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. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
So please do join us on Sunday October 9th, 11am at Highclere Church.