Best friends to me are those who know all your secrets, even the most private ones, but will never ever share. They are loyal, love you dearly and are always there for you. You get the biggest welcome home from them and even when you are in a mood, they are still by your side. I am very lucky to be able to count 4 such best friends.
Susie was the first, well now actually she was the second! The very first Susie got knocked down and I have no recollection of her only what I have been told. My first memory of Susie was when I was 3 years old. She was a black and white cocker spaniel bitch. My Dad, who never smoked or drank, made a hobbie out of showing her and indeed travelled through Ireland and the United Kingdom with Susie bringing back many prizes. I remember entering the children’s classes and to my disgust always won a boys prize. Were girls never expected to show dogs? This was my first introduction to sexism at play. Susie had a long and fruitful career as a show dog and despite offers of large sums of money was never mated. I have terrific childhood memories of walking her with my Dad after Mass and before dinner on Sundays. I was taught how to walk a dog and not let a dog walk me, a lesson that has served me well throughout my life. I was always dressed like a little princess, which I absolutely hated, and invariable fell and tore tights, dress or got dirty or something. At the last shop before our house I always got a brunch and every Sunday there was a row when we got home, I was dirty/ripped and my dinner was ruined. Oh how I loved those special times with my Dad and Susie.
Sometimes things were quite rough for me at home and I have great memories of sitting in the garden with Susie telling her all my troubles. She would put her head in my lap, wag her tail and look at me, understanding every word I seemed to say. When I was 10 I went to the Irish College and returned to find no Susie waiting at the door for me. I searched and searched but not a sign. She had contracted cancer while I was away and got very ill and was sent, with dignity, across the rainbow, where all dogs go.
Time continued, I went to boarding school, no more pets in my home so I adopted whatever pet happened to be in the various houses I visited over the following years. I knew I would have a new best friend it was only a question of waiting.
Shortly after we married, with a lot of gentle persuasion, I convinced my husband that I needed a pet. So much persuasion was involved that I left the breed up to him and we finally settled on a Cairn Terrier. After many phone calls I find a good pregnant bitch in Co Down – oh but typical me, there are complications! Apparently this bitch regularly has phantom pregnancies and they are unsure as to whether this is a real one or not! It is, so up we go, new bed in back, new sleeping rug at home and we collect Bert. He was a very different type of friend, again knew all my secrets and absolutely loved me but was very protective of me, dare my husband even give me a kiss and he went ballistic. I was not to be shared. Puppy socializing classes followed, then obedience. The trainer did not like him one little bit and was disgusted that I turned up every single week. I do have a stubborn streak! We were a good team and continued to pass through all the stages. I stayed to annoy the trainer until I badly sprained my ankle and that was the end of that.
Daughter arrived soon after, everything was fine until she got moving and Bert was just not happy with having to share me yet again. Although I always watched him carefully the decision was made to have him neutered to try and quieten him down. Thankfully it worked. His big claim to fame was that he was an understudy for Toto in the Olympia Theatre production of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Don’t ask how, he was more or less picked from obscurity, photo was all over the paper to both our mortification, he kept getting recalled but thankfully didn’t get the main part as this would have meant living with Dorothy for the duration of the show, something I would not have been happy with. They kindly offered me visiting rights should he be picked but I guess they knew by my glum face this was not going to be a runner.
The boy arrived and Bert was still as grumpy as every. Sadly one summer evening, the hall door had swelled in the heat and although appeared to be closed was slightly open and Bert got out. A phone call followed that he had been knocked down and 2 girls had taken him to the vets. Problem was no one knew what vet. Into the car, off I went searching having phoned the local ones first. Finally find where he is and the vet said he’s dead and it will cost you £20 for me to dispose of him. I was then showed the door. We had always said we would never bury a dog in the back garden for fear future pets might dig them up. I left heartbroken, when my other half arrived home I couldn’t speak for tears and he thought something had happened one of the children. I cried and cried, it was the weekend Princess Diana died and no one could understand why I was so upset. Bert had seen me though a lot as it was while he was my best friend that I got ill so we had many serious chats together.
Other half said that’s it, no more dogs! Then someone in work told him that his wife was so upset when their dog died that she couldn’t cook a dinner. So a few days later he told me he had sourced a litter of boxers, but not to tell the children that he would go and have a look and phone me. So I got another best friend – Portia. We became firm friends very quickly but unlike Bert she was happy to share me. Indeed, a sign that my children were worried about something was Portia disappearing up to their bedrooms for private chats! Puppy socializing and training started again. We got on great until a dog took a nip out of my Portia one night. Oh the pain of it, there is nothing more sad than to look at an unhappy boxer, something in their eyes. I was shocked to learn she had blood poisoning so that was the end of those classes. Walking her, as she grew, was interesting and the mantra of my Dad came back to me, you walk the dog never let the dog walk you. As boxers went she was very well-behaved, I bought pepper spray to spray on chair legs etc so no furniture got destroyed, however, she did have a likeness for leather. Shoes, bags, purses, wallets had to be hidden or they were just fit for the bin. One evening she got her little paws on my husbands wallet and proceed to take out all his cards and cash then eat the wallet – he was not happy!
