Friday, July 10, 2020

Pandemic Diaries Week #16

10 July 2020

We're currently staying in a short-term vacation rental in Ventnor City, on the barrier island of Absecon.  (That's pronounced ab-SEE-kin.)  Last night and all day today, we've been feeling the effects of Tropical Storm Fay - about six inches or so of rain, flooded streets, wind of 40-50 mph (64-80 kph), with occasional gusts up to 60 mph (96 kph).  But we have the ground floor of a duplex, and while we're close to the beach, we're far enough away that we're fine.  Cozy and inside, with enough food to stay put for a day or two.  All is good.  

I wanted to share some more excitement in the backyard of S & J's house (Richard's brother and sister-in-law, so my in-laws but that always sounds like the parents-in-law).

Their backyard seems to be a turtle highway.  Several weeks ago we had the lovely bright orange and black box turtle, presumably making its way to the Meadowlands, the marshy wetland area down at the end of the street.

Well last week, we had another turtle walking through, about dinner time.  This one had a pale greenish grey color to the head, neck, and legs, with black or dark grey spots and marks.  The carapace, the shell, was sort of a light greenish brownish grey (taupe?  greige?) with the most gorgeous spiral designs on each scute, the overlapping scales that make up turtle shells.  It really was a very distinctive looking turtle, and it was moving quite quickly through the backyard toward the Meadowlands (locally called the Meadow).

It didn't take much research to find out that this was a northern diamondback terrapin.  Terrapins are basically turtles that live part of the time on land and part of the time in brackish water, that mix of salt and fresh water found in coastal waterways and estuaries.  Terrapin is an Algonquin word that means "little turtle."  

S took a couple of photos of our terrapin, but Terry Diamondback Terrapin was looking for a shortcut and wasn't going to pose.  So I'm including a batch of photos from online, just so you can see how pretty he/she was.

I gave Terry D. Terrapin a talk, to stay on the lawns and avoid roads.  To follow the fence to the driveway and then turn left.  And keep going, heading down the very slight hill, to the Meadows.

Well, I later learned that it's okay to pick up turtles (and terrapins) that are in roadways, and carry them in the direction they are heading, preferable near bodies of water.

I was driving back from a medical appointment, and noticed a basic painted turtle in the road.  These are the dark turtles with little stripes of yellow or orange or red, usually on their necks and legs, sometimes on the edges of their carapace.  

So, Painted Turtle was crossing from the Meadow to someone's lawn, presumably to eat some shorter grass.  (Again, internet photos here.)  

I wasn't sure what to do, so I stopped.  There wasn't anyone driving behind me, this isn't the main road.  I turned on my flashing hazard lights, and allowed the turtle to sloooowly walk across.  There was an approaching vehicle at one point, so I opened my window and waved for them to slow down, and they stopped.  We both sat there a good five minutes, waiting for the turtle to get across.  Turtles don't seem to walk in a straight line, so it took quite a while.

These turtle encounters made me curious, so I did a bit of research.  Small turtles like these (up to roughly 12" or 30 cm in diameter) can be picked up and carried to safety.  The best way to carry them is to put one hand on each side of the shell, close to the back legs, fingers on the under shell and thumbs holding the top shell.  Pick up gently, don't drop your turtle friend.  DO NOT pick them up by the tail, that can damage their spine.

Larger turtles, and especially snapping turtles, you can either lift as described above, or the safest is to lift the back end and sort of wheelbarrow walk the turtle across the road.  (Remember wheelbarrow walking in phys ed in elementary school?  Like that.)

I reported the terrapin sighting to the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation something, but we're close enough to water that no one has contacted us.

Just to round out the Walt Disney quality of the backyard, we now have a baby bunny.  We hadn't seen the adult rabbits in a bit, they seemed to be hanging out at one of the neighbors recently.  And then this little tiny bunny appeared one afternoon, hopping out from the space under the back deck.  We think that's where the rabbit nest was, though we haven't seen Mama Rabbit in a while, just the baby.

But seriously, is this not one of the most adorable baby animals you've ever seen?  He/She is smaller than a squirrel, but slightly bigger than a chipmunk.  Just about the size of a sparrow, because they hop around in the grass looking for insects and seeds right by Little Bunny.  Baby B is barely able to see over grass that is maybe 2" tall.  The little white clover flowers are bigger than Baby Bunny's nose!  

I can watch Baby Bunny for an hour, though he/she isn't out that long.  Maybe about 15 minutes at a time, nibbling on some of that grass, or the moss, or trying out a clover or two.  Then a little bit of exploring time - Baby B seems to be interested in the green gutter spout, and I keep hoping he/she doesn't go exploring inside!

