The definition of a dog paradise is clear enough: bottomless biscuits, walks on demand, squirrels that you can actually catch.
Whether it exists is a more acute question. But according to a new study, pet owners are more likely to believe in the afterlife of pets – and have used tombstones and monuments to express their belief that one day they will reunite.
A new analysis published in the journal Antiquity, which examines the history of pet cemeteries in Newcastle and London for 1
“Few 19th-century tombstones mention the afterlife, although some may” hope “to see their loved ones again,” said Dr. Eric Turini, author of the study, which examines more than 1,000 animal tombstones. “By the middle of the 20th century, most animal tombstones suggest that owners expect to be collected in the afterlife.”
The images of tombstones included in the paper show simple 19th-century references to “Topsy, a loving friend,” “Our dear little Bucha,” and “Dear fluff.” In the few cases where the afterlife is mentioned, they do not challenge modern Christian Orthodoxy and only inspire hope for a reunion.
But in the 1950s, the owner of Denny, a “brave little cat,” firmly added, “God bless us until we meet again.” In the same age, religious references became more frequent, with symbols such as crosses and “epitaphs calling for God’s care and protection.”
Turini, a professor of historical archeology at the University of Newcastle, has found other evidence that pet owners are increasingly looking at animals as part of the family. He writes that an increasing number of tombstones use surnames after World War II – although “some early adoptive parents put them in parentheses or quotation marks, as if to admit that they were not full members of the family.”
He also found that owners increasingly referred to themselves through family pronouns such as “Mummy,” “Father,” or “Aunt.”
Turini said that while it is difficult to quantify, most stones are “probably for dogs” – but the proportion of cats and other animals has increased as the 20th century progresses.
Tombstones in the four pet cemeteries in question cover burials from the 1880s to the 1980s. Since then, cremation has become more common for those who want to commemorate the death of their pet.
Turini – who once owned only two goldfish but recently adopted two cats arriving next week – told the Guardian that one of the most notable trends lately is that UK jurisdictions “allow people and animals to be buried together for the first time. “
Other modern pet memorial services include paw prints cast in clay, collars with collars and even the chance to turn their ashes into diamonds. But many owners still opt for a simpler approach to burying them in the back garden – or what is euphemistically called “pet cremation.”
While religious views around the world differ, Christianity has traditionally believed that animals have no hope of an afterlife. But Pope John Paul II said in 1990 that animals have souls and are “as close to God as humans.”
Some pet lovers viewed Pope Francis’ remarks in 2014 as an additional hope for hairy eternity. He said that “what lies ahead … is not the destruction of the universe and everything around us. Rather, he brings everything to its full being, truth and beauty. “