Is it okay to walk my dog in the cemetery?
October 31, 2014 1:37 AM   Subscribe

That's it really. I live near a large, park-like cemetery and I'm wondering about the etiquette of walking my dog there. It's a modern, suburban cemetery which is quite, um, active. If I were to take my dog there, he would be leashed at all times and if I saw a funeral actually occurring I would keep far away. Would if be upsetting if a person was at the cemetery to visit the grave of a loved one and they saw me casually walking the dog as if it were any other place?
posted by Sarah Lund's Jumper to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would be concerned that the dog would poop on or near a loved one's grave. Even if it's cleaned up, that's kind of not cool to me.
posted by Solomon at 2:00 AM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

I seen dog walkers in my local cemetery all the time.
posted by kariebookish at 2:21 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

When my mother goes (eventually) I know that if I DON'T bring a dog to visit she'll likely come back to haunt me. I feel about the same way. What good is eternal rest if there are no dogs?

Be prepared to clean up after the pup, obviously. Better yet: be VISIBLY prepared (appropriate bag in sight) so that anyone who sees you will know and be less likely to have concerns.

I can't see a problem.
posted by wjm at 2:23 AM on October 31, 2014 [19 favorites]

Don't let your dog dig. That could be disconcerting.
posted by rongorongo at 2:23 AM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Without active respectful community use, cemeteries will eventually die.

That being said, check the posted rules/website for local variations.
posted by fairmettle at 2:27 AM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think it would depend on the dog, but provided it was well behaved, kept on a lead, and any mess it made was cleared up, I think it would be fine. Have you seen other people walking their dog there?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:46 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

It wouldn't bother me a bit, provided, as other have said, well-behaved, no digging, on leash, waste picked up, etc.
posted by stormyteal at 3:21 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your dog is a perfect walker, as in no straining, no running, no barking, no lunging, then it's probably fine. If you can make sure all his business is done before you get into the cemetery, that'd be best -- even peeing on a tree might be upsetting for someone to see if it's close to a grave.
posted by mibo at 3:35 AM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree, I think this is a question of community norms. I've frequently walked in the local cemetery with my dog. I also agree that doing so with respect is important, cleaning up, and allowing others their space unless invited by them to interact.
posted by HuronBob at 3:37 AM on October 31, 2014

We can't really answer this, because it varies: some allow dog walking, some definitely do not. You'll have to talk to that particular cemetery to get their specific rules.
posted by easily confused at 3:39 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to live in a small college town where the park-like cemetery was the unofficial off-leash dog park. Officially dogs were supposed to be on-leash, but the only time I ever heard of it being enforced was when a new resident complained that her own on-leash dog might be scared of the off-leash dogs, so the police hassled a couple of offenders for a few days. Within a week or two everything went back to the way it had been.

No doubt some people won't like it, and some people will. I think the best you can do is to consider the rules and culture of your particular cemetery.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 AM on October 31, 2014

I think it is perfectly fine. in fact I am shocked that anyone would be affronted at the thought of someone walking a dog in the vicinity of their, or a loved one's, final resting place. that's life going on ... some little bit of leisure and joy happening in a cemetery seems like a good thing.

I mean seriously... people think they should do their business outside the seminary even if the owner cleans it up? do these people shake their fists at the birds and squirrels too?
posted by jayder at 4:51 AM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

No, I don't shake my fist at wild animals, but many cemeteries are blessed at their founding as hallowed ground, especially if established by a church. If it's not, some families have their plots blessed to be hallowed ground. We don't have agency over the wild animals, but we do have agency over our pets and it's just considerate to prevent your dog from pissing somewhere that someone else might consider sacred. Also, the grassy areas in cemeteries are likely to get more foot traffic than the grassy areas between the sidewalk and the curb in a regular neighborhood and sometimes no matter how careful you are, you can't get all the poop up without tearing the grass, and who needs to slip on that when they're visiting a grave?
posted by mibo at 5:09 AM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'd be perfectly fine with seeing dogs walking on the paths in a loved one's cemetery; not fine at all seeing them frisking over the gravesites or peeing on the grass.
posted by Bardolph at 5:20 AM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think it is fine if the dog is well behaved and cleaned up after. As far as I am concerned a dog can come shit on my grave any day of the week.
posted by 724A at 6:41 AM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]

True story. I was heading upstate with my son. There was this cemetary we passed that we always wanted to stop at and check it out. This trip we left 15 minutes early so we could. We pulled in and got out to walk around. We saw someone standing at a grave so we hesitated and started to circle around him. When we got closer we realized he was peeing on a grave. As timing is everything in this life, he turned and walked right past us. I just smiled when he caught my eye. He said without breaking stride, "Just had to get that out of my system." I have no idea if he meant just had to pee or just had to pee on that bastard's grave one time.
posted by 724A at 6:45 AM on October 31, 2014 [21 favorites]

I used to walk my dog in my town's cemetery. I made sure to enter the cemetery AFTER Thunderdog got everything out of her system, though. If there happened to be more poo, I picked it up quickly. We avoided mourners and visitors, and stayed on the path.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:23 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just don't let it near the graves, especially not to pee, poop or dig.

