It's a peaceful place with shade trees and meticulous landscaping. But if you look at little closer at the headstones in this cemetery, you'll see the names of beloved pets that have passed away.
It's a pet cemetery within a human cemetery at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor. President and CEO Keenan Knopke says it's a steadily growing business as more people choose to memorialize their pets in death, much as we do our human loved ones.
"We've had people come from as far away as Stuart, Florida who found us via the internet, to people that come from two blocks away," Knopke said.
Two of those people are Bridget and Jerry Combs of Tampa. When their beloved "CC" died, the Combs went looking for a place to bury him.
"I was getting a lot of hits when I was doing my online research, and then we would go look at, we would go the place, to the address and it wouldn't be there anymore. There's a parking lot there," Bridget Combs said.
Knopke says that's not unusual. He says pet cemeteries are not regulated in Florida, so they can be sold or developed.
"They could be here today and two years from now or tomorrow be gone, be something else. Our human cemetery we have to maintain. This is where pets are buried in both caskets and cremated remains," Knopke said.
At Curlew Hills, there are columbariums where people can be cremated alongside their pets, or gravesites with headstones where pets are cremated or buried in caskets.
The Combs opted for a casket and in-ground burial for CC.
"They had prepared him so nicely, and we spent some quiet time with him, just the two of us. It was like a viewing," Bridget said.
From viewings to ceremonies, music and flowers, Knopke says they can provide pretty much anything you want.
"Pet funerals. They'll have viewings. They'll invite their friends or clergy. Our biggest pet service has probably been 35 or 40 people," Knopke said.
It's the same trend at Pinellas County's oldest funeral home, Anderson-McQueen. For several years they've offered "Pet Passages," which provides a variety of services, including funerals.
President and CEO John McQueen recalls their largest pet funeral.
"The gentleman had a Scottish terrier and we had a service here with the dog wearing a little Scottish kilt, floral arrangements, and we had about 45 people in attendance for that service," McQueen said.
Many of their clients opt for a private goodbye in the "Rainbow Bridge Room," but they also offer an assortment of charms and keepsakes.
"We also have something called ‘Glass Remembrance' where a small portion of the cremated remains, they're actually blown in the glass when they make the little glass charms, so that way your pet's always with you," McQueen said.
For Bridget and Jerry Combs, they have lots of pictures to remember CC. But they say having a gravesite keeps their connection, and they are not alone.
"When the seasons change, all the flowers change. People are here every week just like we are, so we're not atypical. We're just like everybody else," Jerry Combs said.
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