Barking Blondes: What happens if… your dog outlives you?

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

photo 225x300 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

  • 5brian5

    Good Morning Jo, Anna, Molly & Matilda; A couple of months prior to my heart surgry, but after I was given what to me, was scary news, I had eight weeks or so to contemplate my death. Some time during that period, I snapped out of my self pity and fear, and turned it all into a joke. My very serious cardiovascular surgeon, looked at me as though I’d just landed from another planet when I bust out laughing at my odds of surviving dangerous surgery. Hey, I told him, I can skip paying the bills this month! I find my death rather amusing! However, I am very fearful of loosing my cat Tula to illness, or my being alive when my son has to bury his much loved dog Logan.(that also holds true for people I care about.) I love and respect loyalty. I don’t expect it from anyone, nor do I take it for granted. Tula and Logan, are more loyal than most humans I can think of! It has taken over a year, of working with Tula, a rescue cat, at feeling completly comfortable in this home, around me, guests, and my son. I believe she was abused. I hadn’t had Tula for a month, when I asked my therapist, who is not only an animal lover, but a very compassionate woman, if she would take Tula in the event that I drop dead from some vascular event or whatever. She said she would, which gave me considerable releif from anxiety. There is no way on earth, that I would ever be so selfish, as to want any pet of mine, murdered for my irrational wishes or beliefs. No matter what anyone believes, cats, dogs, and all other animals, just like people have rights which should be respected and protected. I love Tula and Logan too much to deny them one nanosecond of life. Logan and Tua, If they could speak, (which they do to me through their behaviour) would tell anyone, just how much they enjoy life, even though to us, their life may look simple and carefree. People cause pain at many levels, animals and nature should not only humble us, but give us all unlimited pleasue and happiness if we allow animals to be the individuals that they are, and nature to coexist without our constant interference.. Take Care of each other Ladies! Brian (Detroit)xxxx

  • MrReasons2Bcheerful

    Dear Anna, Jo, Molly and Matilda. The awful truth is that I have never really given it any thought. So today’s blog has made me take stock of the situation.

    Fine if my elderly mother died (sorry, I really despise euphemisms like “passed away” and “passed over” – just a bit meaningless!) – I could very easily take on her dog – if she still had one!

    But then, it made me sit up and think: “what if that recurring dream about being flattened by a No 19 bus outside Peter Jones were to come true”? Who WOULD look after my beloved Bruno? After all, he is a dog with “issues” having spent a year being fostered in different homes before I adopted him, and as a consequence doesn’t take too well to strangers. I would want him to live his life to the end.

    My closest friend is more of a “cat person” but I think he would fully understand – and feel honoured – that I had willed him my beloved pet! Just so long as there was a dowry big enough to take care I any vets bills!

  • Simon D

    Do dogs have souls? Well, maybe or maybe not. However if you believe in evolution and that we humans have eternal souls then by logic you have to believe all living species have eternal souls, seeing as we all have evolved from single cell species that lived 3.5 billion years ago.

    Of course it would be wrong to kill your pet just so it could be buried with you. There cannot be too many people who would think otherwise.

    As for dogs who may not survive without their owner due to congenital problems – well, there is the argument that perhaps we humans should not have tampered too much with creating so many weird versions that are prone to a plethora of health problems!

  • Jobrag

    Come to terms with the finality of death and campaign for the end of the “pedigree pooch”.

  • Heathbar

    Hmm, I thought Matilda had an operation to enable her to breathe better. So you are saying that it didn’t work and she is unable to be walked or taken care of by anyone else. Her breeder should be struck off the breeder’s register in that case. I am sure if Matilda needed a new home a bulldog rescue place would find her an excellent one with a person experienced with the breed.

  • madgooner1

    Scott of the Antarctic wrote his diaries in The Burlington

  • Gizwiz

    Gosh a very emotive subject and I can totally relate to 5Brian5’s comments as I too have recently undergone heart surgery and had to make plans as to what would happen to my beloved little girl [cat] in the event of my demise. As it happens she came from a fabulous Persian Rescue who I totally trust to look after her/re-home her if anything should happen to me and they will receive a generous sum of money for doing so. I would urge people to think very carefully about legacies for their pets and who they leave them to though. Many of you will remember the case of Henry Hill the 8 year old retriever whose elderly owner trusted into the care of a well known animal charity (can’t say who they are but they have 2 main branches, one in North London and one in Godmanchester – google ‘Henry Hill’ for the full story!) on the understanding that they would look after him or re-home him in return for her leaving them a substantial legacy. They put him to sleep within 24 hours of him arriving at the charity. People need to be very careful about who they leave legacies to and be mindful of the fact that you wishes for an animal to live out the remainder of its natural life or to be re-homed is not legally binding and many large charities will cite ‘health reasons’ when destroying older animals. They still happily take the legacies of course.

  • marcbletchley

    good evening jo and anna
    im a bit late coming on here its monday.
    its a subject that i cant really comment on and would not know how to deal with it.
    i did hear the transmission on bbc radio norfolk with steve bumfrey.
    a good read as normal
    woof woof from bletchley towers

  • theUKnaturalvet

    There is a fantastic charity – the Cinnamon Trust – that helps look after pets belonging to elderly and/or disabled carers (arranging volunteers to walk dogs etc.) and they also find foster carers and long term homes for pets whose carers die (with prior arrangement and notice of course) A charity well worth supporting.

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