If you see a funeral is happening, walk the other way. I do think it could be very upsetting to be at a loved one's funeral (consider that anyone actually graveside is likely to be immediate family) and have a dog trotting by. Part of being present in a cemetery is that the people there are sharing an experience, even if they are strangers visiting an old grave. They are there to acknowledge the death of a loved one. That shared experience offers some solidarity and comfort. So I do think that being conspicuous in being just there to enjoy a morning walking your dog could be rude and hurtful to people who are in pain.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:39 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking only as a pre-corpse, I would welcome any dog to my grave. But please pick up any poo.
posted by doctor tough love at 7:42 AM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I would be comforted by the presence of a dog if I were at a loved one's funeral, even if it were just a dog going on a walk with her person. I can think of one rather traumatic funeral I attended in particular where seeing a dog would have been immensely helpful, in a 'taking me out of the moment' way. Obviously not everyone is going to react in the same way, but so long as it's not against that specific cemetery's rules, and as long as you clean up after your pooch (as you would no matter where you were, yeah?) and don't interfere with other people's use of the cemetery, my vote is that it's fine.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:11 AM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've never been to a cemetery which didn't have posted signage about dogs--some forbidding, some requiring leash. Look near the main entrance.
posted by Riverine at 8:38 AM on October 31, 2014

One data point: The annual NYC Century Bike Tour always takes a path through the large Woodlawn Cemetery, obviously with the cemetery's permission. (Presumably mourners might be even more sensitive to bikes than to dogs.)
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:06 AM on October 31, 2014

If I ever see a domesticated bird being walked on a leash by its owner shit on my relative's grave, then yes, I would shake my fist at it.

Bardolph does raise a good point. I'd have much less of a problem if the dog was kept to the paths. My local cemetery is about a million years old, though, and there aren't paths so much as depressions in the grass. It's common to see people traipsing over graves to get to where they want to be.
posted by Solomon at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2014

Best answer: It's nice of you to ask this.

I love animals, but I wouldn't extrapolate that dogs are universally beloved and their presence a welcome comfort for everyone. I don't think you should universalize the answers of dog-lovers here. As you are already a dog-lover, you should be listening more closely to those who would be bothered, and take their objections into consideration.

I have some reservations about the appropriateness of this, and for me, it is not about the dog, but its owner. The dog cannot understand why bounding up to the burial of someone I love or pissing on a tree that shades my loved one's grave I'm visiting would be disrespectful, but its owner should understand this. Personally, I am a dog-lover, but I would absolutely not love to see an owner bending over to bag shit or hear them repeatedly calling out a pet's dumb name while I was trying to lay someone to rest or visit their grave.

I'm 100% on board with people using the cemetery as a quiet public space, but those people should keep a respectful distance from those using it as, you know, a cemetery.

Your cemetery will have its own rules, and more interestingly, its own culture. If dog-walking is a "done" thing there, you will find out by observation. So find out the official rules and observe the unofficial culture a bit first. Go with the rules and the culture there, but don't assume everyone is a dog person, and please err on the side of being as respectful as possible to humans going through what may be their saddest day, and you'll be a friend to man and beast alike.
posted by kapers at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

The rest of us subsidize cemeteries, because they don't pay property taxes, much like public parks. That agreement owes the public space to us, so you definitely have a right to take your dog there.
posted by flimflam at 1:05 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We always take our dog to cemeteries, but we go to ones that are pretty remote and don't generally have a ton of people in them. We also avoid Memorial Day weekend, Mother's and Father's day, or other holidays where people are more likely to visit their deceased loved ones.
posted by xyzzy at 2:13 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: After having left one comment and having read all the other responses here, I think it is unavoidable that you will have to take care about when you walk your dog in a cemetery. I don't think anyone here has suggested it is objectionable that you walk your dog there when it is quiet, as long as you are keeping your dog on a leash and at a respectful distance from anyone who might be visiting a grave, and you clean up your dog's leavings. Some people have very visceral loathing for dogs, or find them dirty, annoying, or distasteful (I cannot understand those people and do my best not to associate with them) but obviously you will have to be mindful of the possibility of encountering those people. HOWEVER, I would urge you not to let the possibility of encountering someone who is irrationally angry and biased against dogs, who are after all cherished members of the human community, overly guide your behavior. No one who is visiting a cemetery has a proprietary interest in the place as long as you are keeping a respectful distance from them.

One thing that I think needs to be considered, that has not been voiced here, is the fact that many of those whose final resting place it is, would certainly be heartened to know that life is proceeding and joy is being had in the cemetery ... that, fifty or a hundred or a hundred and fifty years after their death, a dog is frolicking on the grass above their grave.
posted by jayder at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

yes. absolutely. walk that dog.
posted by philip-random at 9:24 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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