I can’t remember when I learned that the cemetery of dogs (officially Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques / the Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) outside of Paris was the oldest pet cemetery in the world – in 2019, the cemetery was celebrating 120 years – but you can bet that as soon as it was known to me, it was on the itinerary for our Paris trip. Beginning in 2016, I have photographed in at least 15 pet cemeteries across the United States. While I had been considering my series of pet cemetery photographs complete, I really wanted to see a pet cemetery in another country. So this was something I was really, really looking forward to.
From our apartment, we walked to Montparnasse Cemetery – Nathaniel had seen it driving by and wanted to have a look. My stomach was starting to feel upset (it’s an ongoing theme, bear with me) and I wanted to catch an Uber and get going to the pet cemetery, so we didn’t spend too much time in this human cemetery. It’s a bummer because Montparnasse is home to the graves of Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, Baudelaire, Man Ray, etc. I think it was about a 45-minute Uber ride to the Clichy area – thanks, transport strike! – and while our driver (like all our drivers in Paris) didn’t speak English, he did communicate that he thought it was odd he was picking us up in a cemetery and dropping us off in a cemetery (and when we told him we were going to a pet cemetery, he gave us an inquisitive “Woof”).
Even with the sparse, wintry vegetation and with no cats in sight (I’d read that we were bound to encounter plenty of living cats, who like to sun themselves on the tombs), being there felt magical. Only one or two other people were visiting while we were there. I knew I couldn’t spend time with every grave, so I tried to just listen to my gut (not the upset part, lol) as we made several walk-throughs. At the entrance of the cemetery is a monument to Barry, a Saint Bernard who died in 1814 after a life spent saving 40 or 41 people who were lost or trapped in the snow. Barry is not buried at the cemetery – his preserved body is on display at the Natural History Museum of Bern, in Switzerland – but Rin Tin Tin is! It took us a while to spot his grave, as it honestly doesn’t really stand out from those for rabbits, horses, monkeys, a Fennec fox, and a cat who would eat kibble out of its owner’s hand.
After our time at the pet cemetery, we took an Uber to Champs-Élysées, where we had lunch, and then we walked to the Eiffel Tower. It was… so much more impressive than I was expecting?! From there took an Uber to see Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company, and Sainte-Chapelle – all just the exterior. Photos from all that coming soon.