Chris Packham has revealed he would like to be cremated when he dies and have his ashes mixed with those of his poodles before being scattered in a woodland.
The naturalist told the Radio Times that his love for his late dogs Itchy and Scratchy is in part due to them helping him through periods of depression – likening himself and the dogs to “three organisms umbilically linked” with a shared personality.
“Itchy and Scratchy were there in my darkest moments – if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be here to write this,” said Packham. “When I die, I’ll be cremated and my ashes will be mixed with Itchy and Scratchy, and scattered by a particular tree. My ashes will become part of the soil. I’ll become part of the fabric of my dogs, and of the woods that we loved so much.”
Packham, 60, added his devotion to the dogs was in part fuelled by the fear of losing them, after his previous dog Fish was run over, but that when they fell ill, he decided to have them euthanised to avoid them suffering.
The Springwatch presenter shared stories and photos of all his pets with the Radio Times – from his first dog, Max, to Fish, another poodle, then Itchy and Scratchy who were followed by Sid and Nancy. He also kept kestrels until working life made it too hard to meet the commitments of caring for them.
Fish came into Packham’s life in 2001, bought by his then partner for his 40th birthday, and gave him immediate joy until the dog was killed when just a year old.
“He’d been bouncing around the car like poodles do, but then he was gone. I fell into a deep and intense depression, into a dark place where everything seemed to fall apart,” he said.
Packham also spoke of his childhood, how he would explore the fields near the family home in Southampton, Hampshire, and go on day trips with his father, who would drive him to new places he wanted to explore.
However, he said his relationship with his parents was not always smooth because of his adolescent interest in punk music and disagreements on “politics, religion or anything, really”.
After he left home he returned regularly to spend early mornings with his father walking through nature and enjoying each other’s company.
Packham got his current miniature poodles, Sid and Nancy, only weeks after the deaths of Itchy and Scratchy, and took a while to develop a connection with them – until one morning when they jumped up on his bed.
“I bond to them more tightly than I do people. Though Sid and Nancy have found a new place in my heart, the hole left by Itchy and Scratchy is still there. It’s quite hard to talk about,” he said.