As planes take off from or land in Columbus, they fly over many familiar staples of our city—The Shoe, Olentangy River, Leveque Tower, High Street.
But just beyond the northeast edge of the John Glenn International Airport grounds sits another long-standing, though lesser-known, landmark.
The Brown Pet Cemetery, located at 5031 Sawyer Rd., occupies what would otherwise be a quiet grassy knoll, if not for its proximity to the path of 737s. It was founded at some point in the 1920s—the oldest visible grave is dated 1925—by Walter A. Brown, a local veterinarian.
A cemetery association was formed in 1934, and Franklin County records show that the group formally filed for non-profit status in 1941.
The plot, which is equal parts well-maintained and overgrown, is the final resting place for more than 450 animals.
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Dogs and cats dominate, but other species are clearly welcome. Markers indicate the presence of at least two ducks, one songbird, and a donkey. Brown Pet Cemetery is even the burial site for a few animal veterans, including Sgt. Fleabite Smith.
Regardless of breed or brawn, all resting here appear to have been totally beloved by their human counterparts. Tombstones are adorned with everything from marbles and shells to bronze and ivory.
And whether professionally produced or DIY-ed, the memorials are equally touching signifiers of the same, special bond: that shared between human and animal.
A walk through the grounds is more than a remembrance of furry friends, though; it is also a remembrance of history. Pet names follow the cultural and historical influences of the times—Trixie and Dottie in the 30s turn into Lassie and Tippy in the 50s, which eventually become Fawn and Misty in the 70s.
Still, for most every popular trend there is a counterculture response. And the pet owners of Brown Cemetery offer no exception to this rule. There are just as many Bozos and Boobs and Barfys resting here as there are Pennies and Budds.
The articles of incorporation for the cemetery association expired in 1997, at which time the land was gifted to The Columbus Foundation. It’s hard to tell how active the grounds are today; burials appear to be few and far between since the turn of the century.
If you make a visit to this little-known but well-loved spot this spooky season, be prepared to be moved—and consider bringing some Kleenex.
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