Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery in Dedham, Massachusetts

Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery

The Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery occupies approximately ten pastoral acres on the campus of the Animal Rescue League of Boston in Dedham, Massachusetts. The organization’s founder, Anna Harris Smith, established the cemetery in 1907 and envisioned it as a complement to a shelter for abused and neglected animals. It was also a retirement home for Boston’s working horses. It’s the oldest continuously operating pet cemetery associated with an animal welfare organization in the United States.

Pine Ridge is the final resting place for over 20,000 pets and companion animals. They include dogs, cats, horses, birds, lizards, and rabbits. Adorning the graves are inscribed headstones and funerary decorations created and placed with the same care and attention to detail as human graves. The fact that most of the gravestones only display given names such as Bee, Princess, Toby, Miss Kitty, Caesar, Beau Beau, and Popcorn Weiner, makes them no less evocative.

Some monuments even include the animal’s likeness. Especially moving are the inscriptions that reflect the depth of love and devotion people felt for their deceased pets. Epitaphs such as, “If love could have saved you, you would have never died,” tear at the heartstrings. One of the most visited and quoted headstones is Dewey’s, a cat who passed away in 1910. It reads, “He was only a cat, but he was human enough to be a great comfort in hours of loneliness and pain.”

Towering oak, maple, and white pine trees shade the graves. Dry stone walls, covered in vines, border the oldest part of the cemetery, punctuated by a lovely stone gazebo. Although most graves hold cherished pets known to no one but their families, there are gravesites of pets to humans of some notoriety. Pine Ridge is home to Igloo’s grave, the beloved Fox Terrier who belonged to renowned polar explorer, Admiral Richard Byrd.

“Iggy” accompanied Byrd to the Arctic when he performed the first manned flight over the North Pole. He later accompanied the admiral on his two-year exploration of Antarctica and subsequent speaking tour. Byrd was heartbroken when Igloo died in Boston in April 1931. It’s believed the little dog accidentally ingested rat poison. A granite monument carved in the shape of an iceberg marks his grave. Its engraved epitaph reads, “He was more than a friend.”

In a secluded corner of Pine Ridge is the burial place of accused and acquitted murderess Lizzie Borden’s three Boston Terriers: Donald Stuart, Royal Nelson, and Laddie Miller. Borden was quite devoted to her pet dogs. She even had a little shelf built into her automobile so they could accompany her on chauffeured rides.

After Borden died in 1927, her dogs were disinterred from the Borden home yard and reburied in Pine Ridge. Their gravestone is a smaller version of the Borden family memorial stone in Fall River, Massachusetts. It’s inscribed, “Sleeping Awhile.”

Pine Ridge no longer offers pet burial or cremation services. However, it remains a beautiful place to visit and a moving reminder of the enduring bond between human beings and the animals with whom they share their lives.

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