Newcastle University researchers hope to create an online archive of headstones, plaques and other memorials dedicated to beloved animals, especially dogs, as part of a study looking at how the relationship between humans and animals has changed over time.
Dr Eric Tourigny, Lecturer in Historical Archeology at Newcastle University, explained that “the inscriptions and designs of animal memorials often reflect the relationship between a dog and its owner. In some cases, memorials carry just a note of the dog’s name and the date it died, while in others there are references to the role the dog played in life such as companion, friend or family members”.
Researchers are appealing to members of the public to help them catalogue the design, inscription and location of the memorials to use for the study, which will enable them to examine the changing attitudes to and roles of dogs over time.
The trend of animal memorials dates back to the Victorian era, when the first public pet cemetery opened in London in 1881. Since then many more have appeared, such as Ilord Animal Cemetery in London, which contains over 3000 beloved pets and working animals. A local example is the pet cemetery in Northumberland Park, which contains over 200 headstones. A notable dog interred there is ‘Pop’, an Alsatian used to detect landmines. He is credited with saving countless lives in Italy during the Second World War.
Despite the popularity of animal memorials, there is currently no national database that records their location or number.
Dr Tourigny added: “Whether it’s a gravestone marking where a service animal has been interred, or a plaque on a park bench dedicated to the memory of a beloved pet, we want to create a sort of virtual book of remembrance that helps us understand the historical significance of the relationship between humans and dogs.”
Can you help with the project? Do you have a memorial dedicated to your best pal, or know of a particularly significant one in your area? Photos can be submitted using the ‘Ancient Animals’ app developed by Exeter University. You can download it for free on Android and iOS.