Edward has never really lived down his reputation as a spoiled playboy, not that Caesar knew anything about that—as Aldous Huxley was later to put it, “to his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.” Here, the late king’s pink armchair seems to be fading away—as if, when he breathed his last breath, he took all the color and liveliness of turn-of-the-century England with him. This turned out to be truer than Earl could have known—a few short years later, Europe was waging the war to end all wars, an entire generation of English youths had been decimated by gunfire and disease, and Earl herself had emigrated to the United States, where she’d spend the remainder of her life.
At the end of the MoD’s exhibition, there’s a glass case containing a tiny, oddly jaunty-looking set of remains. They belonged, Fausel informed me, to Belgrave Joe, a legendarily prolific fox terrier who was once sold for his weight in silver, and whose descendants include some of the most renowned show dogs of modern times. It’s a strange note to end on, too macabre to be adorable and too specific to the world of dog-breeding to be much of a crowd-pleaser.
But I suppose that’s what impresses me: the owner who chose to preserve the skeleton didn’t see Joe as a pet or a childish indulgence. He genuinely respected his animal, and wanted to make sure the world would remember him forever. I can’t think of a work of art that better sums up everything creepy and silly and special about our friendship with Canis lupus familiaris.