Dogs Running Free in Cemeteries: Good Idea or Just Too Weird?

 |  Aug 11th 2010  |   48 Contributions


Dogs enjoying life among the gravestones at The Historical Congressional Cemetery, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jerry Persall)


My blog friend Janice Lloyd over at USA Today's Paw Print Post wrote yesterday about a new ban on dogs in cemeteries in Concord, N.H. It seems that too many locals were using cemeteries as dog-running grounds.

Ive seen this sometimes in my travels. Im all for great off-leash spots for dogs, but its pretty odd watching dogs running on top of the bodies of hundreds of dead people, and occasionally doing a leg left or squat on their graves. (One woman left her dogs poop beside a headstone while I was there. I found a cup in a garbage can and cleaned it up, apologizing to the occupant for owners bad manners.)

Some dog-lovers on the underside of the grass might not mind their final resting places being trod and peed upon by dogs, but others are probably spinning in their graves. I dont think Id feel good about a dog doing his thing over a loved one. That said, I have nothing against bringing a beloved dog to a graveside to pay a visit to the deceased. Just dont poop on Uncle Bob!

(Photo: J Smjr, www.obit-mag.com)

I sniffed around a bit and discovered that dogs are very welcome additions to the scene at at least one major cemetery. The Historic Congressional Cemetery, in Washington, D.C., had been in horrible shape, lacking funds that could keep it from falling into utter disrepair, because of neglect, vandalism, and theft, according to an article at obit-mag.com.

Someone got the idea of charging dog owners an annual fee to let their dogs run free there, and voila! Cemetery saved, dogs have a new, fenced, 35-acre romping ground. According to the Dogwalking Program page at the cemeterys website, one-third of the cemeterys operating budget now comes from dog walkers who pay an annual fee. Theres apparently a waiting list to be among the 450 members and their 600 dogs.

Not only do the fees help keep the cemetery in good shape, but dogs and their people help keep out the vandals. The presence of dogwalkers at almost every hour of the day constitutes a de facto on site patrol all day long, the cemeterys dog page states. With watchdog eyes and ears on duty, Congressional is mostly free and clear of riff raff and vandals.

The cemetery dates back to 1807. And contrary to its name, you dont have to be a member of Congress to be buried there. You just have to be dead. It boasts many famous denizens, including Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, bandmaster John Philip Sousa, and J. Edgar Hoover. Three presidents were buried there but later exhumed and stashed into family cemeteries.

(Photo: J. Smjr, www.obit-mag.com)

All told, the cemetery is home to about 14,000 headstones, and 55,000 dead folks. Dogs have some obstacles when going for a fly ball, but I havent come across any dog-vs-gravestone accidents. And from what Ive read on other sites, people are really good about scooping the poop. We found it to be clean as a whistle. Very old, but very clean, a man named Jerry Persall wrote on his website.

What do you think, Dogsters? Should dogs be welcome to romp around cemeteries, or are these burial sites sacred grounds? Have you had any experience with this? Id especially love to hear from anyone who has used The Historic Congressional Cemetery.

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