CAPE GIRARDEAU — Like other cemeteries, stone angels, marble grave markers and wooden crosses dot the lawn at Cedar Hills Pet Cemetery.
At some of the grave sites, loved ones have left behind elaborate floral arrangements; other sites are surrounded by brick cobblestones or wrought iron fences.
Chew toys adorn more than one burial site, and some families have purchased adjoining plots so their pets can rest near one another.
In the 19 years that the 1.3-acre property off Highway 177 in Cape Girardeau County has been a pet cemetery, numerous small animals, ranging from dogs and cats to rodents and birds, have been laid to rest on the grounds, owner Alaina Hinze said.
'My babies are there'
Laura Weller visits the cemetery yearly to place something new on the grave markers of her three dogs, she said.
Recently, Weller placed twin ceramic statues of dogs to mark the grave site of Midnight, her Lab mix, who died in 2004.
"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," Weller said.
Midnight's gravestone is engraved with a picture of a squirrel to remind Weller of one of her favorite stories about her dog: the time he shared his food with a squirrel that wandered into his yard. An inscription reads, "Forever in our hearts."
"My babies are there," Weller said, looking at the gravestones.
Priceless, yet worthless
Hinze said more than once she's taken a late-night call to console a pet owner who recently lost a companion and is looking for a sympathetic ear.
Hinze, who purchased the cemetery in 2002 for about $3,000, said she'll probably keep and maintain it the rest of her life.
Though a lot of space remains on the land, if the cemetery should ever fill up, Hinze said, she hopes it can become like a small park. She said she tries to plant a tree every year on the property.
Hinze, a mother of two, tried to sell the cemetery several years ago, but she said no one was interested in running the business. Because the property is named a pet cemetery on the deed, the animals buried there cannot be moved.
"For pet owners, it's priceless, and for real estate buyers, it's worthless," she said.
Hinze, 32, said she does most of her business from taking orders and manufacturing urns and caskets for animals and shipping them around the country.
Still, Cedar Hills has never turned a profit, Hinze said.
However, business has picked up a lot lately, and the cemetery has received one to two requests per week for burials, a much higher volume than normal, she said.