War Dog Memorial

Since ancient times, canine warriors have served as sentries, messengers and scouts. During World War I, the media frequently reported about acts of bravery and heroism on the battlefields by dogs that had been pressed into service. These stories appear to have aroused in many, feelings of esteem for animals. As a result, burial of all pets gained wider acceptance. In three years from 1914 to 1917, more pets were buried at Hartsdale than in the previous two decades. By the end of the War, there were more than two thousand graves at Hartsdale.

Following the War, there was a public outcry to have a monument built to honor the 7,000 military canines who had served with such great distinction in the conflict. Hartsdale Canine Cemetery was honored to be chosen as the location for this memorial. The Directors of the Cemetery donated a sizable parcel of land to have the memorial built and helped to lead the effort

The original cost of the monument was $2,500, which was considered to be an enormous amount of money at the time. Contributions from plot-holders and the general public poured in as plans were made. It was designed by Walter A. Buttendorf and sculpted by Robert Caterson, a well-known designer and builder who had worked on many distinguished buildings including Grand Central Station in New York City. Interestingly, Robert Caterson was also a relative of current Cemetery director, Edward Caterson Martin, Jr. The sculpture was reportedly modeled after a dog, who with its owner, daily passed the office of designer Walter A. Buttendorf.

In a letter to its plot-holders dated September 12, 1921 , the Cemetery described the structure to be erected as a “Rustic Boulder executed in the ‘Rock of Ages’ Barre Vermont Granite, surmounted by a heroic statue of a War Dog, Canteen and Helmet in bronze.” The letter further went on to characterize the monument as one “which will live for ages and be a reminder to our posterity of recognition of his (the War Dog’s) invaluable service.”

Using the finest granite from his own Vermont quarry, Caterson created a majestic ten-foot-high monument with 10 tons of granite, which is topped with a bronze statue of a handsome shepherd dog, wearing a Red Cross blanket. At the shepherd’s feet are a bronze helmet and a canteen. A huge American flag waves proudly above. A simple inscription graces the memorial:


The War Dog Memorial was erected in 1923. The unveiling was attended by representatives of every nation that fought in the Great War.

The historic sculpture is listed in the art inventories catalog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and is described as follows: “A German Shepherd wearing a Red Cross blanket stands on a rough-hewn boulder. The dog stands in an alert stance with head and ears perked up and tail extended nearly straight. A canteen and helmet lie below the dog’s front paws. The helmet has an indentation, possibly representative of a shrapnel hole.”

Hartsdale’s War Dog Memorial is a landmark in Westchester County and is included in the Westchester County Office of Tourism’s website.

A special ceremony is conducted in the middle of June to pay tribute not only to military dogs, but to all pets who provide services of any type to mankind. Past ceremonies have honored canines who assisted in the rescue mission in conjunction with the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1994 as well as seeing eye dogs and police dogs.

In 2005, The War Dog Memorial was completely refurbished to its original handsome bronze finish. Karen Fix of Conservation Artisans located in Brooklyn, New York performed the expert restoration work. The project was made possible by the generous donations received from plot-holders who contributed to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery Beautification Fund. An unveiling ceremony took place at the annual War Dog Memorial Celebration on June 12, 2005.

War Dog Links
1. National War Dog Memorial Committee –www.wardogsmemorial.org
2. U.S. War Dogs Association –www.uswardogs.org

When You Think Of Liberty Think Of Me

By Kathy Anne Harris (kathyanneharris@spirit-soul.com)

When you honor the red, white, and blue. When you celebrate our nation’s liberty. Think of the one who’s been beside you in spirit, in heart, in body…No being could be as loyal as me, for I am your best friend, your partner…your family. When our nation was young I was the runner, carrying messages in a war that would leave us undone where brother fought beside brother. And, alone in the face of terror I moved through enemy lines,as families fought one another,my mission foremost in my mind. I was the one waiting for you even though I sensed you would not be coming home I languished on our wooden porch growing thinner, until the war was over and my days on earth were done. I was in the trenches, fields, and meadows accompanying you into foreign lands. With you in the jungles and swamp sand at your heels on hot, dusty roads or on blistering, desert sands. I have been first in line of fire first to enter a field laden with mines putting myself in your stead. I went unflinching, leading,to wherever, doing whatever you said. With you I’ve jumped from the belly of a plane dropping into places neither of us had ever seen. All for the greater glory and good. All for humanity. When a bullet took your life I laid by your side my chin on your chest—despair in my eyes. Content to have remained with you,until a man in our unit lifted me up,carrying me back to war…as he cried. When we had parted, when you’d gone home and when on foreign soil I left all alone through no fault of your own I was forsaken. The government advised you that your friend and helper; the soldier who’d been by your side,would not be accompanying you home…To our home, our country, I could not be taken. And so it was that we were a band one day after you tearfully told us we could not follow the men with whom we had served. Confusion set in as we watched you depart; being left behind, we had not deserved.You left us dispirited, empty, and hollow for we had given to you all of our all. Like ghosts were we, missing our souls,for you had taken with you…our hearts.I have been injured for you. And I have died for you. In your absence I have wasted away from the loss of you. I’m the scruffy, think dog sitting quietly next to the veteran in his wheelchair. On the hill, the band plays a song and the man softly cries, while fireworks light up the night’s air. Gently I place my paw on his knee lay my muzzle on his withered keg. He looks at the small flag he is clutching then he turns his attention to me. His eyes are filled with thoughts and tears but his smile is as warm as the sun. “Thank you for reminding me,” says he,”what’s been sacrificed for the freedom we’ve won. “In the now, we cannot know who will be needing who, but what you may not know is that when you’ll be needing me I’ll be needing and looking for you.

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What kind of records does the facility keep?

Hartsdale records are maintained on a network of eight computers. All burials and cremations are entered on a daily basis. All burial plots indicate the owner’s name and address, the pet’s name, type of care (perpetual or annual) type of flower care (perpetual or annual), plot size, monument information, etc. With respect to cremations all individual cremations include the cremation number, owner’s name and address, pet’s name, attending veterinarian or clinic, date of cremation, date pet’s remains returned, etc. In addition the cemetery maintains copies of burial right certificates, cremation certificates and pet records.

How can I be sure that I am getting my own pet's remains back?

As indicated above the pet holder can always make arrangements to be at Hartsdale for the cremation. However if the owner cannot be present they can be assured that the staff at Hartsdale takes great care in assuring that the pet owner gets the correct ashes back. They accomplish this by verifying/checking the paperwork that is generated from the specific description, case number if applicable, owners name and pets name. This is done at a minimum of three times and the cremation itself is then witnessed by two of our staff.

Can I witness the commencement of the cremation process?

Yes. Hartsdale has what is termed a witnessed cremation. What this entails is that the pet holder makes an appointment to be at Hartsdale at a specific time and date. Upon arriving, for their appointment the pet is placed into a temporary casket and the pet holder is able to spend time with the pet in our viewing room. When the pet owner is ready they may then follow the pet to the crematory and witness the pet going into the unit. Then when the cremation process is complete, normally between 1½ to 3 hours depending on the size of the pet, the pet holder leaves with the cremains.