Many years ago (the mid-1980s) someone described to me a belief that a Christian burial ground was guarded by the spirit of the most recently interred body. For this reason, when a burial ground was being 'retired' it was traditional to bury a dog or cat there so that the spirit that got stuck guarding it for eternity was not a human one. In the time since I have occasionally attempted to identify the origin of this belief but I can't find it anywhere. Can anyone confirm this belief and if so identify where and when it appeared and whether it is still in place anywhere?
At the time I assumed this was a belief from England (where I heard it), but it might have been from other parts of the UK or Europe.
It wasn't clear from the description whether this belief was specific to graveyards, to burial grounds without a church, or to both.