My journey began on Friday March 31, 2017. The previous day I was glued to the internet reading horrific comments about a lady who owned a pet cemetery in Shepherdsville Ky. I was reading and watching videos of her unfortunate experience with the law, elderly people in the unattended cemetery digging up their pets by the demand of the previous owner, personal information being blasted for the world to see about things in the previous owner’s past that were just heartbreaking and unnecessarily plastered on social media. The property, according to the news and over 1000 comments on social media, was dilapidated from mismanagement. The previous owner claims due to her health situation she isn’t able to maintain nor take care of the cemetery. She sent texts and emails telling these pet owners, that were able to be found since the cemetery had been open since 1960, to move their pets she was closing the cemetery. Moving pets meaning they would need to be dug up and relocated. In 2013 she was given the cemetery by the gentleman who needed to move on to take care of his ill wife. Everyone I have met said he was a great guy who loved Pet Haven. From that day of transfer, Shepherdsville started losing a well-known thumbprint of the community. Over grown grass, hundreds of missing grave markers (my understanding is they were stolen because they were made of aluminum so easy to recycle), trash all over the lot, falling over existing head stones, the only storage shed was removed, sign to property cut down and hauled away, standing water, only lawn equipment was an unattended to riding lawn more with a seat that was worn down to the sponge of the seat that will not even start. Because there were so many people who didn’t see the numerous news interviews or didn’t have access to the internet, they went through the most horrible experience and found a way to dig up, remove, and disturb the remains of the pet that they considered to be their children. There were signs posted at grave sites begging for someone to contact them so they could hire them to help dig up the pets.
I remember the day, which was April 1st when I went to see Pet Haven for the first time. I didn’t view the property before I bought it because I felt it was my mission to fix this problem for the community because I was able to. I had the capability and experience in getting the community to stand together as one and make a difference from raising money to getting donations, to getting people to come volunteer for physical labor to get this amazing place back up and running to its max potential so we had a place that people in our community could find peace during a difficult time in their lives.
I started out wanting to help the previous owner as I am an experienced successful Realtor and I have many investors that I had in my phone that would have stepped up and secured the property to make sure it remained a Pet Cemetery. When the time came to make the decision to purchase the property, there were so many signs from God that this was my journey. I needed to do this not just for the community but for myself.
I have spent my first couple weeks making a plan, raising money, getting things and getting donations, hitting brick walls on a daily basis from hidden liens to collapsed driveway to unusable utility poles due to excessive rust to trying to dig around praying that we find that marker that belongs to a 15 year old cat as the elderly mother is standing over me crying so hard because she feels she has lost her pet all over again to the lady who is telling me that when she was a child her dog passed away and her parents brought her here to bury him and through the years of growing up ended up with 5 graves of all of her childhood pets and the 3 graves next to that was her children’s pets that they have lost over the years. It was so heartbreaking to hear these stories as a group of us were working only using a weed eaters to cut 3.5 acres to make sure we didn’t miss one grave marker that belonged to someone’s family. These were part of history of someone’s life. Many gone. Many damaged. No order or paperwork for me to help locate them. I have shed more tears in the last 2 weeks than I have a life time.
During community clean up weekend a lady approached me and as her voice trembled introduced herself to me. Her eyes were swollen from the tears she was shedding and begged me to come over to her graves. She had 9 plots. All were accounted for accept one. The 9th plot was dug up and empty full of water because someone else had dug her pet up believing it was theirs when the previous owner had everyone removing their deceased animals. That grave had been there since 1980. This was her first rescue animal. It was a yorkie named Sassy. He passed away from cancer. How do you handle this? How do you tell a momma that her baby has been dug up by another family? All I could do is wrap my arms around her and let her cry. These are the stories I am dealing with on a daily basis because someone decided this place was too much to handle and just stopped handling things.
Just yesterday in the pouring rain a good friend of mine came out and we dug our first grave since I took over the property. Boomer, a 10 year old poodle. He had 2 sisters and a brother buried here and he was the last of this family. Passed away in his sleep on his momma’s pillow that night. Although we were still trying to get things in order before actually commencing as a cemetery, I could not turn her away. She didn’t seem to have many years left of her life and Boomer was probably her last pet so we made it work. She was about 5’ tall, could barely walk through the grass with her cane but she made it. She wanted me to assure her that Boomer was going to rest easy. I wanted to assure her he was going to be just fine when in fact I am screaming in my head trying to keep composure because of the mismanagement before me I was not certain that the specific spot chosen by Boomers momma wasn’t already going to have another pet that belonged to someone else that once had a grave marker buried in that very spot. Thank heaven that wasn’t the case here. We were able to make sure Boomer was in the spot that momma thought was perfect for his final resting place.
I am determined! Pet Haven Cemetery 40165 will be amazing! It will be a place that people in Kentucky will want to drive to so they can bury their beloved pets as they pass away. It will be a place where locals will want to drive on a sunny Saturday afternoon and get out of their cars and just park and walk around and read the stones. It will be a place as people travel through the state that they will want to come see such an oasis that has changed so many people’s lives.
We will always be accepting donations. We will always accept help around the property from volunteers. We will always do fundraisers. With that, your help is always needed. My challenge now is strictly financially. I have 100’s of graves from 1960 to present that I can’t find owners or heirs and I have to clean their sites up or fix their broken stones. I have over grown trees to cut, 3.5 acres of yard to get back in shape. Storage and lawn equipment to purchase. $5000 worth of gravel needed and driveway repair. Not to mention the odds and ends that pop up that I don’t expect. Your help is ALWAYS needed and very much appreciated.
We will survive and we will succeed. I do not know how to fail. With your help, it will just be a bit easier.