Life in the cemetery (fall foliage pictures)

Foliage at Mt. Hope Cemeter, where I often walk Bandit.

I spend a lot of time walking in the cemetery. One of our dogs, Bailey, is dog reactive so it’s difficult to find places where we can walk and not feed her excitement. It’s been two years of training and practice and lots and lots of patience.

The more new experiences she has, the less reactive she gets. But it’s difficult to find places where we can walk and not run into off leash dogs. (See my discussion about the leash law.) So we walk in the local memorial park and small historic cemetery (with permission, and obeying the leash and ‘pick up after your dog’ rules, of course). It’s quiet, there’s a lot for Bailey to see and sniff, and we’ve made friends with the guys who work at one of the cemeteries. She’s acclimated to the machinery (we click and treat while we watch them dig graves) and the workers are friendly with both dogs. It’s a great place to train and walk.

Bailey and I on the nature trail at White Haven Memorial Park. Not only is the cemetery a lovely park-like setting that’s perfect to walk a reactive dog (no surprises), there’s a beautiful nature trail.

In fact, Bandit gets his walks in cemeteries as well, so we’re familiar faces at several places around town. It’s great exercise for the dogs and a nice way for me to get fresh air and contemplate deep things.

Bailey’s exposure to new places has to happen slow, and we need to stay in relatively calm areas. So we stick to the cemeteries where she goes often and where I can see in the distance in every direction. And where the squirrel population is relatively low. It’s a delicate balance of new experiences, maintaining calm, and getting exercise.

Mt. Hope Cemetery is a wildlife sanctuary. I spent a bit of time with this critter. Someone called him a whistle pig and said if I whistled he would have stood up for me. I was pretty close; I preferred him in his critter hole.

But Bandit gets along just about anywhere, so we spend lots of time at Mt. Hope Cemetery, in the city of Rochester. It’s an historic place, where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are at rest, along with more than 300,000 residents asleep in Jesus over 196 acres.

Mt. Hope is a certified wildlife sanctuary; when I’m with a dog I see squirrels and birds and chipmunks. But I’ve gone a few times sans four-legged companion, and been surprised by deer and quite a long visit with a ground hog.

Walking through the cemetery, I came upon five deer. They were eating grass and generally just hanging around among the headstones. We spent about half an hour together before they meandered off. It was awesome.

Spending time among the deer – while school groups of kids and cars passed by regularly just yards away – was one of my highlights walking in Mt. Hope Cemetery this year.

Mt. Hope in particular is my favorite place in the whole city and I wanted to share these pictures with you. If you get a chance, take a walk through a cemetery. Rather than a place of death, I like to think of it as a gathering of lives, past and present, human and animal.

(All photos (c) 2012 Joanne Brokaw; all rights reserved)

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