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Documentary on 'unique' Aurora pet cemetery wins international award

Aurora Museum and Archives staff members are featured in the film Happy Woodland Pet Cemetery: Uncovering History, which has won a gold Telly Award

A documentary film about work being done to restore the pet cemetery in Aurora has won an international documentary award.

The film, Happy Woodland Pet Cemetery: Uncovering History, has won gold in the museums and galleries – non-broadcast category at the Telly Awards.

The documentary was made in conjunction with the Aurora Museum and Archives and showcases the work museum staff have been doing cataloguing the burial sites of more than 800 named pets on the property.

The film stars Michelle Johnson and Jeremy Hood, Aurora Museum and Archives staff members, who were involved in the work of restoring the cemetery.

That work involved unearthing displaced headstones and using archival images and ground-penetrating radar to determine the original boundary of the cemetery. 

“We’re not just restoring a pet cemetery, but also telling a really important story about the lives of people from the 1930s all the way into the 1970s, and the strong connection they had to this very special place,” said Johnson.

“And with Happy Woodland likely being the first pet cemetery in Canada, we feel a great responsibility to restore this incredibly unique place as best we can to its original form.

The Happy Woodland Pet Cemetery was originally opened by Victor Blochin and Anne Wilson who purchased the property on Yonge Street in the late 1920s. 

“I’m absolutely thrilled that this documentary has received recognition on the global stage,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas in a news release. 

“The pet cemetery here in Aurora is truly one of the most unique parts of our history, and we’ve long been working on a way to preserve and showcase its fascinating story. This film beautifully captures some of the really creative work that our team at the museum and archives is undertaking to make that a reality.”

Annually, the Telly Awards, which honours excellence in video and television, receives more than 12,000 entries.

The film was directed and produced by Tracey and Tom Strnad, who work for Mountain Goat Film Company, based in The Blue Mountains.