Pudsey: Grieving for a Celebrity Pet
|Source: Radio Times|
The news has made visible the positive effect that relationships with companion animals can have on our lives. But emotional closeness tends to be stigmatised and for this reason, pet bereavement remains taboo until it is normalised in public discourse. However, two conflicting discourses are apparent in Pudsey's case which draw attention to the liminal position of pets as person or possession.
Pudsey as irreplaceable
According to Redmalm (2015), pets become grievable as a result of the co-construction of their autobiography. The heartbreak derives from the treatment of Pudsey like a family member and also a colleague in their training relationship. Any successful relationship is based on reciprocity and this is no exception, as Pudsey's perceived willingness to cooperate shows intersubjectivity with humans. The ability to dance may be considered a human trait which led to his treatment as magical, or a spectacle.
Pudsey as replaceable
On the other hand (or paw), Ashleigh's second dog, Sully will now 'emulate' Pudsey. In other words, he will take over the work engagements of the late Pudsey and will be known as the new Pudsey. But is it that simple? After all, we have not grown to love Sully as a result of witnessing his journey as a product of reality television. Akin to human contestants, intrigue was fuelled by the growth in the 'confidence' of their partnership. If part of Pudsey's appeal was his 'unique' talent, will fans warm to him in the same way?
The naming of pets usually serves for differentiation and personalisation but duplication takes away the commemoration of Pudsey's identity. Uniqueness seems important to stand out in the business of celebrity but it seems that in this case it is outweighed by the pressures of longevity and branding. The two dogs look the same, so no-one will know or mind the difference, right? But, it also masks the grief that may be felt by Ashleigh herself as the embodied experience of working with Sully is likely to be different and evoke memories of Pudsey's quirks that drew her towards pursuing his career in the first place.