Around this time I decided that Portia would like a pal – actually to be honest she told me one night. So again, onto the other half, more, not so gentle, persuasion and his response, only if it was a rescue boxer. At this time boxers had become very popular and I spent many months trying everywhere to find one. He really thought I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting one but he’d forgotten my stubborn streak
Hours were spent scouring the internet and the papers and many phone calls were made.
Suddenly one Saturday I came across this photo. I was totally shocked, what on earth had happened to this dog. He was obviously in a vets somewhere. Frantically I got on the phone, said nothing to anyone in the house and got the information. He was approximately 1-year-old, weighing 10kg and was found wandering around severely malnourished, obviously underweight and very sick. He was in the vets one month at that stage while they were sending tests and samples to the UK to discover what was wrong with him. His story was a heartbreaking one, he had been used as bait for pit bulls to train them for illegal dog fights and when they had savaged him enough he was flung out. He had no digestive enzymes which led to diarrhea and other problems. So now ring my vet, John a brilliant man, Ok that can be problematic but managed with enzymes added to his food but I was told to find out if he had diabetes as this would be more difficult and not to take him. So more surreptitious phone calls made, no diabetes! More convincing the other half and it is arranged for me to bring Portia out to meet Rodney, name given by vet, the following morning and to meet the person who was arranging the rescue. So off we go, dogs look each other up and down, sniff around, run around then look to me as if they are fighting – no they are boxing, silly me there is a reason they are called boxers. So this lady, wearing a track suit but driving a nice car comes home with me to check out the house and garden. We have brunch, Rodney and Portia get to know each other and we chat. She leaves and says she will be in contact and everything is terrific. My total focus that day was on the dogs and I never copped on that the lady, Sharon, was in fact Sharon ní Bheolain off the telly!!!
The pair settled in and quickly became firm friends. They slept with their arms wrapped around each other like lovers. Learning to walk 2 boxers together was fun especially as Rodney did not like other dogs, and in fact hated white dogs. Dad’s words again, you walk the dogs not the dogs walking you! A few difficult months passed where he needed to be fattened up, however, his system couldn’t tolerate fat and only certain amounts of food. It was very much hit and miss but I got there in the end. The 2 boxers had terrific fun together and were a joy to watch. When my OH was abroad I would bring Portia up to bed with me at night, when Rodney arrived I did the same, it only lasted one night. He sleeps like a human, lengthways in the bed which,despite being king sized, he still managed to kick me onto the floor. Rodney I love you dearly but love my sleep more.
Rodney absolutely totally and completely idolised me. I couldn’t even go to the loo but either he was in the door before I closed it or else sat directly outside. Now I was in the enviable position of having 2 very best friends at the same time. I’d sit with both, tell them my problems and I’m convinced they’d discuss it themselves and sort it all out. When I was discharged from hospital they were incredibly gentle with me and wouldn’t leave my side. The Boy also developed a very close bond with Rodney which reminded me of my bond with Susie all those years ago. So now 2 dogs, 2 children, when something is wrong dogs disappear into a different bedroom for their private chats. I often came down in the morning not a sign of a dog, they were in the bedrooms overnight!
One summers day I arrived home to, as usual, be greeted by 2 happy dogs. I put washing out on the line, Portia was running in and out my feet, all normal. The Boy decided to wash them so Rodney came into the kitchen while Portia was being spruced up. The Boy, being the Boy, washed Portia with warm water, as per usual, then, when finished, took Rodney out. I closed the kitchen door so as not to have a wet floor and watched them while preparing my dinner. Rodney is now finished and the 2 dogs are left outside to dry in the sun. I glance out every now and then and within 5 mins I cannot see Portia. I run out to check back gate is closed, run back inside shouting at the boy to find her. We search all the bedrooms, I go outside again and then I notice Rodney sitting as if in guard at a bush at the back of the garden. I call him and ignored I go over and Portia is asleep behind him, I rub her and say there you are I was worried about you – she’s dead. I couldn’t believe it, she’s still damp from her wash, apparently her heart had just stopped. It really was an awful shock I’ve lost another best friend.
We worry about Rodney, but he is fine, still doesn’t leave my side. I am heartbroken but glad I’ve one friend left. The other half has started on the, this is the last dog, again!
