In 1948, Evelyn Waugh published a hilarious novel starring a young poet employed at a funeral home specializing in domestic animals. “What do most customers say? Burn it with little expense, Mr. Schultz, the minimum necessary”, Mr. Schultz himself gets annoyed at a certain moment in history before the young poet. He does not understand why such disdain when it comes to burying a pet that has done nothing but adore him when he would be able to spend a fortune to bury a relative who had done nothing but hate him. Assumpció Padró is not Mr. Schultz, but he knows what he is talking about. He has been running his own pet cemetery for some time. The first animal cemetery in Spain. Called, curiously, after Waugh’s novel: The loved ones.
“I haven’t heard of her,” says Padró, opening the creaking iron gate that gives access to the cemetery where more than 11,000 pets rest. The place where it is located has something of Ludlow, the fictional Maine town where Stephen King placed his Pet Sematary, the most famous and macabre of animal cemeteries that have ever existed. Located in a wooded area, in the municipality of Torrelles de Llobregat (Barcelona), there are, on the way, houses here and there, and a winding road without a shoulder that seems to be getting away from everything and, in reality, it is. The last section is unpaved and has no exit. You can only hear the singing of the birds, the barking of the Golden Retriever that lives with the three Ukrainian families sheltered in a nearby house, and the clicking of the dead leaves that cannot avoid stepping on everywhere.
There was no burial that day, and Sebastià, the gardener who takes care of the enclosure, full of cypresses, with tree-lined paths between the tombstones and small niches, will have answered the occasional call. “We usually have a couple a day,” says Assumpció, while he lights a cigarette. It was her father who founded the cemetery, in 1972. “I was 13 years old, it didn’t seem strange to me,” she recalls. Her father wanted to bury the family dog, Bold font, and had nowhere to do it. Wherever she buried her she could end up being dug up at any moment. In Torrelles they were dedicated and still are dedicated to the cultivation of cherries. “His friend Josep then told my father why not use part of his land to set up a pet cemetery. It seemed like a good idea to him, and that’s how it started,” he says.
the tombstone Bold font is simple. She doesn’t even put her name. can only be readMay we oblidarem” —”We will never forget you”— because, says Assumpció, “in there is not only Bold font but all the pets we have had since then. In fact, the grave that houses a single pet is rare. Once you rent a niche or a grave you can officiate as many burials in it as you need. The client pays a price for the burial (ranging from 90 to 149 euros), and an annual fee for the niche (the smallest is 35 euros, the largest is 70) and for the grave (also of 70). “We have a client who often buries guinea pigs, and every time she buries one, she comes with a box full of flies. She says that her husband is a brute of hers and that he kills them and that she feels sorry for them and that she keeps them in the freezer to bury them with the next guinea pig, ”says Padró.
As in every cemetery, there are famous dead. The most famous of all is Dan, a Red Cross German shepherd who saved 56 people in the attack on the Scala nightclub in Barcelona. “That burial was massive,” recalls Assumpció who, at that time, 1980, was 21 years old. “The son of one of the survivors still comes once a year to visit the grave,” she says next. He whispers because a customer just walked in. “That man comes every day,” he says. “His wife and his children died in the fire at his house. He doesn’t know how, the dog managed to get him out. And then he went in for the children, and he didn’t come out anymore. He has asked us that, when he dies, we remove the remains of the animal and bury him with him, ”he says. The niche is crammed with Christmas motifs. What he does when he goes up the stairs is rearrange what’s inside, and keep quiet, looking at it.
When in 1989 it was released animal graveyard, the film based on the famous Stephen King novel in which an old Indian burial ground, a Micmac burial ground, brings back to life every pet—and not just a pet—that is buried in it, “they called a bunch of kids, who They asked to visit him.” “And we opened a couple of Sundays for them,” recalls Assumpció, who also did not know that the film was based on a novel. And has he ever thought about turning the place into a tourist attraction? After all, it is close to Catalunya en Miniatura, a sort of theme park that attracts tourists on a daily basis. “They have offered it to us many times, but it doesn’t seem right to me. People come here to be alone, to say goodbye to their pets, not to put on any show. When we started, we charged admission precisely so that no one would come just because, ”she recalls.
Remember that there were those who came to laugh at those who buried their pets. “Then it was not understood, there were those who found it funny that someone loved their pet enough to bury it. So we decided that if someone wanted to enter because they did, they had to pay 125 pesetas ”, he says. At that time, other types of animals were buried—always without a coffin, and the day after their death. “There was a monkey, at least 12 snakes, chameleons, iguanas. Today there are mostly cats and dogs, but also rabbits, a few chickens, a duck, and the rarest thing, three ponytails ”, he lists. The saddest burials are those of guide dogs. “The owners feel that a part of their life is missing,” says Assumpció, before the grave of Ladyaccording to the inscription, “the only one who has loved me.”
In the small windowless office in the compound there is a fridge, but there are no pet remains in it, as there were in El Más Dichoso de los Cotos de Caza, the funeral home specializing in domestic animals in The loved ones, by Evelyn Waugh, but water bottles. In the brochure, old photographs, and a view of the entrance in the decade in which she still had an English name, The Loved Ones. It is in the afternoon, a Saturday at the end of June. There are chewed-up rubber toys instead of flowers in the niches — “Adéu, Scrappy”; “Laika, my faithful girl”; images of dogs behind the wheel, and a Doc here and a Socks there—and a tiny cross between a grocer sniffing. “It’s the hot, lives in the farmhouse next door, and is always around here”, says Assumpció, who has lit a cigarette again. The birds continue to sing.