Dogs we Have Loved and Lost. When did dogs and their various quirks and charms enter my consciousness? I think I can tell you exactly where and when … it would have been at the old Brighton Cartoon Theatre around 1958 and yes, the film I watched and loved was The Lady and the Tramp … what else could it be. And the yearning for a spaniel lay dormant until sometime in 1990 when my family went on a very, very damp and windy Lakeland August bank holiday camping trip and laughed at the antics of a couple of roans running in and out of Lake Windermere. That was it, yes, and we came home and before long our golden cocker Bunker Bill joined the family. An odd name for a golden cocker, but it was all the fault of Roger McGough and one of his more endearing children’s stories which featured a naughty black cocker with coal black twinkly eyes. Bunker Bill it had to be. Oh, but then a couple of years later my gaze was totally enthralled by a sleek brown girl, who I learned was something called a Sussex Spaniel.
Who knew? Not me that’s for sure. A bit of research revealed their rarity and so I thought ‘well, I won’t be getting one of those then!’. Hens’ teeth sprang to mind! However, as Lady Luck would have it, my friendly plumber had also fallen for the charms of a Sussex and hey presto, before long a litter of LBJ’s (Shorthand for Little Brown Jobs) appeared. Eight fat little charmers and the prettiest of them came to join our family. So it was hello to Poppy, the paper eating, farting monster ! Only two years later we lost Bunker Bill and Poppy was an only child. A marriage break up and subsequent move found Poppy coming to live with me. What a wonderful piece of emotional blotting paper she was and waking up to snuggle my nose into those warm bread scented feet was a simple delight. Sadly, she died suddenly and quietly one Monday morning without explanation or illness and it was shattering. I spent longer at work because of course, going home to an empty house was unthinkable.
What a horrid time. But then the Sussex Spaniel community rallied round and I was lucky enough to offer a home my Maggie Moon Flower, swiftly followed by mad Frankie Flowers the puppy. Did I know she was going to be the heartbreaker ? That became obvious fairly quickly with her endearing virtues of vulnerability and feistiness and I even forgave her ruining two bathroom floors. Why? Because she just thought peeing in there like me was the thing to do. My fabulous Frankie left the building three weeks ago, having had a stroke and just before Christmas. At 12 1/2 I knew she wouldn’t be with me for very much longer, but I’d whispered in her ear not to go first. She didn’t listen. We were bereft. What saved me from descending into a well of self pity was my work. Scrufts’ saved my sanity and part of my writing now is to thank all of my old customers and lots of newbies for keeping me so busy right up until Christmas. The balance of my house is still all wrong, there’s an energy missing and it’s become abundantly clear that she was the noisy ringleader in the barking stakes. My little brown shadow has gone and my home will never feel the same again.
The last weeks of the year saw several of my lovely friends’ and customers’ whiskery chums leave us and as well as Frankie, the Dog Star is taking car of Otto, Juno, Dexter, Frodo and Roo.
And, excuse me 2016, but George Michael and Princess Leia ?! I think we’ll be glad when you’ve disappeared over the horizon, begone chased by a pack of happy hounds!!
You all have a great New Year and keep your whiskery chums close.
In the meantime, here’s my little brown heartbreaker modelling for me. I say modelling, but in fact she hated the camera and I think food may have been a big part of the ‘sit & stay’ that day.
I’d like to wish you all a very good New Year and my advice is ‘always keep a spare’ !!