CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Sometimes they come in a trickle.
Sometimes in a flood.
But the tears always come when Traci Cool of Clarksville visits her beloved German shepherd’s grave at the Garden of Love Pet Cemetery on Needmore Road.
Cool finds solace by talking to him, keeping his grave pristine and remembering the good times before Rex died on Jan. 9 at the age of 10.
“As hard as it is, I cry all the time, but I get to talk to him here,” Cool said. “It’s a little bit of peace in a way.”
But her love extends far beyond her own dog.
Cool has made it her mission to breathe new life into the only pet cemetery in Clarksville.
The cemetery was opened in 1974 by William Devers, now deceased, and his wife, Mary Devers, who is in her 90s. But some of the graves go back even further.
In recent years, some of the headstones have sunk beneath the ground, along with the words of love engraved on their surface.
While Mary Devers cares about the cemetery a great deal, it’s been tough to keep up, Cool said. That’s where she comes in.
Devers said she is negotiating with Cool to sell her the land and is happy with the work being done there.
As she visited Rex, Cool began to clear the weeds and grass off other headstones. With the help of her husband and Jeff Rice, the trio has managed to unearth dozens of tombstones. Many had been lost for years.
Cool said she hopes to buy the cemetery but even if the deal falls through, she feels a sense of purpose by restoring the grounds and doing her part to make sure those buried there are remembered.
They range from a horse to a police dog killed in the line of duty. They have names like Mouse, Roo Roo, Rocky, Chili Mac, Boomer, Cuddles and Puddin Farmer. Some simply have dates of their deaths while others carry sentimental messages like “Part of the family,” ”Our faithful family guardian” and “A good boy forever.”
No one seems to know how many animals are buried in the cemetery. Cool said they have found many headstones under several inches of ground. She’s there nearly every weekend and constantly makes new discoveries.
She enjoys talking to visitors who come to pay respect to their pets. Since she started weeding and decorating the graves with flowers, it seems more people are coming and bringing flowers of their own, she said.
“Now that we’ve cleaned up the graves and they can see them, people are coming,” Cool said. “It’s nice when you see people. They will talk to you as if they are going to go home and open the door and see that pet.”
A new sign with a German shepherd (the model was Rex) and a cat stands beside Needmore Road.
Cool started a fundraiser to add benches and new crosses to the cemetery. There is still thousands of dollars’ worth of work that needs to be done, from hauling off an old trailer that served as an office to clearing heavy brush around the fences. The work has to be done carefully because the brush covers even more graves.
She said she is waiting for the deal to go through to buy the property but in the meantime she’ll continue doing the work she feels she was called to do.
Rex was buried in a casket with a pillow, pad, blanket and all of his favorite toys. Cool is waiting on his headstone, which should be delivered in a couple of weeks.
She said she feels a connection there, to Rex and to the other pets, who she also stops to chat with.
“Some things are meant to be,” Cool said. “This was just meant to be.”
Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com