Then a little time stretching out in the cool grass, and then suddenly a few speedy hops and Baby Bunny is under the deck once again.

The grainy photos are mine, taken through the kitchen window and window screen - I don't want to scare little Baby B away.  

The other, clearer photos are also from online, usually from articles about finding baby bunnies, and why you shouldn't adopt them.  Most baby rabbits don't venture out of the nest until they really are able to find their own food.  Their mothers are usually somewhat nearby, possibly still in the nest nursing the rest of the littler.  Any rabbit kits (also called a kittens, which is truly odd) that are out of the nest are able to eat grass and flowers.  And while they look vulnerable, they usually don't wander very far until they're older and bigger.  Wild rabbits are difficult to raise, so if you do find what seems to be a lost baby rabbit, please leave it alone unless it's injured.  Mama Rabbit will take care of it.  (If it is injured, call your local wildlife people, they'll know what to do.)

And that's the excitement of Week #16 in the Pandemic of 2020.  I know, there's all the political stuff happening around the world.

But I'm happier watching baby bunnies and interesting terrapins. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Pandemic Diaries Week #15 - and The Clara-Glenn Pet Cemetery

28 June 2020

It has been a rather uneventful week here.  Well, I went to see a pulmonologist prior to having a pulmonary function study done (for my continuing respiratory issues).  The doctor was rather confused by the fact that we're in New Jersey, but my other doctors are in Washington state, but we were evacuated from Peru. . .  It took a while to explain that we don't have a permanent residence, and that in our retirement, we've opted to just travel.  That we were evacuated from Peru because we ended up there after our cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, via Antarctica, so that we could visit our seventh continent.

To all of that, he beamed at me and said, "Oh, so you're a bon vivant!!"

Made me laugh.

But yes, that was the highlight of my week.

So, I finally want to write about the odd pet cemetery here in Linwood, NJ.  I want to add the caveat that if you recently lost a much loved family member, including a furry one, you may want to skip this blog until later on.  

You know that Wordsworth poem that begins "The world is too much with us"?  These days, it seems that death is too much with us.  Perhaps Death, rather.  Death is becoming almost a presence, an entity unto itself.  

People are dying of this virus at an alarming rate, especially here in the US.  And people of color are being killed at an alarming rate.  It truly is depressing, and I hope recent protests are causing changes to finally occur.  Whether we have lost a loved one due to Covid-19 or other illness or police or general violence, we all have new holes in our lives and our hearts where those loved ones once resided.

So yes, Death is on our minds.  

This time perhaps makes a pet cemetery more frivolous and also possibly more poignant.  And yes, I realize that pet cemeteries are 100% totally privileged - I mean, who would even think of having a marble gravestone made for a pet?!?  Maybe someone with more money than they know what to do with.  I certainly have never done that, have you??

But back in 1918, during the time of the so-called Spanish flu pandemic, some people did think of creating a pet cemetery for their many pets.  And soon, the rich and famous (and the not famous and not rich) began to bury their furry loved ones in this cemetery.

So, the Clara-Glenn Pet Cemetery is here in Linwood, New Jersey, just a few blocks down from our BIL and SIL.  There's a big sign along the main road, and a side road that ends in a residential cul de sac.

The house and huge back yard once belonged to Clara and Glenn White.  (Hence the name - and sometimes Glen is spelled with one N, sometimes two.)  Apparently Clara and Glenn were animal lovers, with over 300 rabbits, dozens of cats, and 40-something dogs (according to the Atlas Obscura, which is a wonderful book of oddities such as this place).

Clara and Glenn couldn't find a pet cemetery, they had a huge property, and eventually they began to bury their pets out in the back.  After a while, friends wanted to bury their pets in this graveyard.  And voila, they had a pet cemetery.

Picture Atlantic City in the 1920s and 1930s.  Various performers starred in shows there, perhaps vacationing for a few weeks.  They'd bring their pets along.  Some pets were stars in their own right.  So yes, the pets of people like Irving Berlin and Eddie Cantor are buried here.  Rex the Wonder Dog (of waterskiing fame) is buried here.  Petey, the dog from "Our Gang," is buried here.  Some dog named Paradiddle Ben, another star, has a gravestone that looks like a small theatre!  

Yes, it's a little crazy.  Maybe it's 100% crazy.

But at the same time, it truly speaks to human attachment to all things cute and furry or feathered.  Or possibly finned, there are several "Bubbles" headstones.

Really, the whole thing is very sweet and loving.  The words on the gravestones attest to the love people have for their pets, and how the animals fill a human need for companionship and nurturing.  

