Furry Friends

The iconic opening shot of “Downton Abbey” began with a yellow Labrador happily pottering across the Castle lawns, tail wagging. Pets can give such a sense of warmth and home. In reality at Highclere we have seven dogs pottering or running across the lawns, though sadly not always under our direction. Winston the spaniel in particular has a tendency to escape to do his own thing, usually where he is most emphatically not wanted like around the pheasant pens. When our old yellow Labrador, Percy, died we were all distraught and I know my husband still misses him. My son Edward talks about him: they grew up together from when Edward was two years old. Percy seems to be in all my favourite photographs, but luckily we do have his offspring who live with us today.


Other people adore horses, cats or chickens or, because of their busy lives, look after smaller animals such as rabbits. Somehow, however, dogs are special. “Man’s best friend” walks with us, plays with us, protects us, sometimes sleeps in our bedrooms with us and, whatever we do or whoever we are, always loves us. They greet us when we get home and understand our body language sometimes before we do.


I thought therefore we would have a service in church to remember them. A favourite British TV show of mine is called the Vicar of Dibley. It stars Dawn French as a vicar in a beautiful English village. In one of the episodes she decides to hold a pet service in the church. Many of the villagers are against it but of course, on TV, it was really successful and gave much pleasure. I always thought it was such fun and would be a good thing to do in real life. It might encourage children and families to come to church on an occasional Sunday. So this is what I am doing this weekend in our local church in Highclere Village.


I am not sure how many will turn up to join us, and not everyone is dead keen, but I hope it will be fun, and it may be noisy. After the service we will have a prize giving for not very serious things like the best behaved in church or the waggiest tail. I can’t wait.

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

So please do join us on Sunday October 9th, 11am at Highclere Church.


51 Responses to “Furry Friends”
  1. Vicki Hafer says:

    I know your church service for the animals will be lovely. It reminds me of the yearly blessing of the animals that my young friend Benjamin’s school held when he was in primary…everything from goldfish, hamsters, lizards, dogs of every stripe, bunnies & numerous felines. Ben proudly wheeled his ginger 18 pound General Patton about the schoolyard in a gorgeous cat stroller which attracted a great deal of attention, much to his delight. The Priest blessed , hands on, every single creature…well not the goldfish! Wonderful idea. Enjoy!

  2. John Johnson says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon

    Such a lovey post. I too love that episode of Vicar of Dibley. It’s so funny especially the dog called Satan! It’s very sad when a loved pet dies but at least you have his offspring. Is the yellow Labrador in the top picture? Winston sounds fun, getting into places he shouldn’t be! I love the idea of the church service. I hope you have a wonderful day.

  3. Jo Faulmann says:

    We will have a service at Trinity-by-the-Cove, Naples, FL, this weekend to bless our animals. It is a lovely tradition to bless our animals that bring us such pleasure and love. I remember your beautiful sheep; I suppose it would be difficult to involve them in a service.

  4. Monica Gibson-Pugsley says:

    Will be thinking of you at your local church on Sunday. The church I attend, All Saints Anglican in Agassiz, B.C. had our annual Pet Blessing Sunday on Oct. 2nd. The priest incorporates the blessing into the sermon time, and we never know what to expect! We are a country community but so far not one horse has turned up, though invited. There are usually .many dogs of all sizes; cats, caged animals and birds often attend too. The dogs especially are extremely vocal and they give us much joy in their behaviour. Have fun!

  5. Bonnie Lane says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon:

    This sounds WONDERFUL! What a sweet and tender idea! How I wish I could be a fly on the wall to observe this happy occasion. Please write and tell us all about it. We would all love to hear. Blessings!

    • Bonnie Lane says:

      Thinking of you today … Sunday. Hope it went well. Would have loved to have been there!

  6. Sunny Goode says:

    We also have an annual “Blessing of the animals” Earlier this year it proved to be a mixed lot!
    I live in Tomball, Texas. At First Presbyterian Church of Tomball, Rev. Rush blessed each
    and every one! These included indeed two horses (One of our members has horses and she bought
    them in their horse trailer) Needless to say this service was held outside to accommodate the various animals.
    There was a very old (57) parrot and an iguana too! And of course mostly dogs. Each animal was given a certificate
    with it’s name written on it. I do like your idea of giving prizes though. That’s a delightful idea.
    We did ours to benefit a local animal shelter, it was made optional to bring pet food, supplies,
    or make a donation. The local no-kill shelter also had some dogs there for adoption. Overall it was such
    a lovely day, for the animals, church members and for anyone who wanted to come and bring their pet.
    Hope your event is a big success!

