Saturday, December 9, 2023

Pet Cemetery, Not Just Aurora’s But Canada’s First, Part I

Happy Woodlawn is the name of the Canada’s first pet cemetery located here in Town of Aurora, Ontario. Where exactly? Some of us do know and some of us do not.

Do we know anything about the pet cemetery? I did not until I did intensive search for the unknown. I tried to go the easy route and ask for supposedly existing report. There was nothing but silence. My curiosity grew day by day. From one reference to another, I found names of people, then I found more names and I also found stories.

I have no photographs. Will I ever have the opportunity to photograph the pet cemetery? I don’t know. I wish I could. The place may be lost soon and it would be nice to preserve it in pictures. I need permission. It is a private property in deed.

Step by step these are my findings. To keep you on your toes, I shall show you every step of my research and how I got to the next and next step.

The Taddle Creek got me going. When I read what it was, I was surprised how similar path of my research was to its description.

Taddle Creek is a buried stream in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that flowed a southeasterly course about six kilometres long, from the present site of Wychwood Park through the University of Toronto, into the Toronto Harbour near the Distillery District. During the 19th century, it was buried and converted into an underground sewer, but traces of the creek can still be found today. The scenic footpath known as Philosopher’s Walk follows the ravine created by the creek from the Royal Ontario Museum to Trinity College.

Well enough, the Happy Woodlawn pet cemetery in Aurora is overgrown now and soon may be lost. However, ‘traces‘ of information about the pet cemetery can still be found in the archived newspapers or books that are not in print anymore. However, the scenic footpath may not be available if we do not preserve it, at least in photographs.

It wasn’t really Taddle Creek itself, it was the Taddle Creek Magazine, a literary magazine based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that is published twice a year and it showcases work of established and emerging authors/illustrators who live in the Toronto area.

Furthermore, it wasn’t really Taddle Creek magazine either, it was a story in the magazine Toronto’s Lady Santa Claus by Terry Murray. A story about Merle Foster, the popular Toronto sculptor known for “her gargoyles and other architectural decoration, monumental works, portrait busts, public fountains, garden statuary, and small pieces such as sport trophies and bookends,” – Terry Murray wrote.

‘Toronto’s Lady Santa Clause’ by Terry Murray

“If Santa Claus was a woman I always say she’d be Merle Foster,” Gordon Sinclair, the legendary Canadian journalist and broadcaster, told readers of his Radio column in the Toronto Daily Star, in 1952.

In her story, she also wrote, “… Foster continued to be a “maker”—memorializing outings with Barbara in little paintings and sketches, and taking whatever work she could find, including creating headstones for Canada’s first pet cemetery, located in Aurora, Ontario.”

Beyond that point I found nothing more about Merle Foster, that is any pictures or other references to the pet cemetery. Every bit of information helps and now we know that Merle Foster created headstones for the Happy Woodlawn cemetery here in Aurora.

Terry Murray is the author of Faces on Places: A Grotesque Tour of Toronto, a book on Toronto’s architectural ornament. Ms. Murray became aware of Merle Foster while researching Faces on Places: A Grotesque Tour of Toronto. The book received an Award of Merit from Heritage Toronto in 2007.

Come to Dust: The Long Life, Short Art and Shorter Afterlife of Merle Foster is Ms. Murray’s book currently in progress; and Toronto’s Lady Santa Claus, is a chapter from Come to Dust published in the December 2009 issue of Taddle Creek magazine.

Days passed. I asked around and no answers. I stopped my search for days. I did not know where to begin, until I stumbled on new information.

Read Happy Woodlawn Pet Cemetery, Dog Ghost Stories, Part II.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON

1] Toronto’s Lady Santa Claus, online chapter snapshot from Taddle Creek Magazine.


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