Home / Living in China / What's New Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Every dog has its day
Adjust font size:

Zhang Lei and her parents stop at a small clearing in the woods, an hour's drive from the city.

Clutching a bunch of roses and a white plastic bag, they stop in front of a 4-sq-m tomb, surrounded by a small green patch and four poplar trees.

"Today is your birthday. We have brought you your favorite food," Zhang says in front of the tombstone.

She carefully wipes the dust off it and touches it tenderly.

The lettering on the tombstone reads: "Though your life was short, it was still very gorgeous We love you forever."

Zhang Lei visits the burial site of her Schnauzer dog on its birthday. [China Daily]

Zhang takes out the birthday cake, two cartons of milk, some lychees, jerky and a bottle of water and places them in front of the tombstone.

Then she kneels down and lights a candle. Her parents stand beside her and they all break out into the birthday song.

The family has gathered to remember their Schnauzer dog.

Zhang's mother says she got him from a friend in 2005 and from day one, raised him like the baby of the family.

"You can't imagine how lively and cute Zhu Zai was. He was always very gentle and well behaved. He would cheer us up when we were upset and never entered any room without permission," she says.

However, one day last May, the dog suddenly collapsed and, within a week, died from polio.

His death was a huge blow to the family. Though it is more than a year since Zhu Zai died, Zhang and her parents haven't got over it yet.

Wanting to find a decent burial place for him, they scoured the Internet for a pet cemetery and finally found Chen Shaochun's Baifu pet cemetery, located in northern Beijing's Changping district.

Chen decided to build this cemetery in 2000 when he saw a man throw a dead dog into the trash.

"I was very angry when I saw this. Dead animals not only pose a health risk but not disposing off their bodies properly also shows off disrespect to them."

The scene kept playing on his mind and he finally decided to change his contracted woodland into a cemetery for pets.

"I figured that the remains of the animals would promote the growth of the trees, and I would also be giving people a way to remember their pets," says Chen.

"Pets establish a deep bond with their owners and a pet cemetery could help continue this emotional link," he adds.

The Zhangs decided to bury their dog in the Baifu cemetery after their first visit.

"I felt my baby would not be lonely if we left him here, for he has many companions," Zhang says.

More than 1,300 pets are buried here and many tombs are surrounded by a small fence decorated with flowers, and a man-made green patch strewn with pet toys such as bones and other chewables. The tombstones comprise two parts - one has the pet's photo with its name and the other, the owners' eulogy.

While almost every tombstone has words expressing the owners' love, a poet from Taiwan has inscribed two poems on the back of the tombstones for his two dogs.

Zhang is also planning to spruce up her dog's tomb, on which she has already spent more than 8,000 yuan ($1,170).

"I want to replace the green patch with bricks as the color can fade in the rain," she says.

Like at a cemetery for human bodies, Baifu too offers services such as a mortician and a tombstone carver.

The cemetery holds pet burial ceremonies almost every weekend, most of which are very formal. Besides sweeping the tombs in the cemetery, owners can also mourn their pets on the cemetery website. Visitors often light "candles", present "flowers", and write articles to recall and mourn their beloved pets.

Statistics from the Beijing Small Animal Protection Association show that the capital had more than 600,000 registered pet dogs and 500,000 cats in 2007, which means at least 1 million city families keep pets.

The annual death rate of pets is put at 8 percent, that is, about 100,000 cats and dogs die in the city each year.


Baifu pet cemetery in Beijing's Changping district is the resting place for more than 1,300 pets. [China Daily] 

According to Lu Di, director of the association, the boom in pet cemeteries reflects the rising demand for such services. Ensuring that the animals are buried properly also helps guard against pollution, for self-burials or dumping dead animals in garbage dumps can easily spread disease-causing bacteria, he adds.

But the burials do not come cheap. For example, they vary anywhere between 1,000 yuan and 2,000 at Chen's Baifu cemetery. Owners have to pay 200 yuan to adopt a tree and pay 50 yuan per year as the cemetery's management fee for a 1 sq-m space.

Chen recalls that there were only eight pets buried at Baifu the first year. The number climbed to 15 in the second. And so far this year, more than 500 pets have been laid to rest.

In the past nine years, since Chen established the Baifu cemetery, more than 20 pet cemeteries have come up all over the city.

Chen believes his 120-mu (8 hectares) woodland has enough space to last many more years. His cemetery has not only dogs and cats but also monkeys, ducks, rabbits, fish and even snakes.

(China Daily July 9, 2009)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read Bookmark and Share
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Pet owners beware of draft law for animals
- Dog license hearing for pet owners
- Citizen wardens to ease pet woes
- Pet tortoise grows up to 40kg in S China
- AT-AT pet from the Star Wars films
- Pet dogs make mess of streets, need toilets