Lest you think only the rich and famous buried pets here, the original owners and the next owners, Alex and Agnes Miller, made cement paving stones as markers for people who couldn't afford carved headstones for their little pets.  These cement markers have the names of the pets engraved in the cement, I would guess possibly with the use of plastic letters as part of the mold.  The markers are lined up throughout the cemetery, marking the graves of these loved non-human friends that were family members in less well-known, less affluent circumstances.

How sweet is that?  I've included several here, because I really like the fact that the owners wanted to be sure anyone could bury their loved pets here, even for free.

I promised that I wouldn't include all 1000 or so photos that I took here.  Not all in one visit, no, it took me about 3 visits to go to every single gravestone.  And being an animal lover myself, I found myself saying the name of each pet, and if there was a statue I often patted it on the head.  What can I say, there is something about being surrounded by all this evidence of cherished pets that makes that seem perfectly normal and even necessary.

The cemetery is now owned by the city of Linwood, and some of the photographs of pets as well as some of the statues are housed in a museum.  But the property is open to the public, as long as you don't trespass on the actual backyard of the house.  The whole graveyard is full of trees and is nicely kept, so it's rather like a beautiful big park.  Minus benches to sit on.  And with nearly 4000 or so interred pets.

Not all the animals buried here are pets, nor even stars.  (Although rumor has it that some of the diving horses from the Atlantic City Boardwalk shows are buried here as well.)

There are a few military dogs who were buried at Clara-Glenn, after their military service.  One dog, Baron Atkinson, even has his gravestone written partly in German.

I'm not sure about Martini Drouet - he may have been a military dog, or possibly the pet of a Marine.  The "Semper Fideles" made me wonder about him.  I know, he also could have been the dog of a Latin professor, who knows.

The Atlantic City police dogs are buried here, with a huge stone commemorating their names and years.  A few smaller stones mark individual dogs, like Duke.  But the entire K-9 unit is now together at the far end of the cemetery.  And burials were stopped in the late 1980s, although police dogs continue to be buried here.

And then there's Pete, whose stone says he was the manager of Saul Bogatin's CafĂ©.  Obviously a working dog, most like the greeter and possibly security.  An important working dog.

There are a few la-di-dah dogs whose pedigrees are permanently engraved on their tombstones.  No idea if these were show dogs, or even used to sire a long line of other American Kennel Club pedigreed pups.  But they have their AKC numbers listed proudly.  One hopes the dogs were as well loved as all the other dogs buried here, since dogs seem to come pre-programmed to make people happy.

You might have noticed the "Louellen Setter" - the actual spelling should be Llewellin setter, bred from English setters.  Yeah, there were a few misspellings or typos on the part of the stone engraver.  Or possibly the owner, who knows.  Check out Brandy who is "burried" here.

Many of the names are funny.  Or perhaps not as funny until paired with the owner's last name.  I could definitely see a bossy little French poodle named Napoleon, but paired with "Stern" it just is funny.

Baroness von Grosso is presumably an overweight dog, as I would think is Chubbers.  Well, they could also be cats.  But of considerable size or girth, I would guess.

So, I'll add some photos of rather funny names, and let you picture these pets in your imagination.  Is Kiltie a Scottie?  Are Chickie and Tweetie birds?  Is Static clingy?  Do Echo and Reveille talk incessantly?  Does Thunder make a lot of noise, or is he afraid of thunderstorms?  Is Monkie really a monkey?  Are Phaedra's people Greek scholars, or in the theatre?  Does Zachary even have a last name?

Yeah, these are the things I wondered about as I wandered around Clara-Glenn, trying to picture all these much-loved pets.

There were popular names, such as the names based on color or coat of the animal: Boots, Bootsy, Mitten, Cocoa, Whitey, White Boy, Ginger, Honey, Goldie, Smokey, Blackie, Brownie, Silver, Fluffy, Snowball.

Other popular names had to do with behavior, size, and most likely breed of dog: Tiny, Fifi, Gigi, Laddie, Lassie, Lady, Lucky, Trixie, Frisky, Mitzi, Rowdy, Teddy, Duke, Rex, Bonbon, Queen & Queenie, Duchess, Butch & Butchie, Skippy, Snoop & Snoopy, Bubbles, Pierre, Snorky, Fritz & Fritzie, Max.  (And only one Rover.)

I'm guessing that all the Fifis and Gigis, Pierres and Bonbons were French poodles, and that Fritz and Fritzies were likely German Shepherds.  But who knows, it could be the other way around.  There were tons of Lassies, Laddies, and Ladies, but many come from the time period of the TV show Lassie, so I'm guessing many were collies.

