In a corner of “The dog and cat kingdom” in Truong Dinh, Hanoi, 26 year-old Hao was burning incense and placing flowers and a tray of offerings in front of a small tomb made up of six laterite bricks for his dead pet.
Lek, his Japanese cat, was 10 years old when it had developed a stomach tumor and died during surgery at home. “She was a really poor cat; I brought her back home when she was abandoned by her old owner 10 years ago.”
Hao cried like a baby while recalling the moment Lek died nearly a week ago, “She breathed her last breath heavily and died in my hands. My family feels really bad that we let her suffer like that,” he said.
At first, Hao buried Lek on the Hong River’s bank, but then paid VND 5 million (USD 240) to move her to this pet cemetery in the “kingdom” when he heard about it.
The pet cemetery belongs to a big pet “multiplex” center owned by poet Nguyen Bao Sinh, who said he believed in a Buddhist teaching that men and animals are equal in this world.
There are more than 400 dead cats and dogs buried in the special graveyard, which is a peaceful resting venue featuring flowers, trees, a large pond with a Guan Yin Buddha statue and two small followers.
Lining the two sides of the pond are tombs made of laterite, each of which has an incense holder and a tombstone carved with the pets’ name or image.
There is also another site to hold ashes and incense holders for cremated dogs or cats.
Sinh said he raised a German Shepherd named Ami forty years ago, “when it died, I saved a part of my land to build a cemetery for it. Eventually, many people learned of the cemetery and asked me to let them bury their dead pets with Ami. Gradually it has become a graveyard for dogs and cats,” Sinh said.
Most of the owners who bury their pets here really love animals. “Some time ago, there was a group of young students who brought a dog and asked me to let it rest here.
“Together they gathered a sum of money to give me. Many nights, I saw them sitting and [trying to] smoke near its grave and then coughing heavily [because apparently they did not know how to].
“I found it strange and asked them to stop, and they said that the dog really liked cigarette smoke when it was alive. They were smoking so that the dog would not feel cold in the other world,” Sinh said.
In Hanoi, it is not unusual nowadays when owners spend a fortune to groom their pets, giving it regular health check-ups or beauty care. Providers for this service flourish in the capital, with pet care centers running well in Nam Dinh, Truong Chinh and Ba Dinh.
In his “kingdom”, Sinh also used a total of 3,000 meter square of land to build a 5-star hotel for pets. High-class services from hotel stays, entertainment, and health check-ups to beauty care are offered to any owners who are willing to open their wallet.
Rooms are lavishly furnished with the best equipment including wooden floors, a sofa bed, air conditioning, and abath tub to cartoon DVDs. Any pet that is checked in and stays at the hotel will have a nurse of its own that will take care of the animal. She will play with, keep track of its health condition, and even sleep with it in the room.
As each room has a camera to monitor the pet, and an automatic curtain system for pets to sunbathe during the daytime, the price of this VIP room is not cheap.
Services from massages, hair trimming, pedicures, and make-up to hair dying and perms are also available, and one who has the need can even consult a specialist on their pet’s psychology.
41-year-old Tran Thi Dung from Hanoi said she brought her American curl cat here and had a consultation session with the center’s vets, as the cat was too naughty at home for her to control it.
“We sometimes even hold weddings and engagement ceremonies for cats and dogs,” Sinh said.