Deal­ing with dearly de­parted an­i­mals

The ex­is­tence of a pet ceme­tery near an his­toric Bucks church in­spires Don­ald Stan­ley to look at memo­ri­als – and buri­als – of beloved an­i­mals

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLE AND PLACES -

SEP­A­RATED by a low wall from the coun­try church­yard of Thomas Gray’s El­egy is a pets’ ceme­tery. An un­ex­pected lo­ca­tion, although the an­cient Egyp­tians mum­mi­fied and buried cats which they treated as deities.

De­spite the English­man’s leg­endary de­vo­tion to an­i­mals, it was not un­til 1881 that Lon­don’s Hyde Park be­came the site of a pet’s ceme­tery in the gate­keeper’s gar­den.

Although closed af­ter 22 years and 300 buri­als with their minia­ture head­stones, room was found in 1967 for the cer­e­mo­nial burial of the Royal Marines mas­cot dog.

In 1896 a kind-hearted New York vet of­fered to let an owner bury her dog in his ap­ple or­chard since when it has been fol­lowed by 70,000 more pets on the same site.

Man­sions such as La­gley, on the site of which Dou­glas Gar­dens now stands be­tween Berkham­sted and Northchurch, had its own pet ceme­tery where gen­er­a­tions of the owner’s pug dogs lay.

Other own­ers share their last rest­ing place with their pets. Thus Peggy Guggen­heim is buried along­side her dogs in their home in Venice which now houses the Peggy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion of art.

For work­ing an­i­mals that have no rest­ing place, there are memo­ri­als such as those to an­i­mals in war in Lon­don’s Park Lane, paid for by public sub­scrip­tion and un­veiled by the Princess Royal in 2004.

The world’s great re­li­gious faiths ex­hort peo­ple to pro­tect and hon­our an­i­mals. Out of this has grown a world­wide in­ter­faith net­work of an­i­mal chap­lains who coun­sel griev­ing own­ers, pray for sick or in­jured an­i­mals and con­duct me­mo­rial ser­vices.

They also pay vis­its to homes and hos­pi­tals with an­i­mals be­cause of the ther­a­peu­tic val­ues they have been found to bring.

For an owner who wishes to re­mem­ber a pet in an­other man­ner there are con­cerns spe­cial­is­ing in cre­at­ing pet me­mo­rial jew­ellery for daily wear.

This might com­prise a neck­lace that com­bines a com­part­ment for some of the cre­ma­tion ashes and an­other to hold a pho­to­graph or en­grav­ing of its name.

The de­signs in­clude not only those of pets rang­ing from dogs to horses and cats to rab­bits, but paw prints, horse­shoes and even dog­houses.

An­i­mal lovers have left be­quests for such pur­poses as the pro­vi­sion of wa­ter troughs for thirsty Lon­don horses.

Oth­ers have made gen­er­ous pro­vi­sion for their pets such as the stray cat taken from the streets of Rome which in­her­ited US$13mil­lion when its owner died in 2011. The Grave of The Great Lafayette in Pier­shill Ceme­tery, Ed­in­burgh. The ma­gi­cian caused an up­roar when he laid his favourite dog, Beauty, to rest in the ceme­tery (pic­tured be­low). He had to agree to be buried at the site him­self and cu­ri­ously died a just few days later a fire on stage. I’M MOV­ING to Lon­don. And, like most twenty-some­things with uni­ver­sity debts and a wither­ing sav­ings ac­count, I have duly be­come part of #gen­er­a­tionrent.

We’ve all seen the news re­ports and TV pro­grammes pro­claim­ing the sad state of af­fairs, with soar­ing rents, huge de­posits and hid­den fees caus­ing many young peo­ple to give up the idea of ever own­ing their own homes.

BBC Two’s Rooms, Rogues and Renters re­cently fea­tured a prop­erty in Lam­beth, on the mar­ket at £100 a week, which had a tree grow­ing through the bed­room.

But was the re­al­ity re­ally as bad as it seemed? I was about to find out.

Pre­dictably, house hunt­ing proved to be a de­press­ing task, with most places within our bud­get ei­ther hours from any­where or else lit­er­ally fall­ing apart.

In one flat, with large, dark stains on the car­pet and a mouldy smell in the air, an es­tate agent en­thu­si­as­ti­cally told us that a ‘quick hoover’ should sort things out.

When we did stum­ble upon some­thing promis­ing, a mad dash to be the first to put a hold­ing de­posit down en­sued. Not cur­rently living in Lon­don, we would be en­cour­aged by es­tate agents to pay up with­out ac­tu­ally view­ing the prop­erty, with a guar­an­tee that ‘it would be gone by the week­end’.

Even­tu­ally we found some­where that looked promis­ing and was mirac­u­lously hold­ing view­ings on a Satur­day. It was in a fun area, and from the out­side looked smart and clean.

As we waited by the front gate for the es­tate agent to ar­rive, an­other group of peo­ple mys­te­ri­ously ap­peared, and then an­other, and then an­other, all look­ing just as con­fused as we were.

The es­tate agent had se­cretly ar­ranged an open view­ing, where we and the crowd of des­per­ate house hun­ters were forced to run around the house, check­ing light fit­tings and sofa squishi­ness whilst hold­ing fran­ti­cally whis­pered coun­cils to de­ter­mine how much we should bid. Be­low ask­ing price? Above? Some­how they had man­aged to turn the prospect of rent­ing a dis­tinctly av­er­age maisonette in Clap­ton into an episode of The Price is Right.

We even­tu­ally won by set­tling on a price that was al­most def­i­nitely higher than it should have been, but at least we’d found some­where, which is a lot more than could be said for the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple at­tempt­ing to find a place to call home in the cap­i­tal.

The 1927 grave of a cocker spaniel in Ruis­lip, west Lon­don

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