An animal history scholar from the University of Utah arrived in Hartford this week to research two famous animal lovers from the Victorian era - Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The role of pet owners in Victorian society is the basis of a federally funded study being conducted by Katherine Grier, a University of Utah scholar.It was during the Victorian era when pets were elevated to full-fledged family members. Until then, they were mostly expected just to catch rats or fetch game.

Twain was a cat lover. His feline friends were Famine, Satan and her kitten Sin, and Sour Mash, after the whiskey, Grier said. The author used to roll billiard balls to one of the kittens sitting in a pool-table pocket so the kitten could bat it back.

Stowe loved her dogs and gave them each burials in the back yard of her Stone Cottage in Andover, Mass., she said.

Karen Myers, a spokeswoman for the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funded the study, said judges believed the study was important because insights about people can be gained through looking at how they treated animals and how they valued life.

"The fact that Millie (Barbara Bush's springer spaniel) is a bona fide member of the first family is due to the Victorians," Grier said. Before the Victorians, Millie would have slept in the barn or outdoors, she said.