Visit This Hidden Dog Memorial on a San Diego-Area Beach · The Wildest

Skip to main content

This California Beach Is Home to a Gorgeous, Hidden Dog-Memorial Garden

Inspired by one local man’s love for his late dog, Gwen’s Garden has grown into a valued community space.

by Sio Hornbuckle
June 11, 2024
A garden that's a tribute for fallen pets in Del Mar, CA.
Photo Courtesy of @hiddensandiego

If you’ve ever wandered around the idyllic beaches of Del Mar, California — a scenic little beach town in San Diego County — you may have stumbled upon a touching oasis off the beaten path. Or, more likely, you passed right by it without noticing. Nestled in the Del Mar Dog Beach is a beautiful memorial garden celebrating the lives of hundreds of pets. 

Jessica Johnson, who runs the website and social media account Hidden San Diego, recently visited the spot after being tipped off during a visit to a nearby hiking trail. “I asked a local couple on their daily walk if they knew where the memorial garden was. They had never heard of it,” she wrote. “Eventually, they pointed me towards the Del Mar Dog Beach and said there’s a nice little garden at the entrance but they had no clue it was a memorial for dogs.”

At the entrance of the dog beach, she found a luscious garden. It wasn’t until she took a closer look that she noticed the mementos for dogs who had passed away: rocks painted with paw prints and pet names, statues of dogs, poems, and framed pet photos. A small wooden plaque in the garden identified it as the “Dog Beach Memorial” (also known as “Gwen’s Garden.”)

How the Dog Beach Memorial got its start

The memorial was started by Jimmy Joe Gooding after the death of his dog Gwen, who, he wrote on his GoFundMe for the beach, “loved being the dame of Dog Beach for all 10 years of her life.” A local volunteer who grew up in Del Mar, Gooding picked up trash from the beach for years before eventually clearing away overgrown plants in one section of the dog beach and planting new ones to fill the gap.

At the time, he was unaware of rules against planting non-native plants on the beach. He was asked by the city to revert the landscape back, but they allowed him to bring in new species of native plants that hadn’t previously grown there. Gooding took to GoFundMe to raise money to purchase these new plants — after putting in hundreds of his own dollars and taking on the landscaping himself.

“My hope is to plant the area with flowering natives that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies,” he explained. “These will be complimented by signs to educate people about what plants are there and how they support the local ecosystem.”

Visit Gwen’s Garden

Deep in the garden, a small plaque reads, “Gwen’s Garden — This garden is in memory of Gwen, my yellow Labrador.” Over time, a makeshift pet memorial took shape in the garden as people began leaving mementos for their own animals. While the spot was once a solo project, it’s now tended by Gooding, along with many volunteers in the community who appreciate the space to honor their departed pets. 

The garden can be found near the street at the north end of the Del Mar Dog Park, by the dog water fountains. It’s a can’t-miss tribute to the power of community and the unbreakable bonds between people and their pets. 

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

Related articles