The first known war dog buried at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery was “Staff,” who fought with an unnamed American unit in World War I. He was wounded by German artillery, but French surgeons stitched him back together again. Two bullets remained embedded in his leg. His mate, “Fritzie,” also fought in the war. Staff died in 1925; Fritzie died six years later in 1931.1
Around 1901, Dr. David E. Buckingham, a veterinarian, established a pet cemetery in a wooded area of Washington, D.C. east of Mt. Olivet Cemetery. The land is now part of the U.S. National Arboretum.
In an earlier post about Dr. Buckingham, I mentioned looking for this pet cemetery in 2020, without success. On February 23, 2021, I searched again, accompanied by an architectural historian and an archaeologist who had additional information about where the cemetery might be. This time, we had better luck. I found the site of the pet cemetery, but alas there is nothing left but two old gate posts.
Dr. Buckingham picked a lovely spot for his pet cemetery. It’s on the side of a hill overlooking (in the distance) Kingman Lake and the northern section of Kingman Island. Farther out, you can see the Anacostia River.
Perhaps there are still dogs and cats buried there, but there were no visible grave markers. Any further investigation of the site would probably require the approval of the Federal government, something I’m not inclined to pursue. It’s probably better to let it return to nature. Still, I’m glad I got to see it, and its beautiful vantage point.
“Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery: 100 Years of Pets, People, and the Stories Behind the Stones,” by Julianne Mangin. The Montgomery County Story, Fall 2020, vol. 63 no. 2. pp. 1-21.
Published by Montgomery History (formerly known as the Montgomery County Historical Society).
This is the most comprehensive history of the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery to date. Print copies can be obtained from Montgomery History. This issue will be available in PDF once the next issue is published.
Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery: 100 Years of Pets, People, and the Stories Behind the Stones is a virtual talk that was given for the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD on September 26, 2020.
Two options for viewing:
This photograph, from 1926, shows the beginning of section 2 of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. The cornfield in the background is approximately where the intersection of Wendy Lane and Athania Street is now.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson had three of his dogs cremated at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery during his years at the White House. These included his most famous dogs, beagles named “Him” and “Her.” They were litter mates who were born in on June 27, 1963.
Him and Her became famous after an incident during a press conference on April 27, 1964. President Johnson lifted “Him” by the ears, causing him to yelp. An Associated Press photographer was present and the photo was published the next day in the Washington Post. 1 People across the country were outraged at what they felt was President Johnson’s abuse of his dog. The furor died down eventually, as it became obvious that the president was a devoted dog lover (although he continued to believe it was okay to lift a beagle up by its ears). 2
Sadly, Him and Her both died young. “Her” died in on November 27, 1964 when she swallowed a stone. Surgeons tried to remove it, but she died on the operating table. “Him” died on June 15, 1966 after being run over by a car on the White House grounds. After their cremations at Aspin Hill, the remains of both dogs were sent to the LBJ Ranch in Texas for burial. 3
While studying the burial registers for Aspin Hill Memorial Park, I noticed an entry with the notation “removed from Dr. Buckingham’s cemetery.” This was written in the space usually reserved for the name of the veterinarian who brought the animal to the cemetery. Who was Dr. Buckingham, and where was his cemetery? Continue reading Dr. Buckingham’s Pet Cemeteries
I was recently notified that I have been selected to receive an Excellence in Preservation award for the documentation of and advocacy for preservation of the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. The award will be presented at the 2019 Annual Montgomery County Awards for Preservation at a ceremony and reception on Saturday afternoon, March 14, 2020, at historic Grace United Methodist Church, 119 North Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg.
If you would like to attend, please RSVP via email to firstname.lastname@example.org The event and reception are free, but donations are welcomed.
This is an old article on the history of the pet cemetery. For the latest, go to this page: https://petcemeterystories.net/aspin-hill-history/
Business boomed during the years that S. Alfred Nash owned the cemetery. He buried around 10,000 pets during the 13 years that he was there. Mr. Nash and his wife, Martha, were said to have had between 200 and 300 pets of their own while they lived at Aspin Hill. In addition to several dogs, they had ducks, peacocks, goats, a turkey, and even a Shetland pony. Continue reading Aspin Hill Memorial Park 1975 to the Present