The other day as I approached Mount Avon Cemetery with my corgi, Clementine, another walker was leaving, so I asked her if she had seen the resident fawn that romps through city cemetery. I enjoy watching for her, and the young deer is curious about Clementine, whose reddish coloring and huge ears are similar.
“Yes, but you’re not supposed to walk a dog there,” the walker said.
Wow. That wasn’t the response I had expected. “I clean up after her,” I said. I carry a roll of baggies attached to the leash.
“You’re still not supposed to walk a dog there,” she said again as she brusquely walked off. I wasn’t sure if she disliked all dogs, or just dogs in the cemetery, or if she was simply one of those people who feels she has to set everyone else straight by announcing the rules.
To be fair, a sign on the gate reads “No Pets Please.” Then again, the maintenance workers have never asked us to leave. The city police who’ve passed us many times in their squad cars have never asked us to leave. In fact, one snowy morning the police arrived to unlock the gate just as Clementine and I walked up — they apologized for being late as they let us in. So, what’s the deal? Why does this woman care when no one else seems to mind?
The cemetery was platted in 1827; the earliest graves date 1817. Pioneers, farmers, merchants, inventors, and railroad workers are buried here, along with mill workers who used the water from Rochester’s three streams to grind grains, saw trees, and weave wool from the farms. Veterans from all U.S. wars, including the Toledo War, are here. When the Board of Health purchased the First Addition in 1853, it authorized the erection of a fence to keep straying cattle out. The Burial Book Minutes from May 21, 1850 reads: “Resolved that all Horses, Cattle, Sheep, and Hogs [be] excluded from running at large within the enclosure of said Burying Ground.” I don’t know when the “No Pets Please” sign was hung on the gate. Horses, sheep, cows and pigs could do a lot damage, running at large or small.
I can’t imagine Clementine’s little paws on the asphalt add much wear and tear. I imagine that’s the reason for the sign — the city doesn’t want the cemetery used as a fenced dog park.
I walk there several times a week. It gives me a sense of peace to I know I’m not alone in missing my son, or my mother and father. It’s astonishing, actually, to see how many children of all ages are buried here (then again, we’re all someone’s child). This is where I go to get away from the busyness of everyday life. It’s a sacred place that comforts my heart. It centers me. It grounds me. It calms me as I think about what it means to be alive.
I like having my best friend at my side.