I have often wondered at the sheer, to my mind, lunacy of treating animal pets as members of the family. When I was a boy, we had cats, who deigned to allow us to look after them, to feed them; and very occasionally, to stroke them. They were street cats, they fought, scrapped, hunted, killed and survived, and when they died, we slung their bodies in the bin, because that is what you do with remains; whether animal or vegetable. The life spark had gone, the vital energy which sustained them had disappeared, and all that remained was scruffy skin, mottled and scarred fur, bones, tendons and muscle. As I said, bin-fodder.
As I wrote some years back, I visited my mother-in-law at her home in northern London, as I was nearby on a contract visit. In conversation, she said that her long-time friend and companion, an eighteen year-old basset hound, was not only half-blind, almost deaf but was now suffering from the canine form of arthritis in his hind-quarters.
As I have always believed in plain speech, I said that as she had been the beneficiary of many years of companionship with her dog, she should act purely in the spirit of friendship and do the only thing which she was able for her dog’s welfare. I said “Don’t put him to sleep, don’t allow him to go to a nicer place, or any other of the euphemisms which humans use; Kill him! Take him to the vet’s practice and let the animal be humanely killed! Don’t wrap the action with fuzzy sentiment, don’t attribute human qualities to an animal; the damn dog is suffering, kill him!”
Two weeks later, she did just that, and her long-time canine companion went to a silent death by injection.
Which is why I write now to tell you that I have just read THE daftest reader’s letter ever in what else but the Property/DIY sector of my newspaper. These two characters are selling their house, but are worrying that their pets are buried in the back garden. They do not know whether to exhume the remains, and rebury in their new pad, or tell the prospective new owners that a small corner of their new home is forever ‘Tiddles’ resting place; and would they promise to give reasonable access for sentimental visits?
I despair, I really do.