Greyfriar’s Bobby: A tale of the human-animal bond

Throughout history one constant has been the bond between humans and their pets. The human-animal bond has been described as something that is the mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between humans and their pets and has lead to such quotes as “it often happens that man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being” Henry David Thoreau.

The tale of Greyfriar’s Bobby is a heartwarming true story which comes from the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. John Gray was a Constable in the Police force during the mid-1800s and, as such was required by the law to keep a watchdog. He chose a young Skye terrier puppy and named him ‘Bobby’.

As Bobby became a part of the lives of John Grey and his family, the character of the dog began to show. He was often seen wagging his tail and was devoted to family and friends. People described him as tenacious and courageous, but not aggressive. Loyalty to ‘Auld Jock’ (John Grey) was to become one of his most defining characteristics as he followed his master everywhere.

A memorial statue and bar named for Greyfriar’s Bobby

They had a favorite coffee house in Greyfriar’s Place where they could often be found sitting in the same seat enjoying a brew.They would often be on guard at the cattle markets, including the unpleasant night duty, ensuring that no one was there to steal the cattle before market. This meant that they were out in all kinds of cold, wet and generally unpleasant weather.

In October 1857, they were often out on cold wet nights patrolling the cattle yards. Auld Jock developed a terrible cough which continued to grow worse. In November he visited a doctor who diagnosed him with tuberculosis. Auld Jock was confined to his bed but by February of the following year he could not rise from it. Bobby lay at his feet throughout his illness and on the evening of the 8th of February, Jock died.

At John Grey’s funeral, witnesses described Bobby as one of the most conspicuous of all the mourners. The following morning, the curator of the cemetery where he had been buried found Bobby lying across the new mound of earth. The law of the time stated that dogs were not allowed in the Kirkyard so the curator was forced to drive him off. However, Bobby was back the next day and the day after that. The curator took pity on him and gave him food.

The Kirkyard became Bobby’s home as he refused to stray too far from his master’s grave. He made many friends and was even given a weekly treat of steak from a Sergeant of the Royal Engineers.

Bobby grew so much in the hearts of the townspeople that when he was in danger of being destroyed due to not having a licensed owner, The Lord Provost stepped in and paid his license fee, declaring him as owned by the town council.

Bobby continued to keep vigil at the grave of John Grey for 14 years, until his death in 1872. The townspeople buried him on consecrated ground in front of the Kirk and memorials are in place in the town to this day.

The human-animal bond is something truly inspiring to experience. This tale of unquestioning loyalty despite the discomfort being in the Kirkyard through all weather must have brought shows how strong that bond can be.