A dispute over dogs—to be more specific, their crap—at Evergreen Washelli Funeral Home and Cemetery on Aurora Avenue has led one Seattle man to go to great lengths to get his point across. He says dog owners who frequent the cemetery often let their dogs run off-leash, and sometimes these dogs do their business where they shouldn't—near headstones and burial sites.
This angry man is so disturbed by the dogs frequenting the cemetery that for four days earlier this month he stood outside Evergreen Washelli and protested, raising a serious one-man stink about something that funeral home general manager Scott Sheehan says he's never received a similar complaint about in 15 years on the job.
The poop-protestor is Ken, a Seattle resident who doesn't want to give his full identity because he fears backlash. He's had his car smeared with feces while holding his sign in front of Evergreen Washelli, you see, and that can apparently scar someone. "It looked like it had been multiple larger dogshits in the bag," recalls Ken. "It wasn't just a little tiny poop. It was literally smeared all over."
In his late 30s, Ken says three generations of his relatives are buried at the cemetery, and visits every month or so. By the sound of it, his unhappiness over Evergreen Washelli's dog policy has long been festering. In addition to the time he spent holding a sign on Aurora, he also on one occasion took his message to the Evergreen Washelli funeral home in Bothell. And that's not counting the letters he's written to national funeral-home and cemetery organizations expressing his concerns.
Ken says large open spaces within Evergreen Washelli's 160 acres attract off-leash dogs, even though the cemetery has signs instructing dog owners to keep their canine companions tethered. Ken says the open spaces, which have no burials and are used for larger events at the cemetery, are basically considered off-leash dog parks by the surrounding community. "When a person enters the cemetery to visit someone, they either have a good mood, a bad mood, or a sad mood—but they are there for one specific reason, and that's to visit their dead. And that's my problem," says Ken. "When you're in that mood, that state, [dog crap] is not something you should have to deal with."
Sheehan disagrees that neighbors consider the area an off-leash dog park, though he notes that people can and do break the rules sometimes. And he says he's never encountered anyone as upset as Ken about the dogs that visit Evergreen Washelli. Though he respects Ken's feelings, Sheehan says his protest is greatly overstating the poop problem, adding that during his tenure at the cemetery, geese and flower-dumping crows have caused far more complaints than dog poop. "[The cemetery has] never been intended to be a dog park," says Sheehan. "The whole park is identified at every entrance as an 'on-leash' dog area. Do we use the full force of police to enforce it? Absolutely not. We don't want to upset folks, either.
"The reality is, some of the folks, I think, they know that our grounds crew leaves at 4:30 [p.m.], and they'll come in after work or whatever. And gosh, we don't have a way to police it 24 hours a day," Sheehan continues. "Other than throwing an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence around the entire thing, which doesn't promote what the cemetery is."