I'm still wondering about Boardwalk Peter and Boardwalk Brownie - show business dogs, or rescued from the boardwalk.  Or perhaps just friendly dogs who enjoyed walking along the boardwalk.

Yes, there are two Snorky stones.  Different years, same family.  A number of people named their pets the same name, over and over.  Janie and Janie 2.  I wonder about people who do that.  I mean, would you do that to a child?  Can't you come up with a name for each pet?  Give them a little individuality.

But I really liked the various sweet sayings that some people had carved on their loved pet's stones.  "Boodles - You're a good boy!" or "Bonbon, my friend and protector."  I mean seriously, Bonbon was obviously a tiny little froufrou dog, not a protector!  The place is quirky and things like Bonbon make me laugh.

So, a list of popular sayings, and some examples:
Loved and missed
Loved by all
Loved by everyone 
Forever loved
Love and loyalty  

Years of joy

You will always be in our hearts

 Until we meet again
The purity of your heart is engraved on time....

He who lives in the hearts of those he left behind is never dead.

Faithful friend

Beloved companion

Faithful little pal

 Friend and pal

Faithful to the last 

Our faithful and devoted dog

A swell dog

My pal

Our baby - Our little girl - Our boy - Our bestest boy

Signed by Mommy and Daddy or Mama

After those heartfelt sayings, we need a few heart-shaped gravestones.

Some dogs sported all kinds of royal names, with King and Queen, Duke and Duchess, Prince, Princess, Baron and Baroness.

There were some really old headstones, dating back to the original owners of the Clara-Glenn Pet Cemetery.  Some were so old, they were barely legible.

Some pets had very simple headstones, with just their first and last names, sometimes only a first name.  You could mistake them for humans, with some of these names. 

And then we have the ornate memorials.  Some of these get really extravagant and ostentatious.  There really are no other words for these.  

Some of the headstones once had either photos of the pets encased in glass and mounted on the stones, or some had enamel miniature paintings attached. Visitors to the cemetery began to steal some of these miniature works of art or the photos - the historical society started to remove these for storage and display at the museum.  You can see the round metal where something was removed; sometimes just a shadow or slight indentation is the only hint that there was once an image of this beloved pet.

There were representations of the pet carved in headstone, sort of an engraved portrait.  Some of these are quite good, such as the parrot, the boxer, the cocker spaniel, and either a beagle or possibly a bloodhound.  But Pilgrim and his friend Chris, well, either the owners asked for caricatures of their cat and dog, or they just didn't find a very artistic stone cutter.  (Pilgrim's image makes me laugh, every time.)

"My Little Bummy" brings us to a new grouping of gravestones, those with religious symbols.  Bummy was obviously a cat, who now is sitting on the lap of St. Francis of Assissi, patron saint of all animals and especially pets.  Yes, it's adorable.  And yes, it's a bit odd, at least in my opinion.
I know, we all assume that our wonderful pets will go immediately to Heaven, how could they not?  They were the bestest dog or cat or hamster who ever lived.
And if our pets can get into our concept of Heaven, then of course those pets share our religion.  
Now, I understand this.  I bought my cat Daphne eight Chanukah presents one year.  I've always maintained that you can tell that cats are Jewish because there isn't any pork cat food.  Right?
But of course, I've always said that in a somewhat facetious way, laughing at myself.  Because I realize that I'm anthropomorphizing my cat, and that she most likely doesn't care one way or the other.  As long as she's fed, has a soft place to sleep, and plenty of toy mousies to chase.
So I find the religious symbols on pet gravestones equally amusing.  I know that the family has their religious beliefs, and they assume that their pet, as part of that family, is part of that belief system.

I'm just not quite ready to put those religious symbols on my pet's headstone.
But if it provides comfort for someone to know, in their heart, that their perfect dog or cat Susu or Bonbon is Jewish or Catholic or Hindu, well, who am I to say they're wrong?
It still amuses me.
So yes, a few more St. Francises, one who lost his head to a weed whacker. 

I should add that these religious gravestones were mixed in with all the others - there was no religious separation at this cemetery.

Then we have the full statues of pets.  Really.  These were my favorite, because some of them are really adorable, and show a lot of artistry.  This first dog has an internal wire armature, and then molded cement forms this cute little poodle.  It was once painted white, but with little black eyes and a little rosy pink tongue painted in.  How cute is that?  And what a lovely monument to someone's beloved poodle. 

I have no idea if this was sculpted specifically for this doggie's gravestone, or if someone in the area was making animals in cement sculpture.  There didn't seem to be an actual gravestone nearby, just the cement marker saying "Gigi."  But you'd think that if someone could afford a sculpture of their dog, they could also purchase a stone.  Who knows, maybe a replica of their little dog was enough, and they were happy to have just a little name marker.  Cute doggie though, right?

