Hallowed ground

Rare burial services offered at Anderson pet cemetery

Photos courtesy of Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow Pet Memorial Park and Crematory in Anderson (www.sleepyhollowpet.com) is dedicated to the dog that inspired its creation, Dominique.
<style type="text/css"> .content-image { box-shadow: none !important; } </style>

In 1986, Shasta County residents Kirk and Karen Sanders were so shocked to learn of the lack of aftercare services available for North State pets that they decided to take action. They became aware of the situation when Kirk’s mother’s dog, Dominique, was euthanized by a Shasta County vet at the end of her battle with cancer, and his mom was given limited choices.

“The vet told her the office could keep Dominique and dispose of the remains, or she could drive all the way to Sacramento for burial or a private cremation,” Karen said. “We couldn’t believe those were the only options, so we started looking into it and found out that was the case, and started moving toward addressing that.”

The Sanderses decided they wanted to help future grieving pet owners, and their answer was to open Sleepy Hollow Pet Memorial Park and Crematory in their home town of Anderson. They still run the business today, and Sanders estimates the stretch of rolling green grass and manicured gardens surrounding a picturesque pond is the final resting place for the intact bodies or cremains of 800 to 900 beloved pets. That number includes mostly cats and dogs, though Sanders said other companions interred there include a few monkeys, varied rodents, and a pot-bellied pig.

Karen said about half of those pets came from an earlier pet cemetery operated by Redding’s Haven Humane Society from the 1960s until about 1980. When the organization moved in 1988, the remains from the burial grounds (which were unpermitted and unofficial) were relocated to Sleepy Hollow.

To ensure their cemetery didn’t meet a similar fate, the Sanderses got all the proper use permits and had the land officially dedicated for cemetery use. And they’ve established an endowment fund to take care of the land in perpetuity, meaning nothing will happen to the remains after their human caretakers are gone. People who want their pets buried at the cemetery pay a one-time fee into that fund at the time of their pet’s interment.

Services offered include private cremations, which allow the cremains to be returned to the family, or group cremations, in which the ashes are buried en masse in one section of the cemetery. They also offer traditional burials, which require a casket and memorial marker, both also available on-site.

Costs for private and group cremations are based on the pet’s weight, and average $120-$240 for the private treatment or about $55 to $110 for the group option. Traditional burials for a small pet—Karen used a cat as an example—range from about $380 to $700, depending on extra services like a viewing or scheduled interment so the family can be present.

“Just like human burials, the request for traditional burials has been steadily decreasing over the years,” Karen said. “We find it’s not so much the cost, but people really want to have their pets at home, to scatter them in a favorite spot, bury the ashes or keep them.”

Karen added that some clients initially bury their pets at home, but want them relocated to Sleepy Hollow’s more permanent site when they move—sometimes years after the initial burial.

Most pet burials are simple and somber affairs attended by just a few family members, she said, though they can be more auspicious.

“The largest I’ve ever seen was from an elderly woman who invited all her friends, so there were about 25 ladies here,” she recalled.

Though local vets and other pet-centric organizations sometimes contract crematory services (Butte Humane Society, for example, contracts with Sacramento pet after-care company Koefran for cremations), official cemeteries and consumer-direct pet cremation services remain rare, with two cemeteries in Sacramento and another, Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park, in Napa. Efforts are apparently underway to turn a section of Skyway Memorial Park in Magalia into a pet cemetery, but the owners did not return calls from the CN&R as of press time.