On the day of the burial of the much maligned King Richard III, the last of the line of the Plantagenets and the last King to lead his troops into battle on that famous horse, I’ve been ruminating on animal burials. Will one now find the horse he wished to barter a kingdom for?
The subject of animal cemeteries arouses very mixed emotions, yet for many people pets have, in most respects, meant as much as (sometimes even more than) humans.
In London animal cemeteries as the one near Lancaster gate in Kensington gardens have a long tradition but, similarly, in Italy animal cemeteries are becoming ever more frequent. For example, last year a new one was opened up at Scandicci near Florence. (See http://www.lanazione.it/firenze/cronaca/2014/04/22/1055953-animali-cimitero-scandicci.shtml). It is one of the nearest animal cemeteries to us.
Our loved pets have been buried in our own gardens. I have attended an Italian funeral of a beloved cat in a nearby village. The marmalade feline was buried below a large garden pot – a good idea as foxes, pine martens and wolves have been known to dig up their remains.
The following are photographs of memorial plaques to loved pets, kept by a great Englishman who was the subject of a major conference last year organised by the de Montaigne institute, Ian Greenlees.
These plaques are clearly not on public view being in the private garden of the house in which Greenlees once lived and kept his vast library before it was largely moved to Bagni di Lucca’s biblioteca communal in the Chiesa Anglicana.
I wonder where you will bury your loved pets, (provided you outlive them – a friend’s cat lived to be twenty four years old). Will you remember them by a plaque or stone like Greenlees did with his favourite pug or Elgar with Mina, his favourite cairn terrier, the dedicatee of the great composer’s final work?
Who thinks all this stuff about funerary monuments to our four-legged friend is sentimental trash? But it’s part of our life that has gone when they are gone – our memories, our loves, above all our years.
When the moment comes, however, a pet’s death can affect one in a way one never quite expects to be so devastating. Who knows whether I will succumb in Italy to the English habit of having a plaque in memory of those animals that have been so dear to us? Sometimes I sincerely wish they will outlive me but then who will look after them,?
PS This other plaque is in memory of another famous person who stayed here in Bagni di Lucca: