Whether dachshund, Persian cat, dwarf hamster, rabbit, turtle, guinea pig or singing canary - most people's most faithful furry or feathered companions usually end up being shredded at a disposal facility with slaughterhouse waste and made into soap or biodiesel. For more discerning pet owners, however, whose love for their little friends goes beyond death, special pet cemeteries have sprung up to bring a little dignity to the distressing process. Here, animals can can be laid to rest in their own plots which the bereaved owners can visit to grieve their loss. In Berlin, a city with an unusually high proportion of people living on their own, pet ownership is widespread. Some 860,000 households owning one or more pets and the demand for burial plots for beloved pets has been rising. At the BÃ¤rliner Tierfriedhof (a play on the word 'BÃ¤r', or bear), a local pet cemetery in the affluent Steglitz neighbourhood, over 4,000 square metres and covered with tiny grave stones and memorials to peoples' favourite departed pets. Fading photographs and small grave stones jostle with sleeping clay figures of cats and miniature replica for space in the wooded graveyard.
The cemetery's website tastefully recommends itself with the words: "Your partner for grief and remembrance, when your pet has gone to sleep" and provides a helpful section on the history of grieving for pets which go back to ancient Egypt and consoled Frederic the Great, Prussia's founder and respected 18th century ruler.
Stefan Boness visited the calm park in southwestern Berlin to get a sense of what emotions attached to the occupants of this pet cemetery.