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O.C. Sights

When It's Time to Say R.I.P. Rover; Farewell, Fluffy; Bye-Bye Birdie

October 12, 2000|CHRIS CEBALLOS

It is probably the most consistently decorated cemetery in Orange County.

Wedged between a Carl's Jr. and an Albertson's, the 3.5-acre Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery in Huntington Beach is the final resting place for about 38,000 animals.

Most are cats and dogs. But there are also rabbits, birds, turtles, chimpanzees, and even fish and salamanders.

John Wayne's German shepherd is buried there, along with Karen Carpenter's dogs and Jose Feliciano's goat. There's even a rare South American terabarber, which general manager Terri Stiles describes as a cross between an anteater and weasel.

A large number of service animals, mainly police dogs, are buried at Sea Breeze. A monument to Old Sarge, a bomb-sniffing dog credited with saving the lives of many U.S. Marines in World War II, is one of the only above-ground monuments in the cemetery.

"We do have a lot of K9 service pets, and for the most part they're cremated and their ashes are scattered in our gardens," Stiles said. "It's really an awesome sight to see one of those burials. . . . [Officers] come from all over California, sometimes from Nevada and Arizona, and with their dogs."

Having been asked the question many times, Stiles thinks she has a pretty good explanation for why people are so devoted to their deceased pets. "We've come to the conclusion that when a person buries a human, they have to," she says. "But with a pet, they don't have to do anything. The pets here are buried out of the love of the owner, not a sense of obligation to do something."

Stiles says it isn't unusual to have former owners visit Sea Breeze more than the grave sites of relatives.

"It's one of those things that with a pet, all they give you is love," she said. "There's a bond that a lot of times humans can't make between each other."

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