Le Cimetière des Chiens (dog cemetery) might not be a famous Paris cemetery, and it certainly isn’t in the most central Parisian location, but it is worth travelling to. It’s to be found on the outskirts of Paris at Asnières-sur-Seine and really I can give no better directions than those at Europe for Visitors Do take these with you, as it’s tricky to find.
We managed to see the cemetery on our second visit. The first time we exited the Metro at Mairie de Clichy we were greeted by a torrential downpour. We did start on the 15 minute walk to the cemetery from there but were forced back through fear of drowning.
We went back, however, as I thought this, supposedly the oldest animal cemetery in the world, was well worth writing up in Quirky Travel (I wonder why the Egyptian burials of cats aren’t counted in the oldest category?)
The fact is, this isn’t just a dog cemetery. Officially opened in 1899 after the introduction of a law whereby the public were no longer allowed to chuck their dead animals out the window or into the nearest Seine, it’s home to horse, lions, fish, cats and birds and a monkey called Kiki.
A beautiful gateway forms the entrance to this charming necropolis and was designed by architect Eugène Petit in the then fashionable Art Nouveau style, and the long cemetery runs alongside the Seine in a neat and picturesque fashion.
Famous residents aren’t just the preserve of Père-Lachaise – oh no. The Cimetière des Chiens boasts a monument to the heroic Saint Bernard Barry who died in 1814, having saved 40 souls while working with the Great St Bernard Hospice in Switzerland. To this day the hospice keeps a dog called Barry in memory of the wonderdog.
The Hollywood star of the 1920s and 30s, Rin Tin Tin, is also buried at Asnières-sur-Seine, his body having been transferred from Hollywood after his death in the arms of Jean Harlow (or so the story goes).
Something we loved about the cemetery was the presence of living animals. As in many Parisian cemeteries, cats have made their home here – and there’s even a maison des chats to shelter them from the aforementioned torrential rain in the region ;o) The provision of food and cleaning of the house is carried out on a daily basis by kind-hearted volunteers.
This is an outing much recommended for a slightly different, quiet wander – and the gravestones to these much-loved pets are absolutely fascinating and just as much a piece of history as those of their owners.
Address of Cimitière des chiens
4 Pont de Clichy
Asnières-sur-Seine, Île-de-France, France
Metro: Mairie de Clichy