Barking Blondes: What happens if… your dog outlives you?
Having spent a comfortable night at the dog-friendly Burlington Hotel in Sheringham on Wednesday, we set off towards Norwich. BBC Norfolk was on the car stereo and we were thrilled to hear them trailing ahead to our interview about the Barking Blondes book on the afternoon show.
Shortly after a track from 1976, there followed an item concerning a local funeral director attempting to deal with an increase in requests for dogs and their owners to be buried together. Not all human cemeteries accept dogs and for those who don’t consider that dogs have souls, it’s inappropriate maybe, to allow them to be buried on consecrated ground.
This then led on to the question of what to do if your dog was to outlive you. Would it be immoral to ask for your pet to be euthanized in order for the two of you to end your days together? Even if the animal was young and healthy?
We decided to talk about this on our radio show and we were met with a deluge of incensed callers. Every single one of them accusing the thought as selfish and ethically wrong – to end a life prematurely even an animal’s life.
We then started thinking about our own dogs. Both are bull breeds and both have demanding healthcare requirements. Matilda is a five-year-old British Bulldog, a breed renowned for congenital breathing issues. On a hot day in London she is only moments away from over-heating and imminent death. She can also only eat raw food or will break out in allergies and there are kidney stones just waiting to reappear. Hence, she is expensive to run and delegating to a dog walker is never a consideration. Molly is a miniature bull terrier and at 11 years of age, classed as a geriatric, even though she’s got the teeth of a four-year-old!
In the event of one of us being passed over, we would only trust one another for the long term care of our girls. Only then would we be certain that they would be kept in the way needed for their specialist care. However some pet owners don’t have the luxury of family or friends, and if clear instructions are not laid out in a will an owner risks leaving a dog stranded, alone and grief-stricken.
Paranormal scientist Dr Rupert Sheldrake in his book Dogs that Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home discusses the bond through death between dogs and their owners. He recounts countless anecdotal references to dogs refusing to leave the dead masters side, including the legend of Greyfriars Bobby. Despite scepticism of Bobby’s authenticity, proof lies in the Museum of Edinburgh where his licence and collar are on display with receipt of payment by The Lord Provost.
Equally, many owners experience an overwhelming sense of great pain and grief if they are apart from their dog and it dies unexpectedly. Sheldrake attributes this to complex social bonds or invisible energetic connections, like elastic bands between dogs and their owners. Through all of life’s ups and downs your dog is your responsibility and making plans for the inevitable is just part of life.
The Buddhist faith believes that an energy from any living creature lives on after death and re-forms into a new life. They say that an owner and their dog will inevitably be reunited across the rainbow bridge, and begin a new life together, maybe even reincarnated – a heartening thought.
‘Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb & Jo Good, published by Hamlyn, £12.99
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