  7. Patrick McArron says:

    If I were there in England right now I would attend. It was such a pleasure for me to meet you at Highclere in August.

  8. Lori says:

    What a amazing read!!! We also lost our beloved Lady ( a Lab/blue heeler mix) about two years ago.She had stage 4 lung cancer.However we aren’t as blessed as you are to have a offspring.I love the idea of the blessing of the pet’s. We just had one at our local churches do just that.

  9. Paula says:

    What a lovely idea, my husband and I would certainly be at the service, with our dog Suzy, if we could just “hop over” from Oklahoma

  10. Lorraine Greenfield says:

    It is a wonderful idea, I remember that episode, which was very funny, if I lived nearer to Highclere, I would certainly be joining you. I hope you have a good turn out. We too have a spaniel, who does his own thing, he also has a very stubborn streak. Have a lovely day. x

  11. Sophie Lamping says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,

    I hope you will have a lovely sunday full of people with their beloved pets ! A wonderful idea and I remember clearly that episode of the Vicar of Dibley !

    Kind Regards ,

    Sophie Lamping

  12. Janet owens says:

    Such a beautiful idea…. we are dog lovers ourselves… having our two very mischievous boys!! Teddy, a bedlington and scrappy, a boarder terrier!! … if we had lived nearer to you .. we would have definitely been there… have a wonderful day…xx

  13. Jan Hammersmith says:

    I would love to participate! All of my dogs have been rescues, saved from being put to sleep for physical reasons . They have been such joys. Also, I did fostering for a cat rescue, and as I am such a soft touch, I had to quit after taking on far too many and keeping them…including a little cat with 3 legs and half a tail! (I often wonder what her story is..)
    Pets add years to our lives for certain!

  14. Jane Franks says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon: We have a little stone chapel near us, which is a wedding chapel, and also an Anglican church. One time we had a “Blessing of the Animals” service and everyone brought their pets! The people on whose lovely well-groomed grounds the chapel sits, have ponies, horses and a burrow, among 3 dogs, many cats and other things, and it was such fun having the ponies and burro “attend”, too! It was like a petting zoo! We all enjoyed it immensely! It did remind me of the Vicar of Dibley. I loved that program and have strong memories of that episode!

    Thank you for sharing this story! Wishing you great blessings on Sunday as you enjoy the wonderful animals God has created for us.

    Warm Regards,
    Jane Franks

  15. Carol Sawyer says:

    Can’t wait to see the photos!

  16. Janice says:

    Here we have a yearly celebration at our church – THE BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS- near the feast of St. FRANCIS. If the vicar can bless all animals that attend, so much the better!

  17. Britta Johansson says:

    What a lovely service! I wish we could bless our animals in church in Sweden as well!
    I will think of you on Sunday!

  18. Denise Miller says:

    There was something about you that attracted me to your blog…now I know what it was: A deep love of animals…dogs especially. I always loved the beginning frames of Downton Abbey because of Isis! Much love and prayers for all you do at Highclere, whether it involves animals or not. You are a gem in the blog world of the Internet!

  19. Vicki Duncan says:

    How we love our fur babies and cherish them. Our Abrahound is an “old man” and the idea of his leaving is often on my mind. Why not bless our pets? They play a huge role in our lives and give us great joy while asking little in return. Wish I was nearby to enjoy❤️your service

  20. Dotty Cooper says:

    Question: In one season of “Downton Abbey” their dog died and, if I remember right, it’s name was Percy. Is that the same dog that you mention in this post?
    Losing a pet is so painful, no matter how, when or why. Having a “party” for them, while alive,
    is the best ever!! Have fun! Jealous ’cause I can’t join all of you!

    • Amy D says:

      I believe the dog’s name was Isis and the new puppy was named Tio. In the show the Crawley’s mention that their dogs are named after Egyptian gods and goddesses.

  21. Diane Clavareau says:

    Every year we have a religious ceremony in the ruins of the Abbey – St. Hubert – involving horses, dog, cats, birds and small animals (rabbits i.e.). The priest blesses them and they all receive a piece of bread whilst the owners have their own + a glass of warm wine. When it drizzles or when it is foggy and cold, the ceremony looks mysterious and wet. But we all enjoy it.
    Loved your dogs! Beautiful labs.

