Hobbes, the Eastgate family's pet schnauzer, used to lay on the bottom step of their home. Even after he died, Bob Eastgate, still found himself watching that step on the stairs so as not to trample the dog.
“They’re just always there,” Bob Eastgate said of pets and how hard it often is to get used to the fact that they’re gone.
For some people, their pets are their families, and, with that in mind, Bob Eastgate, the owner and operator of Eastgate Funeral & Cremation Services, wanted to give residents a place to grieve, memorialize and lay their pets to rest.
That’s when Bob Eastgate started Summerfield Pet Memorial Park, bringing his expertise in the grief and funeral industry to local pet owners.
Located on six acres of the Fairview Cemetery property, there is a family of deer that live in the colorful fall trees at Summerfield, named after Bob Eastgate’s pet-loving father, and a pond with turtles and Hay Creek running near by.
Bob Eastgate worked on the property all summer, clearing downed trees and landscaping an acre’s worth of plots for pet owners. He said the property has been surveyed, laid out like a paw print, and those who purchase lots will receive a deed for their pet’s burial area. There are 1,300 lots on the one acre with the option for owners to bury multiple pets on a lot.
When Hobbes died, Bob Eastgate remembers it taking almost a week to receive the ashes and not knowing with certainty about the process. With that in mind, Summerfield, which is being operated as its own division of the funeral home, has a crematorium at the cemetery and ashes are returned to families within three days. Customers can purchase urns or other memorabilia, participate in a pet loss support group and post tributes to their pets on the Summerfield website, www.summerfieldpetmemorialpark.com/.
Daniel Eastgate, who will serve as director of pet services, said he is proud of the funeral service business his father and grandfather built and they’re well acquainted with what loss feels like and helping to heal that loss.
“We’re in the people business, caring for the people in their time of need,” Daniel Eastgate said. “We understand there’s grief when people lose a pet too.”
The Eastgates bought Hobbes as a companion for their youngest son, Tom, after his older siblings had moved out of the house.
Hobbes had diabetes and had to receive two shots a day, but he was the “kind of dog you want to give every chance you could,” Bob Eastgate said.
Daniel Eastgate said he can remember the scurry of Hobbes feet around the house and the fact that the dog would never allow himself to be put on a leash.
“It was like the leash was beneath him,” Daniel Eastgate said with a laugh. “He trained his owners well.”
Now, Daniel Eastgate has a golden retriever puppy, Lulu, for his three young sons and they’re quickly making their own memories. It’s these happy memories, his father’s enthusiasm and seeing the need within the area that led him to get involved with Summerfield. Other pet cemeteries in Bismarck have closed, leaving pet owners without many options for their furry friends.
“I think the community will be pleased there’s something there,” Bob Eastgate said.
The Eastgates started selling lots in September and received 10 calls within two weeks from interested people referred to them by area veterinarians.