Animal friends carve out a life among the dead in KC cemetery

Ella, the deer that lives alone among the tombs and gravestones in Kansas City’s historic Elmwood Cemetery, has found a companion.

The doe that was born in the cemetery and then lost her mother to traffic has befriended an injured dog that is believed to have been dumped by its owners at the burial ground at Truman Road and Van Brunt Boulevard.

The two misfits keep close and seem to watch out for each other, observers have noticed.

“They’ve just been hanging out together,” said Elmwood trustee Bruce Mathews. “They’ll lie down together.”

But it can’t last.

“Ella’s our mascot, and she apparently has got a friend in this dog, and she enjoys the company,” said John Weilert, president of the Elmwood Cemetery Society. “But Ella’s a deer, and the dog is not going to be able to handle the winter conditions the way she can.”

Weilert and other friends of Elmwood say the best outcome would be for a shelter to take the dog and try to find it a good home. They are working on that.

In the meantime, volunteers leave food and water out for the dog, which is not aggressive but is apprehensive of people. It runs away on three legs when approached.

Mathews, who has photographed the dog and deer in close proximity, thinks the canine was abused before it was abandoned about two weeks ago.

Anita Gorman, who is also a friend of Elmwood Cemetery and a past chairwoman of the Missouri Conservation Commission, said that last summer’s drought meant a shortage of acorns for Ella to forage. But she said conservation officials tell her the deer can survive the winter.

In fact, she is probably better off in the cemetery than if people tried to capture her and release into some woods, they say.

Ella was born around Memorial Day 2011. After her mother was killed, the animal seemed to take to people. Visitors come by the cemetery just to see her.

“We have as many weddings in Armour Chapel as we do funerals here,” said Mathews, “and whatever’s going on in there, Ella will literally come up to the door of the chapel and watch. And if there is a tour of the cemetery grounds, she will become part of the group and walk along.”

Mathews said he thinks the deer is lonely but has enough sense not to wander out onto Truman Road.

Cemetery officials do not want well-meaning people to come to Elmwood and try to capture the dog before a shelter can be lined up to take it, Weilert said.

Gorman hopes the dog can be adopted and loved.

“But I hate to take him away from Ella,” she said.