There were a few random sculptures that may or may not be pet related.  I'm not sure if these are a mama and baby deer, or possibly donkeys.  Not exactly realistic, but close enough to look like some kind of animal.  Again, no name, no marker, just a small sculpture in honor of a pet.

There were several cement cats, also once painted but now a bit chipped and eroding.  No names, no markers, just cats waiting patiently in the grass.

And then we have the really fancy pet sculptures, carved in stone or possibly in cement, I'm not sure.  Complete with the people's names, and a long quotation about the loyalty of dogs.  Yeah, this dog is a little too realistic for me.  And between the scattered cats and this very realistic dog, well, it brings to mind the ancient Egyptians, with mummified animals in with the pharaohs, as well as some of the statues of their gods.  Bastet, the female goddess of home, domesticity, fertility, birth - represented by a cat, or a woman with a cat head.  And Anubis, god of the afterlife, represented by a man with a dog head.  

In this cemetery, they make much more sense than they did in art history classes. 

We have one rather sad cat who seems to be contemplating its own gravestone, or who perhaps is missing its people as much as they miss their loving cat.

Another random contemplative cat, and then, quite odd, a frog.  A vaguely human-like frog, standing and smiling at people as they walk by.  I expect that some child had a pet frog who is now buried here, and the parents found a little garden statue of a frog to mark the grave and appease their grieving child.  I had to take photos of the front and back of this frog, because from the front he could be a turtle or some other cheerful reptile or amphibian.

There were several headstones with carved lambs or sheep on top, and several with a bas relief lamp carved into the front.  I have no idea if these really are pet lambs, although the one named "Lambie" very likely is indeed a lamb.  These possibly were the closest the stone cutter could get to a poodle.  My other thought is that lambs symbolize innocence and purity, especially in Christian faiths - perhaps lambs on gravestones are available for children's headstones.  Yes, I know these are morbid thoughts.  But in art, we deal with symbolism and iconography, and the multitude of lambs on gravestones in a pet cemetery led me to think that possibly this was a rather common headstone decoration.  So, well, either a bunch of lambs or buried here or lamb stones are easy to find.

I think the rest of the sculpture photos need little narrative.

Some of the artwork on the gravestones, and some of the pet names, we definitely of their time period. 

For anyone under about age 50, "My Little Margie" was a popular TV show in the 1950s.  Yes, this pet was named that before the show, but who knows, maybe the show was named for this pet.

"Dennis the Menace" was originally a comic strip, beginning in 1951.  Then it became a TV show in 1959.  

And of course, the most famous person named Bing was Bing Crosby - I can't imagine a better person to represent the years that Bing the pet lived than Bing the singer.

There were a couple of pets named Buster - possibly after Buster Keaton the silent movie actor, but more likely after Buster Brown shoes, which every child wore in my generation.  Buster Brown and his bullldog named Tige (and Buster's sweetie MaryJane) date back to a comic strip that began in 1902 - they were "adopted" for the shoe company in 1904.  Definitely part of the first half of the 20th century.

And then there are gravestones that just look like the art styles of that time period.  Some are reminiscent of book covers of that era, others look something like the architecture.  Really.  Look at the very geometric and linear designs of the Art Deco era:


And then during and after WWII, during both the pre- and post war years on through the baby boom, gravestones became more ornate and flowery once again, with more decorative lettering.

Some families have either groups of headstones for individual pets, and some have one gravestone for multiple pets buried here.  I don't want to even think about how they managed to do that.

There is even a family fortress for their three dogs!  I'm not kidding, I originally thought a horse was buried here, the walled off plot is so huge!

And then there's the theatre for a performing dog!  Really, Parradiddle Ben.  I never heard of him, but I suspect he pre-dates me.  "Show biz was his life and love and thus he lives still."  In a gravestone marked "Heavenly Theatre."  Excessive, ostentatious, and absolutely over the top.  But someone loved this dog and felt Parry deserved this remembrance.

I wanted to add links to a few more articles for those who are interested, and then I'll end with some photos of gravestones that were a bit different and unique.  None as wonderful as the sculptures, but interesting.

It was weird, quirky, sad, sweet, morbid, touching, and loving.  I have no other way to express it, this pet cemetery was peaceful and thought-provoking.  And at this time in our human history, it definitely is meaningful.

If you are in the area, it's worth a visit.  Just a quiet afternoon in the park, wandering around and saying hello to the animals who once lived here.  With plenty of pinecones and sticks for ghostly dogs, and birds or squirrels for both cats and dogs to chase.  Even an occasional golf ball.