Cedar Hill Pet Memorial Park - What a Difference Five Years Can Make
- Written by Theresa M. Brandon Theresa M. Brandon
- Published: 26 February 2017 26 February 2017
Cedar Hill, TX - During the past five years, the Cedar Hill Pet Memorial Park (often simply referred to as the "Park") has undergone a series of renovations.
Looking at the front of the Park with its beautiful six foot steel fence with a lovely arched gate bearing the organizational logo and motto "A Promise Made…A Promise Kept," one would not imagine the battle that was fought to save what is now a peaceful historical property holding the remains of over 5,500 beloved pets.
In August of 2011, Theresa M. Brandon and her husband Clark Brandon III discovered that the Park, located off Highway 67 in Cedar Hill, had been deserted by the previous owners and the property taxes had fallen into arrears going back to 2004. By the time of their discovery, the grounds were in complete disarray and overgrown, and had been seized by the Dallas County in preparation for selling it to reclaim the back taxes. Having two other pets already buried in the Pet Memorial Park, Theresa made the decision to find a way to save the Park.
Seeking legal assistance in Cedar Hill, Theresa could not have found a better advocate than Kimberly Cobb Pinkerton, a local attorney who is a pet lover herself. After leaving a message for Ms. Pinkerton, Theresa decided to just go to the address of the attorney to see if she could get in to see her. Walking down the hallway, Theresa asked a young woman if she knew Kimberly Pinkerton, and discovered she was speaking with her! Despite being a young attorney hoping to build her practice, Ms. Pinkerton did not hesitate to stop what she was doing and, with no thought of remuneration, immediately sat down with Ms. Brandon to discuss her concerns. The result was The Cedar Hill Pet Memorial Project, Inc., (CHPMP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which was founded on October 19, 2011.
Today, Theresa Brandon says: "We will never be able to repay the generosity and support that Cedar Hill Pet Memorial Project has received from Attorney Pinkerton since the group's inception. Kimberly has been a friend to all of us, and I especially hold her close to my heart as a woman who exemplifies true Christian principles by her actions."
Five months later, on March 6, 2012, a small group of concerned citizens stood on the Dallas County Courthouse steps during the monthly auction of property that had become delinquent in back property taxes. Attired in red shirts and sporting large round buttons emblazoned with the words "Save the Park," they stood ready to fight for the right to purchase the property considered sacrosanct due to their personal connections to it.
At 9 am, the gentleman announced the property located at 1610 S.J. Weaver Freeway was now up for an opening bid. As instructed, Richard Lonsbury, then Project Treasurer, took the lead and offered $100. One other individual who was interested in the property also made a bid. Little by little, battling against each other, the price continued to grow, as members of the group in red challenged the opposing bidder. The challenges were not rude, but rather based in queries asking if the opposing bidder understood what the property was and why they were such staunch supporters. It became clear that the impassioned group was not going to relent and that the property was extremely important to them. As reported by Diane Jennings in a March 2012 Dallas Morning News article:
When he kept hiking the price by hundred-dollar increments, Haley burst out: “You know, sir, there are thousands of animals buried there.” The bidder, Fazel Rahmani, quickly dropped out of the auction. He said later that he did not realize the property was a pet cemetery.
After winning the bid for the property, the newly formed nonprofit needed to pay all back property taxes, penalties and interest, totaling approximately $30,000. While they had miraculously raised half that amount in the five short months of existence, it was through the efforts of one individual, Elizabeth Haley, that the remaining funds needed were secured from an anonymous source.
"One of the challenges when building any business or organization is to do it through programs that not only make sense, but expand its reach into the community it serves in a positive manner" says Ms. Brandon. The creation of the Shadow Fund, an advocacy program, was such a program. Since the initial rollout of that program in 2016, CHPMP has had the challenge of convincing both sponsors and donors of the need and value of supporting such a program, as well as communicating the opportunity to those we wish to serve. In order to do this, the organization decided to conduct two annual events at the Park to draw members of the community to celebrate the value that animals provide in our lives. The first is K9 Veterans' Day which falls on March 13th every year. The second is the "Blessing of the Animals" which occurs during the first weekend in October.
This year CHPMP will hold the K9 Veterans' Day event at the Park on Saturday, March 11th commencing at 1:00 pm. The event will publically thank those individuals and companies who support the non-profit on a regular basis: Pinkerton Law Firm & Associates, PETCO and the PETCO Foundation, as well as Woodmen of the World. We will also hear from some of the police officers who received a Shadow Fund grant in 2016 to help cover the medical costs for their retired K9 partners. Lastly, those handlers with K9s who attend the celebration will be recognized and honored by having a photo taken of them at the stunning War Dog Monument.
The public is invited to the K9 Veterans’ Day ceremony; however, we ask that you leave your pets at home due to the presence of a good number of active K9s. At all other times, well-behaved and leashed pets are welcome to visit the Park with their families, especially during the annual "Blessing of the Animals" in October.
Tax-exempt donations to the CHPMP can be made through their website at www.CedarHillPetCemetery.org or by check to P.O. Box 1418, Cedar Hill, TX 75104-1418. For more information, or to arrange a burial for your pet, call 1-800-818-8152.
Update, since the above article was written:
Mr. Anonymous: may he rest in peace…
While the Cedar Hill Pet Memorial Project, Inc., (CHPMP) is preparing to celebrate both their fifth anniversary for saving the property which is the site of the Pet Memorial Park (Park), as well as the upcoming K9 Veterans' Day event on March 11th, we are saddened by the news of a recent loss: the passing of “Mr. Anonymous” on January 25, 2017. We discovered this after noticing a new bench in the Park.
No - this is not an analogy for the lack of anonymous donors, but the loss of a real person, a gentleman from south Texas who, during our time of greatest financial need, made a generous matching contribution so that we could pay the nearly $30,000 in back property taxes, penalties and interest after winning the bid at the land auction held on March 6, 2012.
All non-profits rely on the generosity of people willing to make donations. During that tumultuous time, our organization had literally just been formed within the previous five months and had miraculously raised a considerable amount of funds with just a handful of committed individuals. The potential loss of this historical property (measuring only 1.8 acres and containing the remains of 5,500 beloved pets dating back to the 1940s) caused people to step forward and help us out. Once the echo of "Save the Park" had died out after saving the property, the real work began to renovate and maintain this property in perpetuity.
For the moment, CHPMP has to pause and recognize that all of the work, the renovations, the creation of the War Dog Monument, and the advocacy program for retired K9s to help their handlers with expensive medical care through grants, that none of these things would have occurred had Mr. Anonymous not demonstrated his faith in us through his generosity. His long-time friend, Elizabeth Haley, shared that she had kept him informed of the various milestones we had met over the years, and that he was especially proud of the War Dog Monument. Elizabeth called it the "Domino Effect…that what we do now leads to so many other wonderful things later."
We are glad that our continued efforts and successes brought Mr. Anonymous such joy. After all, he was known as someone who loved his Labradors and doves and animals in general. We hope that there will be other Anonymous folks out there who agree that the small non-profit in Cedar Hill has demonstrated its worthiness to receive additional donations through the "Domino Effect" so that our work can continue in service to this community asset known as the Cedar Hill Pet Memorial Park. Elizabeth shared that she hopes the Mr. Anonymous story will, in part, "…inspire others to do positive things in their lives and communities. It could be any of us that is Mr. Anonymous."
Thank you, Mr. Anonymous. May you rest in peace, sir.