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As its name suggests, Le Cimetière des Chiens in Asnières-sur-Seine just outside of Paris is dominated by dogs, but cats, horses, monkeys and other animals are buried in the cemetery as well. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track attraction that even many Parisians haven’t seen, or if you’re a animal lover, this serene and beautiful attraction may call to you.
When it opened in 1899, the cemetery was the first pet cemetery in the world. It began by catering to a largely upper-class clientele who spared no expense on memorials for their companions. Today visitors of all kinds come year-round to pay their respects and satisfy their curiosity.
At the entrance there is a huge sculpture of a Saint Bernard, Barry, seen carrying a child on its back. Barry saved the lives of 40 people in the Alps before he died attempting a 41st rescue. There is also a large tombstone with a statue of a German Shepherd that memorializes all of the police dogs who have died in action.
The grave for U.S. canine film and television star Rin Tin Tin (1918-1932) is another main attraction.
For those too young to know, Rin Tin Tin was a puppy found in a neglected kennel in the Lorraine region of France during WWI by Lee Duncan, an American serviceman who adopted him.
When Duncan returned to the States with Rin Tin Tin, their story was heard by film producer Darryl Zanuck, who made Rin Tin Tin a film star. Legend has it Rin Tin Tin died in the arms of actress Jean Harlow. After his death in 1932, Rin Tin Tin’s remains were returned to his homeland and he was buried in Le Cimetière. His grave is nearly always adorned with flowers and other tokens left by well-wishers.
There are hundreds of grand statues now over a century old that reflect the bond between humans and their beloved pets. Stroll the grounds to read heartfelt tributes and accolades. Some have photographs of pets and their owners, while others are simple markers.
Startling to some are the large numbers of feral cats who wander the property. Don’t be surprised to see volunteers tending to these poor creatures as they honor those now past.
In addition to the pet graves, the site merits a visit for its beautiful location along the Seine and the wonderful Art Nouveau-style stone entrance. The large trees provide beautiful surroundings and the tranquility of the river’s water provides a somber, reflective background for this final resting place of beloved animals.Among the many curiosities is the grave of Renaissance Woman (and cemetery co-founder) Marguerite Durand‘s pet lion. Whether you are a lover of animals, parks, or the bizarre, this cemetery will be worth the visit.
4, pont de Clichy, 92600 Asnières-sur-Seine
Métro: Line 13, Mairie de Clichy
RER: Lines J and L, Gare d’Asnières sur Seine
Open: Daily (except Mondays) 10am—6pm from March 16 to Oct 15 and 10am—4:30pm from Oct 16 to March 15
Admission: Begins at €3,50
PHOTO CREDITS: Tombe de Liang [intro] ©Xavier de Jauréguiberry; Antique postcard is public domaine image; Other photos (Barry’s statue, Rin Tin Tin’s marker & volunteer feeding cats) courtesy of Purr-n-Fur
Adam Weiner is an Editorial Assistant for BonjourParis.
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