Time continues and over the past year he has been closer to me than ever. He really will not leave me alone. Wants to be on my lap all the time. Then I discover I’m sick again. I am convinced that he knew this before I did and was trying to look after me. When I came home from hospital he was so gentle and just knew not to even try to get on my lap. As I am recovering I notice that his right back leg seems odd. John says it could be arthritis or nerve damage and takes him in for tests. His heart wasn’t the best when examined either. Thankfully the heart tests come back normal but he has an arthritic growth lying across and between 3 vertebrae in his upper spine which could be causing nerve damage. I buy the poor man a huge comfy thick and soft new bed, anything to make his life more comfortable. He is put on medication for 2 weeks when he is to return to John. The past 3 days have been good, but today I notice he is doing quite a bit of yelping out of the blue and is definitely leaning towards one side. When he comes up to me all his right side is leaning into me, the same when he is walking. He walked around a little his morning but has taken to the new bed again. I am worried. I don’t want to see him in pain and this is one of those times when I really want him to talk to me. The Boy is upset though saying very little. Should anything happen there will be total heartbreak and devastation in the house. With Leaving Cert in June the Boy would be inconsolable. It is just so sad. I have had to reduce his walks and looking at him today wonder will I even get him out for a walk now. So now I watch, wait, stroke, cuddle and continue talking to him.
My Very Best Friends have really been just that. It would break my heart if I thought I would never have another one. They have made me laugh, made me happy, shared my problems and also made me cry. At the end I have always been heartbroken and have thankfully never had to make the decision about euthanasia yet. Hopefully this will continue to be so. I don’t understand how people can abuse dogs or ignore them. When buying a puppy, yes it is for the long haul, it is also expensive and time-consuming but all the hard work is nothing to what you get back in return. My best friends have brought love and joy to my family and I would not have changed one day with them.
I hope the 3 who have crossed the rainbow are very happy chasing rabbits.
30 Jan 2012
Sadly Rodney went over the rainbow this morning. I type this with the tears running down my face. I am absolutely heartbroken. It all started at the beginning of December when I saw he wasn’t well and then he started haemorraghing. Unable to get in contact with John I phoned, Manfred, a local vet who kindly opened his surgery for us. Off we go, me in tears, but he said to relax, it wasn’t time yet, that he had either a virus or a bacterial infection. He gave him an injection and told me to return the following week. Another injection but he seemed much better. A week later I noticed that he couldn’t really stand properly, think a total drunk boxer so back to Manfred. This time he diagnosed wobblers syndrome and yet again another injection and steroids to be given twice daily. We got through Christmas, I knew it would be our last with him one way or the other so we all made a huge fuss of him. Last Wed week he wasn’t well at all, so back to Manfred, again in tears as I really thought this was the end. Manfred initially agreed but then decided to take him in for observation to see exactly what was going on. A last ditch effort and a reprieve for us both. I stress he was in no pain just very drunk, uncoordinated and seemed confused. He was unable to stand unaided so would stand leaning against me till I helped him lie down. The folllwing day I returned and collected a new Rodney. Manfred had given him another magical injection and told me that he thought his brain was degenerating and that he would need regular injections for the remainder of his life. We were all thrilled. He came home, returned twice for 2 more injections, but was a lot more comfortable. I even got him out for short walks though he slept most of the time. Should the pacing start again I was to give him a tranquiliser if I couldn’t calm him down. Sat morning I noticed he had started pacing again, I got him into bed, calmed him down and in a hour or so he seemed happy again, however, the same happened yesterday. This morning OH came down to see he had made 2 messes on the floor. Rodney went out but OH couldn’t get him in. He called me and I coaxed him inside but the poor dog wasn’t well. I gave him some food and the pacing started again. I followed him out the garden and coaxed him into bed again. Mid morning he collapsed off his bed, I would have given him a tranquiliser but he was due to see Manfred at 12. Poor dog stuck his head in a press, I brought him out the garden to wee but he collapsed into a bush, then tried to stumble through a tree. Finally I got him in and took him to Manfred. His daughter spent about 10 mins talking to me and watching Rodney, Manfred came out and did the same but said “It’s time”. He said there was no going back, that these episodes were going to become more and more frequent even with the injections and though Rodney wasn’t in pain he was very distressed. I knew it was coming but was totally shocked when he said it. I spent some time with Rodney and held him at the very end.
I know I’ve done the right thing, he was a boistrous boxer and it was heartbreaking to see him struggle out of bed and no longer enjoy walks, however, it doesn’t make it any easier. The poor dog had such a hard start in life I was very anxious that he didn’t suffer at the end too. He just didn’t deserve that. He loved me unconditionally and I loved him unconditionally back.
I am just heartbroken.