The mourners were all grieving following the death of a beloved family member and friend. Yet despite the solemnity of the occasion, it was touching to see so many people in attendance. Suddenly, though, another figure was spotted following the procession. And as people looked on, they found it hard to believe their eyes.
This story of a senior citizen’s funeral went viral in March 2017 after it hit social media. But it wasn’t the person who had passed away that got the internet talking. It was the unexpected guest who attended to pay their respects.
The deceased was a great-grandmother from a Malaysian village. Her funeral procession took place on the east coast of the country. And it was the lady’s young relative who brought events at the funeral into the public eye.
In fact, it was Leong Khai Wai, the woman’s great-grandson, who broke the story. Wai is apparently a keen player of water sports – if his Facebook photo album is anything to go by. However, it wasn’t winning a trophy or breaking a record that led to his moment of fame.
Instead, the social media attention came as a result of the video that Wai uploaded to Facebook after the funeral. And the recording depicted something that had surprised the mourners. What’s more, the spectacle was as touching as it was heart-rending.
The friends and family of the woman had formed a funeral procession. Sometimes, to show their respect, mourners will travel with the coffin to the final resting place of the deceased. This is occasionally a church or temple. But for Wai’s great-grandmother, the destination was a cemetery.
The procession took the form of a motorcade, and the line of vehicles escorted the hearse to the graveyard. During this drive the woman’s great-grandson looked out of the window. And he saw that there was an indistinct shape following the mourners.
As the figure came closer, Wai realized that it was neither another vehicle nor human. The approaching shape was, in fact, a dog. Furthermore, it was one that he recognized: a pet who was dear to the heart of his departed relative.
Actually, the dog was called Bobby, and when Wai’s great-grandma was alive, Bobby was her best friend. The devoted dog seemed to have realized the gravity of the situation and had followed his dead owner’s body. Bobby must have trailed the procession’s entire journey on foot.
What’s more, the mourners had travelled two miles in vehicles, so it must have been a massive distance for a dog. Indeed, this observation sparked some controversy amongst social media commenters. Many saw it as an act of neglect towards Bobby.
Yet although the backlash seemed well intentioned, some of the outbursts could be deemed inappropriate. Not only were the comments aimed directly at the mourners, but they were also left on photos of the funeral. It’s likely this would have added to the distress of the grieving great-grandson.
The criticism, however, appeared to be unfounded. “I don’t think anyone knew he was following,” Wai later told The Dodo. Not only was Bobby unnoticed for much of the journey, there is no evidence he wasn’t taken care of when he was finally spotted.
At any rate, it seemed that he was a welcome sight for the mourners. Indeed, he even joined them at the gravesite. And when he got there, Bobby continued his tear-jerking tribute to his former owner. In fact, what the dog did next astounded the funeral-goers.
Bobby padded solemnly over to the side of the open grave and settled down next to the hole. There, he kept up his somber vigil throughout the ceremony. He wouldn’t move from the woman’s resting place until her casket was lowered into the ground.
It seemed as though he wanted to remain by his best friend’s side, just as he had done in life. But by the time the mourners were ready to leave, Bobby had apparently said his last goodbye.
Those present were both touched and astounded by Bobby’s display of love. “They said it was the first time they’d ever seen such extreme loyalty in a dog,” Wai told The Dodo. But what did Bobby understand of his best friend’s death?
Well, there are many accounts of dogs that have seemed to mourn the deaths of their owners. One of the most poignant is the coincidentally-named Greyfriars Bobby. The Skye terrier visited his master’s grave for 14 years after the man’s death. As a result, a statue was built in his honor.
A grieving dog has also been the subject of a particularly famous piece of art. In 1837 the painter Edwin Henry Landseer completed a work titled “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner.” It has been described as “one of the most perfect representations of grief in a dog.”
In any case, just how much a dog can understand of death has been much debated by behavioral psychologists. We may never know the true extent of their awareness of such events. However, dogs like Bobby are proof that they do indeed know something of grief.
As for Bobby, Wai says he will be cared for by his great-uncle and grandfather, so perhaps they can offer each other some solace. The mourning period for Bobby and his family may be a long one. All we can do is send them our thoughts and condolences.