Shannon Roberts brought her two 13-week-old dachshunds, Waylon and Willy, to Greenlawn Funeral Homes Southwest on Saturday to be blessed by a visiting clergyman.
The Rev. Karl Dietze, of Trinity Anglican Church in southwest Bakersfield, was there to not only bless several pets brought by their owners, but also to help mark the opening of Bakersfield's only currently operating pet cemetery.
"I would definitely consider a pet cemetery," Roberts said of the new development. "I have two containers of ashes at home now. I lost two pets last year."
Greenlawn President Jim La Mar said he's been considering developing a pet cemetery for years.
"People are always asking about it," he said. "I've always had to tell them we don't provide that service."
Now he can say yes.
Greenlawn Southwest is now allowing grieving pet owners to purchase plots for their household pets. The pets must be cremated beforehand, unless they are very small, such as a bird.
More than 2,000 plots will be available.
People love their pets, he said. They want to be able to visit them in a peaceful setting, a place that is cared for well into the future.
"We have a family who moved here from Orange County that is disinterring their pet and bringing him here — because they want their pet to be close by," he said.
"I'm so glad they're doing this," Dietze said. "People love their pets. They're part of the family."
Sonia Wagner, who brought her tiny Yorkies, Dexter and Wren, to be blessed, echoes Dietze's comments. She said she would certainly consider using the services of a pet cemetery.
"I think, 'Hey, they are part of my family," Wagner said. "They're my babies."
The new pet cemetery, named Precious Pet Garden, marks the first operational pet cemetery in Bakersfield since the demise of the ill-fated Dreamland Pet Cemetery, which began operations at 24 Sterling Road in 1973.
At some point, the cemetery went out of business and reverted, becoming a vacant, weed-strewn lot, La Mar said.
Not only won't that happen at Greenlawn, he said. It can't happen.
"We are an Endowment Care Cemetery," he said. "Millions of dollars are set aside in trust funds, and we can't touch them."
That means the general care and maintenance of the cemetery and its memorials would be financed from the income of the trust fund.
While the concept of a pet cemetery sounds attractive to some, it's not for everyone.
Valery Garcia, who brought her huskies, Aspen and Tahoe, to Saturday's event, said her family already has a final resting spot for their pets.
All the family pets are buried in a close relative's backyard.
And that's where hers will go, too.