With the risk of having a morbidly-themed blog…

I’m afraid I’m going to write another post about cemeteries. And I’m well aware that another cemetery post means that I have two on this blog…which is probably one too many. But we had such a strange experience the other weekend that I had to share.

It all started off normal

Daniel and I try to do a “long” run most weekends. For us, “long” means 5-8 miles. We have a couple routes we tend to frequent because – believe it or not – Chișinău (and Moldova in general) does NOT cater to runners. The drivers are reckless…the sidewalks are sparse or in terrible condition…the rural dogs are aggressive. So we have settled on 3 or 4 routes that we know well and feel comfortable with.

As fall has now arrived, we are getting that urge to hike and explore nature. However, we have the same problem with hiking as we do with running: super limited options of where we can go. Last weekend the urge to be among trees was overwhelming, so we decided to explore a nature preserve about a mile from where we live.

Nature preserve might be a generous term. In reality, this area of trees is medium-sized, surrounded by apartment buildings, and criss-crossed with beaten dirt paths. On a nice weekend day you might find a mix of families walking with dogs, groups holding picnics in small dirt clearings (though without a fire pit, picnic table, or any other amenities), or a couple of guys huddled together and drinking excessive amounts of strong alcohol. Sadly, there is garbage strewn everywhere.

But at the very least, it is a little piece of nature in an urban setting.

But then it got creepy

We started our run on a paved sidewalk along the edge of the park. But then we veered inwards and found ourselves on a beaten dirt path that got narrower and narrower.

I started to get that nervous feeling – which I totally ignored as I was with Daniel. But you better believe I wouldn’t have continued running along that path by myself. We soon entered a legitimate construction zone…one that would never have been OSHA approved in the U.S.

There was much more trash than before strewn among the half-constructed buildings and the rickety chain link fences. I thought to myself, “This is where people get murdered.”

And then, almost on cue, we come across a cross nestled in the trees and overgrown shrubs just 20 feet from the chain link fence. Oh no – did someone actually die here?!?!? I mean, the setting was creepy enough….but really?!

We look at each other and then continued a few steps along the barely visible path. Just a few steps away was another cross, then a small hump of dirt and stones, then a miniature head stone….

…and suddenly it clear. We had entered a pet cemetery.

And then it was very sweet

The animal situation in Chișinău and in Moldova is so interesting to me. At first glance, this is not a pet-centric society. For example, there is an endless array of stray dogs roaming the streets. And most dogs in the villages live eternally outside the house. They are not “indoor” pets as much as guard dogs.

But on deeper inspection, one notices the pet stores scattered among the zillion pharmacies and hair salons. One also notices the little bags of old food left specifically beside dumpsters for animals to find. And though not plentiful, there are still enough pure bred dogs to realize that indoor pets are certainly popular among the wealthy.

After recovering from the shock of finding a cemetery in the midst of our run, we enjoyed the loving and quirky tombstones. In some ways the graves were over the top, and in other ways they were so sweet. (Do you see the dog toys left at one of the graves?)

I do still find the location of this cemetery strange. On the edge of a park surrounded by construction? I mean, who carried their animal + tombstone + concrete/stones out here for a burial? It’s not like they drove and then parked in the “pet cemetery parking lot”…

And is this how it works in cities in general? Growing up in the suburbs, we buried our animals that died at home in the backyard. But in urban areas do people just find a corner of a park?

I have so many questions. Once again, living abroad opens up questions that I never thought to ask when I lived in America.