If Danny Boyle needs any inspiration for his animal-centric Olympic extravaganza (featuring 70 sheep, 12 horses, nine geese and a partridge in a pear tree), he need look no further than the British reverence for their pets. This is a nation that sees innate talent in Pudsey the dog, wisdom in Fred Basset, sleuthing skills in Gromit, and collectively plans to leave £26 billion to their pets in their Wills, according to MORE TH>N.
But is this adoration of our furry friends a sign of superior emotional intelligence or downright lunacy? Gentle eccentricity is a well-established national trait (as anyone who watched a parade of unlikely vessels float past an inebriated, bemused crowd can attest to), yet so is good old common sense. Pets of a certain stature are of course afforded a certain degree of respect, from Her Majesty’s corgis to Bo the First Dog, but should us mere mortals really view pets as suitable beneficiaries?
Of course, there is a distinction between leaving vast sums of money to an oblivious animal and making decent provisions for them. Snubbing grandchildren so you can bequeath $12 million to your terrier probably falls into the category of cruel and unusual punishment – or, depending on what the grandchildren did, perhaps some form of poetic justice – but you can easily ensure a happy, treat-filled life for your faithful companion.
- Appoint a successor: Select a worthy heir to your pet ownership and confirm their willingness to perform the task. Make a claws – sorry, clause – in your Will confirming that said heir will take care of your beloved.
- Show me the money: To ensure your pet lives at the standard to which they’ve become accustomed, leave an appropriate financial settlement to their new owner to cover the costs of food, medical bills and comedy holiday outfits.
- Not just for Christmas: If you can’t find someone to take on your pet, the RSPCA has a Home for Life , matching animals with suitable new owners.
- Make a wish: Your pet may have particular preferences – a dislike of own-brand snacks, a favoured napping spot or a preference for The Sunday Times culture section – that you need to convey to its new owner, or indeed certain quirks to watch out for (‘Fenton!’). You can lay these out in your ‘Letter of wishes’.
If in doubt, simply ask yourself ‘What would Lassie do?’