‘Jewish’ Dog First Interred at Pet Cemetery

The grounds of The Laurels pet cemetery at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. | Brian Gambeschia

When Maximus Glassman died at the age of 16, his family wanted to give him the same burial any Jewish child would receive.

A rabbi oversaw the Sunday afternoon interment service, reciting prayers and allowing several family members to recite eulogies.

What was unique about Maximus’ burial, however, was, as a Spanish Water Dog, he was the first pet to be interred at West Laurel Hill’s pet cemetery, The Laurels — Pet Cemetery, Services and Aquamation Center.

“We are known for providing unrivaled support for families in memorializing their loved ones, and now we’re proud to say that includes their pets,” said Nancy Goldenberg, president and CEO of West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home and Laurel Hill Cemetery, in a statement.

The 187-acre cemetery recently celebrated the opening of The Laurels with a “Yappy Hour,” where families could bring their pets and learn about the new services.

“We know that pets are a family member, and we know that families feel very strongly about services for their pets,” noted Deborah Cassidy, director of sales, marketing and family services at West Laurel Hill. “It comes down to being able to offer [families] everything.”

Having a service like this is an “extension of services we offer humans,” she said.

The pet cemetery is set up on the larger cemetery’s campus in its own designated area. The cemetery’s first phase opened at the end of June, with one of three planned acres completed.

Maximus’ marker at The Laurels

The Laurels offers families several pet packages ranging from $1,100 to $1,500 — depending on the animal’s size — that include the property, the interment, the casket and a black granite marker.

There are also cremation packages, starting from $500. A unique feature for pets is the Aquamation service, which is an environmentally friendly water-based process as an alternative to flame cremation.

Plans for the pet cemetery had been in the works for about 10 years, after staffers started doing research and taking surveys. The actual process began about four or five years ago.  

So far, they’ve had five pet burials and two cremations, including an alligator.

Cassidy said the cemetery is building relationships with local veterinarians to help them offer The Laurels’ services to families who wish to use it, as well as other funeral homes that might want to offer pet services but don’t have the facilities.

The cemetery is for all pets and not limited to just cats and dogs, as Cassidy cited the alligator as well as birds.

The goal is to provide a chance to give a dignified resting place for four-legged family members.

“What makes it so special is to just keep remembering that pets are part of the family,” Cassidy said. “They’re a family member that is loved and they give their undivided love to their owners, so treating them the same way as a human is just natural.”

The Glassmans were grateful for the chance to lay Maximus to rest the way any family would for a fellow family member.

“He was the cornerstone of our family and brought us countless great memories as well as much love throughout the 16 years he spent with us,” David Glassman reflected in a written testimonial.

The family could not be reached for comment.

Per Glassman’s testimonial, when Maximus passed away, the family called the cemetery, which sent representatives to the animal hospital to take Maximus into custody.

As the pet cemetery was still under construction, the cemetery staff members arranged for “Max” to be placed in the mausoleum until the site was completed.

“They provided us with the emotional support and stability to move forward in the face of our tremendous loss,” Glassman wrote. “When the time came, we were honored to learn that Maximus would be the first dog to be interred at … The Laurels.”

mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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