  22. Sandy Lee says:

    Yes, I remember that particular episode with Dawn French….I have a feeling that it is going to be repeated this Sunday and you too shall have an overflowing flock for services. Can’t wait to hear how it all goes.

  23. Linda Olds says:

    I love the puppy pictures and the pony, but I do love cats best!

  24. Jody Burns says:

    My dog, Scout, and I would love to attend your church service, but we’re in Oklahoma in the middle of the USA. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to join you physically, but we will be with you in spirit on Sunday. Please post pics.

  25. Stella says:

    Hello again Lady Carnarvon,
    Your U Tube video of one dog walking another dog is so cute. Toward the end the expression on the lab’s face is so precious with the leash in it’s mouth. I hope you have a large turn out Sunday for the animal blessings. I would love to be there and witness all the commotion and tail wagging. Your town’s church is beautiful just how old is it? Mine blew away in a tornado five months ago so having to rebuild a new one. So, something good comes from a disaster, we just have to count all our blessings like animals and churches.

  26. Teresa says:

    Our family church has the blessing of the animals once a year usually followed by a Parish picnic.
    Thank you for your articles I do enjoy reading them.

  27. Jean says:

    Yes! Spectacular idea. Our Episcopal and Methodist churches here do the same this time of year – they call it the pet blessing and all creatures are welcome. It is held outdoors on the church lawn. The Pastor recites prayers of thanks and blessing and then the animal families line up single file as the Pastor lays hands on each animal and recites a blessing. It is the sweetest experience. The first time we went we brought two dogs – one being a very large St. Bernard/German Shepherd mix who proceeded to pee on my husband’s leg while waiting in line – – – – – when nature calls! You are absolutely right about the preciousness of canine family members. My beagle Rocko is my shadow – now going on 11. He is number 8 in our history of dogs. Each one’s passing is the most heart wrenching experience yet we always go on to find another that brings back familiar qualities – and new traits to cherish. I could never be complete without a dog. Praise God Percy is forever preserved as a star of Downton Abbey. Praise God for giving us dogs to bless us. Enjoy – and do make this an annual tradition. Looking forward to seeing such in your future blog posts. I love your ideas for prizes.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      We had no real excitements in the church except some hilariously opportune barking…

    • Your story about your dog peeing on your husbands’ leg whilst waiting to be blessed made me laugh out loud! Perhaps it was the dogs’ way of blessing your husband!! What a site that must’ve been!!

  28. Kathi L. says:

    I so hope you will do a follow-up blog about the event, sounds delightful!! It’s no coincidence, in my opinion, that Dog and God are a palindrome.

  29. Margaret English says:

    A number of years ago when Pastor Ed was still serving our church we had the annual Pet Blessing service . He use to say “all pets are welcome but, I won’t bless a snake !”

  30. Marilu Ortegon says:

    I am from Monterrey Mexico and
    enjoyed inmensely Downton Abbey. The characters were lovely, the story amazing but must of all the beatiful landscape of Highclere Castle. I look further to the making of a film and hopefully to have a happy and last
    memory of it all. Thank you for this blog because I love animals, creatures of wisdom and love for mankind. Such a spark from the everlasting unconditional love of God,
    I hope i will keep contact with your blog. I really loved it so much.

  31. Desiree Creary says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon, as always, a splendid idea, we have a similar service here in St John the Devine Cathedral, the blessing of the animals. I am just back from England, was in bath, and could not get to Highclere this trip, but would have loved to. Dog spelled backwards is God, that is probably why we love them so much, and they love us back in return. Keep up the great work, and hug the dogs. Desiree Creary.

  32. Mayvis Schwab says:

    Love it!!! I would be there if I could but will be in spirit for sure as I attend my local church.

  33. Kathy Stewart says:

    Der Lady Carnarvon, a church service for pets is a kind and generous thing to do. I do hope you had a a good turnout and lots of fun!
    Kathy Stewart

  34. Maria Augusta Pinheiro says:


  35. Sonya says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon:

    I enjoy all your updates and the beautiful pictures you include! I really enjoy learning about the history of Highclere and the traditions you maintain.

    I am sure others would agree with me that we would like to hear about you and your husband, i.e., how you met and married and how your romance began, and how you began to dream about the future of Highclere.

    Also, can you tell us anything about the Dining at Highclere book you were working on? When will it be out?


