…is never easy, is it?
Back in January, 2006, we decided we could get another dog. We already had two-year-old Tilly and as the local animal sanctuary had dozens of dogs looking for new homes, we thought it would be good to rescue one. So off we went. I wanted a two-year-old dog to keep up with Tilly and grow old with her. I also wanted a golden one so that I'd only have one hair colour to worry about when choosing carpets. So we ended up with a nine-year-old black collie cross called Muffet.
When you take on a dog from a rescue centre, especially an old dog that people have passed by for three months, it's easy to adopt the arrogant assumption that you're doing the dog a favour by bringing it home. It's only later you realise that it's the other way round.
Muffet scoffed at my fears about him being unable to keep up with Tilly. He loved his walks more than life itself and would have walked all day if he'd been allowed. Tilly lives for her food, her bed, and Nick (probably in that order). Muffet lived for his walks.
He didn't have a day's illness until last Friday night when he suddenly collapsed. We sat up with him all night and assumed we'd have to make that dreaded appointment with the vet. But morning came, he realised it was walk time and he was at the door, tail wagging. "Come on, let's get going…". He recovered and was almost as good as new.
When we did get him checked out by the vet, however, it wasn't good news. I suppose it's rarely good news when you take a fifteen-year-old dog to the vet. We had to accept that the same thing could happen again and that he probably wouldn't survive.
I had a lovely day with him yesterday. We went for two nice walks and he trotted happily by my side with the wind ruffling his fur. When I came upstairs to my desk, he galloped up the stairs to join me. When I went downstairs to put the kettle on, he followed. When I went to the bathroom, he lay outside the door waiting for me. Every time I looked at him, his eyes were bright and his tail wagged.
Last night, he suddenly fell over and we knew the end was coming. He was pacing and couldn't settle. In the wee small hours, he started staggering around. I put my arm round him and tried to soothe him. He wagged his tail, flopped down by my side and died seconds later as I stroked him.
As awful as I feel right now, I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful he died in his own home surrounded by those he loved best. I'm glad the end was quick for him. I'm pleased that, seconds before he died, the touch of my hand and the sound of my voice made him wag his tail. More than anything, I'm so grateful that I was privileged enough to share the last six years of his life. He brought joy to my life, and he made me smile every single day. Every single day. That's a true friend.
I hope all you dog owners out there will take this as a reminder that our friends' lives are much shorter than we'd like. Go and give them a big hug, a treat, a walk and, above all, love. Cherish them while you still can.
As for my old mate, what can I say? Rest in peace, lovely boy. Thank you for everything.