The oldest grave markers at the half-acre Presidio Pet Cemetery are from the early 1950’s when 2,200 army families were residents. Lieutenant General Joseph Swing was the Presidio commander and he received credit for authorizing the pet cemetery. Many of the military people who buried their pets don’t remember any Army regulations so they buried their animals in this spot because other people had already put their dead pets there. Surrounded by a plain white picket fence, the Presidio Pet Cemetery at the corner of McDowell Avenue and Cowles Street is an easy place to find by walking along the Presidio Promenade after parking at the Cavalry Stables near the Park Archives.
Most of the pet grave markers reflect the military lifestyle of the animals and some of the markers list their birthplaces including Germany, England, Australia and China. Many markers also include the owner’s military rank including generals, colonels and majors. Other makers simply contain an epitaph such as "A GI pet. He did his time." As you might see in typical military cemeteries, there are also markers to unknowns. The Presidio Pet Cemetery is
a testament to the love and affection all the owners had for their pets. A Presidio Trust volunteer assembled a 468-page report that documents each of the cemetery’s 424 graves along with photographs, charts, and records of the condition of the graves.
On the tombstones you can read the inscriptions written by the pet owners for their dogs, cats, birds, and even hamsters and goldfish. Small plaques were written with sentiments such as "Skipper, the best damn dog we ever had - 1967” or "Our Best Friend Sammi". Sammi was a cat who lived almost 20 years of nomadic military life and his image was immortalized on porcelain inset into a bronze plaque. Near the fenced entrance, a simple gravestone says it best: “The love these animals gave will never be forgotten.”
During the 1970’s, the Presidio Pet Cemetery was neglected. But there’s a legend that an anonymous Navy man became an unofficial caretaker during those years. He is believed to have repaired the headstones and repainted the picket fence. It’s also believed that this unknown Navy man installed the military caution sign located at the cemetery entrance. In 2001 the Presidio Trust appointed Swords to Plowshares, a non-profit organization, as the official cemetery caretaker and its local Presidio affiliate maintains the pet cemetery now. The Presidio Pet Cemetery is also maintained at various times by volunteers from the Presidio Trust and the Boy Scouts of America.
Peter Cross is an accomplished article writer and creative writer who has produced hundreds of articles for many different clients since 2006 when he retired from his consulting business.