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By Lacey Gardner

Hornell’s Friendship Hills Pet Cemetery: A Resting Place of Beloved Companions

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See the GALLERY of Friendship Hills

By: Johanna Elattar, photos by Syrena Lynn Carver

HORNELL, NY — Nestled atop Bald Hill, just beyond the bustling streets of Hornell, lies a timeless testament to the unbreakable bond between humans and their cherished animal companions.

Established in 1907 by the dedicated Mr. Frank Myers, the Friendship Hills Pet Cemetery has stood as a serene resting place for countless pets from across the county, etching its name into history as one of the oldest pet cemeteries in the United States.

Originally conceived to honor the memory of Mr. Myers’ beloved dog Trix, the cemetery’s legacy has blossomed into a sanctuary for a diverse array of animal friends, transcending species and stories.

Today, it cradles the remains of over 900 creatures, ranging from loyal canines and feline friends to the unexpected inclusion of canaries, monkeys, a horse, and even a lion.

The heartwarming tale of Friendship Hills Pet Cemetery began with Frank L. Myers, who secured the land with a singular purpose in mind: to provide a dignified resting place for his departed canine companions. As word of his mission spread, friends and fellow pet owners were soon welcomed to join the endeavor, turning a personal tribute into a community sanctuary.

Following Myers’ passing in 1934, the stewardship of the cemetery passed into the hands of the Steuben County Humane Society, which has lovingly maintained the grounds ever since. Beneath the canopy of towering trees, amid an eclectic collection of tombstones, lies a serene tableau of memory and love, where between 800 and 900 animals from across the nation find eternal peace.

Though its roots were grounded in a canine companionship, Friendship Hills has evolved into a final resting place for creatures of all kinds. Cats, canaries, monkeys, and a regal lion find their eternal solace beside their canine counterparts. Many pet owners, touched by the sanctuary’s tranquil beauty, have already reserved plots for their future companions.

A remarkable tribute graces the grounds: a substantial cement tablet bearing the famous eulogy to a dog by Senator George Vest. An exquisite statue of an Indian, erected in 1935 by Mary Agnes Leahy and James Houlihan, stands as a tribute to Mr. Myers’ enduring legacy.

Notable among the heartwarming stories engraved in stone is that of “Baron Von Schnaps,” a German police dog who served as the U.S.S. Lexington’s cherished mascot before the ship’s tragic demise. “Mr. Bum,” mascot of the U.S.S. Texas, and “Swaller,” the fire department’s loyal companion, also rest here, their legacies etched into the very earth that holds them.”Trixie”, another famous firedog noted for leaping 65 feet from a ladder and landing in a net. He died in 1909.

Each year on Decoration Day, a flood of colorful blooms adorns the graves, and visitors from near and far pay their respects to the departed companions, regardless of ownership. One marker is for a beloved cat, inscribed with the words “Prince died September 20, 1936, Black as coal, Heart of Gold,” is a poignant reminder of the enduring bond between humans and animals.

Amidst the assortment of canines, felines, avians, and various diminutive companions finding repose at Friendship Hills, it has come to my attention through conversations with seasoned denizens of Hornell that within the grounds lie not only dogs and cats but also an intriguing tale of an elephant and a tiger interred during the 1930s. This peculiar resting place harks back to a time when the circus graced the town’s presence, marking the unfortunate demise of a couple of its exotic occupants.

The cemetery’s caretaker, and cremation specialist, Shelby Moore, is a newly hired tireless steward, who tends to every aspect of the hallowed grounds. This caretaker’s devotion ensures that the resting place remains a serene haven for all time.

The Humane Society of Hornell provides interment services at our pet graveyard, Friendship Grove, catering to families seeking a more conventional approach to commemorating their pet. An interim gravestone accompanies the interment services, serving as a marker for your pet’s ultimate resting site. Please visit https://www.hornellanimalshelter.org/cremation-and-burial-services to learn more about The Humane Society of Hornell’s cremation and burial services for pets.

Amid the hushed whispers of rustling leaves and beneath the comforting shade of ancient trees, Friendship Hills Pet Cemetery offers a tranquil space for reflection, remembrance, and the celebration of lives that brought joy to the world. It stands as a timeless tribute to the unwavering bond between humans and their cherished animal companions, a bond that transcends time and touches the very soul.

Johanna Elattar is a Hornell NY based writer with international perspective and experience. Read more about her in a recent biography feature.

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