When Pets Passed On

Casey de Pont | February 16, 2015

Peggy Guggenheim’s grave site includes a spot for her pet dogs.

Pet-keeping became popular with the upper-class in England during the Victorian Era. Queen Victoria herself was a dog-lover; her favorite pet was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Dash. Dog ownership became a symbol of high status — only the rich had the time and money needed to properly care for a pet — and by the 1920s, no proper English estate was without a dog.

When their loyal companions passed on, they were afforded burials fit for nobility. In the early 1900s, a portion of London’s Hyde Park was converted into a pet cemetery. Some of the inscriptions on the grave markers show how well-loved these pets were:

“In Memory of our darling Wee Bobbit, for six years our loving and most devoted friend who passed away on Jan. 16, 1901. So lonely without our darling sweetheart.”

“In memory of Jim. A little dog with a big heart.”

The English aristocracy weren’t the only ones to honor their animals this way. American art collector and socialite Peggy Guggenheim had every one of her dogs buried in a plot adjoining her own.

photo: wikipedia / Michael Reeve / Creative Commons

Greyfriars Bobby: wikipedia/Michael Reeve/
Creative Commons

At Greyfriars cemetery in Scotland, one dog earned a spot usually reserved for humans with a stunning show of loyalty. According to legend, a Skye Terrier refused to leave his master’s grave until his own passing fourteen years later. He was beloved by the townspeople, who called him “Greyfriars Bobby,” and erected a memorial statue to Bobby in 1872.

During the Great War, when many dogs were pressed into service (much like their masters), those killed in action were laid to rest with honors. Edinburgh Castle has designated a special plot of land on their grounds as a cemetery for canine soldiers, which has been maintained by the castle staff since the 1840s.

Back at Downton, we imagine poor departed Isis will be honored as any member of the Crawley family would be — with a plot on the estate grounds, close by her masters. Rest in peace, girl.