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
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