office about Barry, and he explained that the kid on Barry's back in the statue is the 41st. Barry had dragged 40 wounded people away from a battlefield somewhere, and as soon as he got this kid to safety, he died of exhaustion. Whew! Okay, then. So "killed by the 41st" is a little misleading, I guess, but I'm glad to have found out it wasn't on purpose.
This dog statue is way high up on top of the cemetery gate; it's probably a monument to a famous parkour dog or something.
There are lots of (living) cats in the cemetery! They seem fat and happy and healthy, which is great.
Check out the crazy eyes on this pup! I like how he's on a little bed.
Lots of the tombs have statues of cats or dogs on them, or photos of the occupants on the headstone. A lot of them only have names and inscriptions, leaving it open to conjecture as to what kind of animal is underneath -- sometimes you can guess by the name, and sometimes you really can't. As a rabbit owner, I was hopeful that I might find a tomb for a bunny (I'm not really sure why I'd want to find something that would definitely make me sad, but there you go), so I kept on the lookout for one the whole time we were in the cemetery. The vast majority of the animals interred in the cemetery are dogs and cats, but there are a few non-canine/non-feline tombs to be found if you keep your eyes peeled.
Mimi the cat has a cat-head-shaped window on her tomb.
Apparently this pup was a big fan of Mardi Gras.
It's interesting to ponder how aware the resident cats may or may not be that they live in a place that's full of, you know, dead cats.
I've transcribed and translated, to the best of my ability, a few of the more interesting and touching inscriptions. This first one, I realized after reading it aloud in my head a few times, is a rhyming poem! It's dedicated to a World War I trench dog.
Here lies Dick, faithful companion in the trenches
Who was always my only friend
He lived a model life
And his leaving plunges me into sadness
His memory haunts me, I miss his affection
Remorse overcomes me, I feel I was brutal
to have disciplined him for his weakness
I should have stopped myself, and it pains me
And so I am all alone, no longer believing in anything.
Life has give me such pain! Still, one thought
(Remains with me in my distress)
He was loved by his mistress
And only that comforts me.
Whoa, man! Heav-y!
Wow, this is Rin Tin Tin's grave! When I first saw the name, I just assumed some French person had named his dog after the famous canine Hollywood film star, but it turns out this is really him! I didn't know this about Rin Tin Tin -- well, I didn't know anything about Rin Tin Tin, honestly -- but he was actually a French dog adopted from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier, and then went on to star in a ton of films in the U.S. He died in Los Angeles in 1932 and was brought back to France to be buried in le Cimetière des Chiens.
Here's Rin Tin Tin again.
I tell ya, I love human cemeteries, but I've never really felt anything in a human cemetery; I find them beautiful and peaceful and I enjoy visiting them, but I've never felt any kind of sadness while wandering among and reading human graves. I never realized this about myself until visiting le Cimetière des Chiens and experiencing something for the first time, as some of the tombs and inscriptions really touched me in a way that that was entirely unexpected. I mean, just look at this lovely little grave for Cocotte, the hen.
To my affectionate hen
Who lived 16 years
Faithful inseparable companion
Mourned by your mistress who remains inconsolable
To you I was attached
You will never be forgotten
À mon petit lapin -- to my little rabbit. Aww ...
The tombstone of Arry the dog has a clear plastic globe full of what was most certainly his favorite toy, tennis balls.
Wow, a Romanian princess having a dog named Drac seems almost too good to be true!
Loyal companion during tragic times
Precious friend in exile
S. M. Queen Elisabeth
Princess of Romania
When I saw the name "Kiki le singe" (Kiki the monkey) on the map, I went to find her grave straightaway! I don't know if Kiki was famous or if she's just on the map because she's one of the more interesting animals in the cemetery. The photo on her tombstone looks very old but I couldn't find an exact date anywhere, and Kiki is a common enough name that I can't find any solid information about this particular monkey. Oh well! She's lovely anyway!
I pushed some plants aside (that's my gloved hand at left) to find the inscription on her grave. It is simple and beautiful.
Sleep, my dear
You were the joy of my life
Sigh. If you're an animal lover, this place will really get ya.
Getting to Le Cimetière des Chiens
This is is one of the few places around Paris where I stress that it's pretty important to have a map. Check your street map of Paris and see if you can see the Métro stop Gabriel Péri, way up in the northeast, on line 13, outside the Périphérique, i.e., the beltway around Paris. If you don't have it, I'd say print out a map from Google Maps or something; all you'll need is the area between the Métro stop Gabriel Péri and the cemetery itself, which is a green strip right on the river to the south/southeast of the Métro station.
When you arrive at the Gabriel Péri Métro station, look for a blown-up map of the neighborhood on the wall upstairs; this will help you orient yourself. When you exit the Métro station, put yourself on Rue des Bas and walk toward the river, i.e., toward Paris. Veer right on Avenue Gabriel Péri, and then at the next corner veer left onto Boulevard Voltaire. You'll soon see greenery in the distance, and this leads you right to the cemetery entrance; that big stone gate in the first few pictures above.
When I visited the big stone gate was closed, but there was a smaller entrance to the right which led me to a little office, with the cemetery just beyond that. I didn't realize the cemetery wasn't free, so I breezed right past the office and got yelled at by the guy inside. Oops! No problem, I came back and paid up (about two and a half Euros, I think) and all was well. The guy gives you a map of the cemetery that points out lots of interesting tombs (including a few of the above), and that really enhanced the visit, so I really don't mind that I had to pay. I'm generally against the idea of paying to visit churches, and cemeteries, but I'm totally okay with making an exception in this case.
I really love this cemetery and am really glad to have found out about it! Please pay a visit if you get a chance.
This story originally appeared here.
About the author: Manning Leonard Krull is a web designer/writer/traveler currently bouncing back and forth incessantly between Paris and NYC. He is the creator of Cool Stuff in Paris, a guide to fun, weird, and obscure attractions in the City of Light. He lives with his beautiful French girlfriend and their very handsome French rabbit.
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