Rest in peace, Schmelly. Knuckle-head, you’re in parakeet paradise. And aloha, Woody—you were one great weiner dog.
A detour under a highway might not sound like an appealing destination. But next time you take a walk along San Francisco's Presidio Promenade, consider making a stop at the pet cemetery, reopened in the last year after temporarily shuttering for the reconstruction of Doyle Drive.
The cemetery dates back to 1952, when it served as a final resting place for pets of the military families that lived in the Presidio. It was originally cared for by local Boy Scouts, who would bury pets and make grave markers for a small fee. The cemetery was almost full in 1963, and by the mid ’70s, it closed to new burials and began to fall into decline.
In 1978, an article in the Star Presidian newsletter revealed that a retired member of the Navy named Ken had taken up caring for the pet cemetery. While requesting to remain anonymous, the mysterious good Samaritan described using his retirement pay to buy new paint and lumber to replace rotting markers. Michael Lamb, historic landscape architect at the Presidio Trust, has a hunch as to how to identify signs refurbished by Ken. One that reads “The Love These Animals Gave Will Never Be Forgotten” is in suspiciously good condition considering its age.
The cemetery has been under stewardship of the Presidio Trust since 1998. Over the last 20 years, it’s relied on volunteers and veterans for minor maintenance and upkeep. They reinforced the old, failing fence a couple of times and cut back an invading ice plant, and there were one or two community work days to clean up the site. Other than that, not much else has been done. But as Lamb explains, “With the established trees and the seasonal grasses from the winter rains, the site took on a rough appearance that actually contributed to its charm.”