Most numerous are the lap dogs. Ching. Chee-Chee. Tuffet Punker. Bok Choy. Caesar Snookums. The stones often say: "My Little Baby" or "Until We Meet Again." Cats are outnumbered, and their inscriptions are brief and measured, carefully avoiding eternal feline disdain.
Some headstones mark collective graves. Putsy, Billy, Toby, Mickey, and Spunky rest together under one stone bearing the inscription: "We'll Never Forget You." They were parakeets. Cotton and Krinken, born November 15, 1971, wound up here within a few weeks of each other five years later under the words: "You taught us how to love." Guinea pigs.
The woman stands looking down at the flowers on Mergie's grave. She says, "When we knew he was going, I wrote him a letter and read it to him as he lay there on his blanket. I told him I was going to leave it up to him that night. I didn't want to make the decision of when to go for him. The next morning he was gone.
"We got him when he was 4 months old. He saved my life in the surf once in the Virgin Islands. When one of our friends was working on the renovation of the St. Paul Hotel, he called up and said they found a scrawny stray cat in the rubble and did we want it. We said sure, and that's how we got Fudman. The two of them were great friends. Chased each other around the house. When Mergie would have enough, he'd just sit on Fuddy until the cat calmed down." Now the dog is sitting on the cat forever. Fudman went into the plot at Memorial last year.
Back outside the cemetery, a bloated raccoon carcass rests on its back alongside a newly constructed median on Route 96. This week workmen have been rolling out sod in the median. Raccoons have come every night and rolled the sod back up, picking grubs from the moist, exposed soil. Something like the new fast-food drive-throughs farther down the road. Steep price for the grub combo, though.