One of Dickens's most unusual hobbies was a fascination for taxidermy, or the preservation of dead animals' bodies. Dickens was a great animal lover and in common with a growing number of Victorians liked to keep pets. When those pets passed away Dickens would have them stuffed and prominently displayed in his large, spacious house. One such animal was his pet raven, Grip, who tragically died, it is believed, after eating some paint. Dickens tried his very best to save the poor creature, but despite the administration of castor oil and the serving of a nourishing bowl of nice warm gruel, the unfortunate bird passed away, but not before exclaiming his favorite expression "Halloa old girl."
Grip's replacement, also called Grip, accompanied Dickens on a tour of the United States in 1842. It was during this trip that Dickens made the acquaintance of Edgar Allan Poe, who as well as being a big fan of Dickens's work, was quite taken with the amusing Grip number 2. Though one cannot be absolutely certain, it is generally believed that Grip provided the inspiration for the raven in Poe's famous poem of the same name.
Not content with having dead birds stuffed, Dickens also found a novel use for his deceased cat, Bob. The deaf old moggy had been Dickens's loyal, faithful companion for a number of years, amusing his master by snuffing out candles to get his attention. When Bob eventually went off to the big cattery in the sky, Dickens paid a handsome tribute to his dear departed friend by having one of his paws stuffed and using it as a letter-opener.