Princess Tuptim, Cupcake, Wiggles. The Presidio Pet Cemetery is the final napping place for hundreds of furry, scaly, and feathered companions who faithfully served the military families who lived at the Presidio when it was an Army post. Before their deaths, cherished pets like Skipper, "The best damn dog we ever had," brought stability and levity to a life that included frequent moves and oftentimes the threat of war. What better way to honor that role than a permanent half-acre hillside plot with a view of San Francisco Bay and a solemn, hand-lettered sign that reads, "The love these animals gave will never be forgotten."
Dogs and cats claim the greatest number of the cemetery's 424 lovingly handmade headstones. Beloved birds, rodents, and reptiles are interred here as well, along with fish who were spared the ignobility of burial by flush and one pet known simply as "Mr. Iguana." Names, dates, and sentiments are stenciled or carved into wood, or engraved in stone. Some markers are embellished with hand-drawn portraits. The visage of "Our Best Friend Sammi" — a cat who survived almost 20 years of nomadic military life — is immortalized on porcelain and inset in a bronze plaque.
While its exact beginnings were not documented by the Army, newspaper reports piece together a history that begins in the early 1950s. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Swing, the 6th Army Commander, post engineers laid out and landscaped the area at the foot of McDowell Avenue adjacent to the Calvary Stables. Over the years, the cemetery has occasionally fallen into disrepair only to be taken up again as someone's pet cause — a strong testament to the human-animal bond.
Though it's not a contributing resource to the Presidio's National Historic Landmark District status, the Presidio Trust is committed to preserving this special site. Preservation specialist Christina Wallace carefully documented the condition of every grave marker and has created a conservation plan.
The cemetery — located where McDowell Avenue meets Crissy Field Avenue beneath the new Presidio Parkway viaduct — is currently protected by fencing but will open again when roadway construction is complete. It's easy to visit during a walk along the nearby Presidio Promenade, or alternately park at the Cavalry Stables near the Park Archives.