The Presidio Pet Cemetery, nestled under Doyle Drive at the foot of McDowell Avenue, is the final resting place for more than 420 dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, lizards, and goldfish that once “served” at the Presidio. Grave markers date back more than fifty years, when about 2,000 military families were stationed at the post.
How it Began
Legend has it that the cemetery began as a 19th century burial ground for cavalry horses and that later guard dogs were buried here. Sometime after World War II it became the place where military families laid their companions “Tiger” and “Knucklehead” to rest. Some attribute the creation of the 450-square-foot cemetery to Lieutenant General Joseph M. Swing, who was the commander of the Presidio in the 1950s.
Many of the grave markers make it obvious that the pets buried there were Army brats. Some include the country of birth, such as China or Australia, and others show owners’ ranks, including majors, colonels, and generals.
Maintaining the Pet Cemetery
The cemetery has officially been closed to internments since 1963. In 2010, the Presidio Trust and Swords to Plowshares, a non-profit organization serving veterans in the Presidio, entered into a partnership to maintain the cemetery. Through the agreement, Trust staff members work with residents of Swords to Plowshares
permanent supportive housing facility to care for the cemetery. Volunteers pull weeds, pick up trash, trim shrubs, and will eventually restore individual grave markers.
Closed for Construction
While Doyle Drive
is being replaced overhead, the Pet Cemetery is protected by construction fencing and beams and is closed to the public. After construction ends in 2015, the beloved site is expected to get a facelift and once again take its place as a touching reminder of what military family life was like at the Presidio.