    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I am late replying to you as I have been editing recipes again! That has been about 4 hours work this morning and I hope I am whittling down outstanding points from the publishers . I am beginning to feel a little out of control with version control! David Griffen has taken the food photographs and he won food photographer of the year here, they are really stunning whilst I hope I amuse you all with my writing and descriptions! I have also written some of character portraits of people who have worked here for ages which I have found very moving – I do however take that as good sign.

      March 2017

  36. David says:

    Wonderful. While our dogs may be with us for a seemingly short period of time, they bring us so much joy. Our Cocker Spaniel, Brandy was her name, was part of our family for almost 18 years. Twenty years after she died, she is still thought of fondly by all members of our family. America’s cowboy poet , Baxter Black, says it well in his poem “Just a Dog”: “People debate if dogs have a heaven. I’m not sure that matters. All I know is that you added to our life. Companion, listener, guardian and connection to a part of nature we tend to overlook. You will be missed around here. Your were just a dog. But you’ll be in my heaver.” Hoping that your event was a resounding success!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      My husband so misses our labrador Percy. I look at is daughter Bella who is now about 12 years old and so precious. I can just nod and smile and she knows what I mean!

  37. Kathleen McLendon says:

    I would love to attend the church service that you are planning for our departed furry loved ones. Our West Highland Terrier, named Shelby, passed away in May of this year, after over 12 years of love. My heart remains broken over her loss, and I look forward to seeing her again one day in heaven. Yes, I believe that dogs go to heaven. The Bible describes animals in heaven, and I cannot imagine the Lord leaving dogs out of paradise. Thank you for your love of dogs, and the special service that you are planning. I only wish I could attend, but there is a great body of water between us that prevents my attending at this time.


  38. Daniel Strong says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon:

    In our Episcopal church this past Sunday, our Priest offered blessings for pets in honor of the Feast Day St. Francis (October 4.) We had several dogs in attendance who were unabashed in making joyful noises. Our guest preacher proclaimed it a great “Dibley Day.”

    Thanks for providing frequent glimpses of your glorious home for those of us who were not ready to say good-bye to Downton!

  39. Cynthia Thompson says:

    Blessings and warm “‘wags” to all who attend! Many churches here are allowing pets as they are such a special part of our families. Many have saved us by detecting strokes, blood pressure problems, and diabetic complications. They really connect to our hearts. Thank you for keeping we fans engaged with the Castle and events.

    Time well spent,

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Dogs listen and observe far better than we do – it is fascinating how they seem to pick up signs..

  40. Andrew Nemeth says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon, I would absolutely love to know what kind of palms are in Highclere? In many of the rooms, Parlor. dining, sitting rooms you have palms located throughout the home and I find them to be amazing and I have bought some for our home but they do not look like the ones you have. Is there any way you could find out what kind they are and email me back I would so much appreciate that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart I do hope this get through to you. I fantasize about living at Highclere and what it must have been like in the glory days and also how it is nowadays, I love your blog Anyhow Have a blessed week and thank you, Andrew Nemeth

  41. Paula Hamby says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon:

    Our tiny Episcopal Church in Tennessee, USA, held a “Blessing of the Pets” on October 9, 2016. Twenty pets were blessed with a special recognition of a German Shepherd/Labrador mix “Ero”. This wonderful dog is a K-9 member of the Tipton County Drug Squad and was given a special blessing certificate. The Tipton County sheriff and his chief deputy attended. It held on our church lawn and we also collected food for the cats and dogs of the local animal shelter. Thank you for so much for sharing your beautiful Highclere Castle with the world on Downton.

    With appreciation and great respect,

    Paula Wicker Hamby

  42. Lady Carnavon,

    My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Downton Abbey for the last 6 years, In fact, we have watched the entire series 3 times.
    The first time we had a hard time understanding the English dialect and got it “down pat” after the second time. My wife got upset when
    Matthew was killed at the end of the first season. It sure did make a great Sunday night event for us.

    My wife, Elizabeth, and I are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary next March 21, 2017. I have signed up for a Trafalgar bus tour of
    the British Isle for a week. I sent Ms. Sarah Sommerville requests to come and visit Highclere;however, the week we will be there you will
    be closed. I am watching the website everyday to see if you will open sometime when we are there…Please….Please….Pretty Please!

    Wishing you a Joyous Christmas Holiday and Happy New Year 2017!!!

    Best and warmest wishes,

    Dr. Herb Land
    2511 Village Stone Court
    Raleigh, NC 27615
    (919) 426-7673 cell

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