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When a cemetery becomes a dog park

“We are treating him pretty darn well, except for the poop.”

– Ventura Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sharon Troll

Pvt. James Sumner, an 1860s Army hero who was awarded the Medal of Honor, is buried beneath what is now a popular dog park in Ventura, California — and there’s an effort underway to have him scooped up and moved to a ”more respectful” resting place.

Sumner, who was awarded the nation’s highest military honor by Ulysses S. Grant for gallant actions after a band of Apaches kidnapped a settler’s child, died in 1912. He’s one of about 3,000 people buried in what was formerly St. Mary’s Cemetery.

“Talk to any veteran, he will tell you it is a terrible thing. It’s disrespectful,” said retired Marine Sgt. Craig “Gunny” Donor, who served two tours in Vietnam and is determined to get  the soldier’s remains moved. “I’m trying to get him moved to Bakersfield National Cemetery. He needs to be moved to a place of respect. Cemeteries are solemn places.”

Others say graveyards don’t necessarily need to be grave places — that adding a little life to the cemetery hurts no one, and some go so far as to say that maybe it’s appreciated by the departed.

Though thousands are buried there, only a few dozen markers remain at the 7-acre Cemetery Memorial Park. 

Ventura city leaders have so far balked at moving Sumner, saying the park is well maintained and gravesites aren’t being damaged. “We are treating him pretty darn well, except for the poop,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sharon Troll told the Ventura County Star.

The commission voted July 21 to postpone for two months Donor’s request to unearth Sumner.

Other cities look a little less kindly on allowing dogs in cemeteries. Concord, New Hampshire, recently passed an ordinance that bans them.

Donor, who lives in Fontana and is a state captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle club that honors fallen veterans, expects the fight to wind up in court. “He has no family, no one else to stand up for him, except for his brothers and sister in arms,” Donor said.

Comments

Comment from michelle
Time August 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Exactly my point

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