“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
-Charles M. Schulz
I love dogs. Love them. I love tugging gently on their floppy, furry little ears. I love the nose-nuzzle they do when they’re vying for a dose of your affection. I love the warm, cozy smell of a dog’s belly when it unfurls after a long sleep. I love how it looks like they’re smiling when they pant. I love how they hold nothing back: dog joy is unbridled, boundless joy; dog longing is a full-body, unashamed longing; dog love is pure, selfless, unselfconscious love. Not to mention that dogs are just damn cute.
During a somewhat random exploration of an industrial corner of Tempelhof this week, dog-loving me made an unexpected dog discovery: the Berliner Tierfriedhof, the Berliner pet cemetery. Semper fidelis is the Latin slogan posted at the entrance: Always faithful.
Inside the cemetery, the little graves were adorned lovingly with flowers, photos, mementos, laminated poems and notes, gravestones inscribed with words more deeply grieving, more real, than anything I’ve ever seen on a human’s gravestone. Mein treuer Begleiter. Unsere geliebten Babys. Du goldenes Herz. Which led me to thinking: Why is it I have never once been moved like this by a regular old cemetery, but these little graves made tears spring to my eyes? It’s the same reason why death aplenty on television and in movies doesn’t faze me, but if there’s an animal about to die, I simply cannot bear to watch.
It was near sunset, and as I was getting ready to leave, so was the only other person in the cemetery, an elderly woman who had been busily tending a grave. Four gravestones were on it, amidst a lush explosion of tulips and primroses. In parting, the woman leaned down to touch the four stones one after the other, saying, “Tschüss, meine Liebe,” as her hand brushed each one. Once all four had been bidden farewell, she blew them kisses, started to walk away–stopped, turned back, waved goodbye once more, and then left.
Berliner Tierfriedhof: Schätzelbergstr. 11 | Website