It was bad enough when the family dog died on the Korns’ wedding anniversary.

What made it even worse, Ben Korn said, was that he and his wife paid about $1,200 for a burial at Pet Cemetery of Tucson and have yet to see a headstone.

The June 6 agreement the Korns signed, for a total of $1,173, covers the grave, endowment care, interment fee, casket and a granite memorial for their beloved Dalmatian Floyd.

It’s going on November and there’s still no headstone.

“I feel they kind of took advantage of us in a real tough situation, ” said Korn, 30.

He repeatedly contacted cemetery owner Darla Norrish, who eventually stopped returning his calls.

She did respond with a certified letter and refund check for $300 he received Friday, referring him to two memorial companies where he could get a marker.

“Isn’t that terrible?” Korn asked. He said every time he deals with the headstone issue, he revisits Floyd’s death.

“My wife was hysterical for weeks,” he said of his bride of two years, Melissa, 32, who had Floyd in her life for 10 years.

“Floyd was her baby, and he was loved by everyone who dealt with him.”

Norrish, whom the newspaper first tried to contact two days before Korn received the refund check, returned the calls Monday. She said she did not wish to comment on any clients’ business to respect their privacy. She offered a phone number for the cemetery’s management company, which did not return calls for comment.

Korn had visited Floyd’s grave at the cemetery, 5720 E. Glenn St, at least half a dozen times since July, looking for the 15-inch granite headstone they selected, complete with a paw print and “Our Little Man” etched on it.

Floyd’s plot is nestled between one for a dog named Annie, who died in 2003, and a pet named Crystal, who lived until 1993. Across the aisle sits headstones for a pack of pugs with the surname Laster who have their own subgarden cordoned off.

“All we wanted was a nice place to go to in his memory,” Korn said at the cemetery Monday afternoon. The tinkling of wind chimes was the only sound at the quiet expanse just south of Glenn Street.

“Now his whole memory is ruined,” he said.

Korn’s experience is not a singular one. The Better Business Bureau lists Pet Cemetery of Tucson, also known as Petland Memorial Park, as unsatisfactory, citing its failure to respond to complaints. One was lodged by Korn against the company; a second, by another customer – both within the past three years.

No further information was available because the company is not an accredited BBB member, said Kathy Maytum, an administrative assistant with the bureau.

“The whole thing is a heartbreaker,” Korn said. “It’s so frustrating and just a bad deal from the beginning.”

It all started back in June, when Floyd was stricken by an ailment that paralyzed his esophagus. He could no longer keep food down, was in extreme misery and had to be put to sleep about five days after he fell ill, Korn said. “He was just a shell of himself.”

Floyd’s death was so traumatizing the Korns had to take several days off work to recuperate.

“We ended up spending the next two or three days just staring at the TV on the wall in our bedroom,” he recalled.

The backyard was not an option: Floyd deserved a proper resting place, Korn said.

Buena Pet Clinic, where Floyd was taken for veterinarian care, referred them to the cemetery.

With Pet Haven Memorial Park no longer handling burials, Pet Cemetery of Tucson is the only operating pet cemetery in town.

But, Korn believes, it’s not a proper resting place for Floyd.

“The talk about this place is supposedly it’s all loving and compassionate,” he said, “but this is a disgrace.”


This article originally appeared in the Oct. 31, 2007, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.