By Robin Rieger
BERLIN, N. J. (CBS) – “I come and spend a few minutes and I get a little choked up,” said
Murphy gets emotional every time he comes to visit the graves of the two cavalier king charles spaniels Murphy and his wife buried in the Pet Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Berlin.
The new headstone for his dog Robert’s grave was delivered Wednesday.
“I miss him, these were both really great special dogs and you get very close to them,” said Murphy.
But in this place where Murphy finds comfort, pet lover and owner Jill Weilenbeck can’t find a moments peace.
“I feel like I’ve failed everyone,” Weilenbeck said, as she wiped away tears.
She says in this economy where people are saving wherever they can, pet funerals are down and many clients aren’t even paying the annual maintenance fee for their pets plot. She has listed the entire property for sale because she can no longer afford the taxes.
“It’s just shy of $24,000 a year and I think we brought in $14,000 this year,” said Weilenbeck
The pet cemetery was started in 1951; the Weilenbecks bought it in 1988. Almost 16,000 pets are buried here along with some pet owner’s cremated remains.
“They trust that this is going to be taken care of forever,” said Weilenbeck
Weilenbeck’s been reassuring concerned gravesite owners who stop by after hearing of her difficulties. She says whoever buys this property would have to keep the pet cemetery because its deed is restricted.
She’s hoping there’s a developer out there willing to buy the front acreage or rear wooded acreage so she can keep the cemetery going. It’s right along busy route 73 but so far she’s had no offers.
“I keep hoping the economy is going to turn around,” said Weilenbeck.
As a last resort she is considering applying for non profit status to save on the taxes. She can’t afford to keep even a part time employee, often mowing the grass herself or with the help of her son in law.