26 November 2013


This is the last ever photo taken of Snoopy or, to call him by his real name, Freddie. It is now four weeks since we had him put to sleep and this photo was taken the day before his demise. Oh, the house does seem empty without him.

Freddie came into our lives in June 1999 for a very good reason.  Some years before, when Kay was a toddler we stayed on a farm in Yorkshire and late one afternoon, as we were walking around the farmyard, Kay was attacked by a Border Collie, who was taking his job of defending a barn full of turkeys seriously. Thankfully there was no physical harm done, as the dog only managed to grab the leg of her dungarees and not her actual leg, but it was enough to give Kay a massive phobia about dogs and she would freeze  in panic every time she saw one after that incident. Both Greg and I had grown up with pet dogs and loved them, so we were dismayed to find Kay was getting so fearful every time she saw a dog in the street. We decided to get a dog for her as therapy to get over her phobia. We chose carefully, visiting a number of rescue centres in the London area over quite a few years, until we found the right one.

We found Freddie, when we had all but given up hope, so much so that we had settled on taking two kittens instead. At the eleventh hour, just as we were negotiating collecting the kittens, the rescue centre told us about a litter of puppies they had just received. Freddie was the last one to be homed. He was an 11-week-old puppy, the runt of the litter produced by the union of a German Shepherd and a Manchester Terrier.  Now for those of you who know your dog breeds, you will know that the former is a large dog 

and the latter very small.

Which was the mother and which the father, I don't know, but whatever way round, either the union must have been comical (as the smaller dog mounted the large bitch - probably with the aid of a stepladder) or the labour excruciating (as the smaller bitch produced outsize puppies).

So it came to pass that in June 1999, we staggered home with two 8-week-old kittens and an 11-week-old puppy. We must have been mad. As the kittens were always dozing, we nicknamed them Freddie and the Dreamers.

As a tiny puppy Freddie looked a bit like a long-legged dachshund............

Freddie at 11 weeks

Freddie with one of the kittens

........but as he grew and grew, he started to resemble a Doberman. If I had a pound for every time I was asked by strangers on our walks if he was a Doberman, I would be a very rich woman indeed by now, but as the photos below show Freddie was really nothing like a Doberman in looks or temperament.
Freddie (note floppy ears, fatter face
and lots of tan colouring)

Typical Doberman (note pointed ears,
 slimmer face and less tan markings)

Freddie had a lovely nature and was as soft as grease. He was simply adorable and quickly integrated into the family. When Kay had some of her friends over at parties or sleepovers, Freddie would put up with no end of pulling and tugging from the boisterous kids, but never once bared his teeth. I would have been willing to place bets that you could put him a in a room with a defenceless baby and he would not have harmed a hair on its head. (mind you, I can't say I would have the same faith in him if he were alone in the room with a cat or squirrel, as they were like red rag to a bull to him). We would take him with us on our annual holidays and he even had one of the first generation of pet passports, so he ended up travelling to Ireland, France and Germany with us, as well as Scotland and all over England.

When Greg died in 2010, Snoopy was a tower of strength for me. He gave me a reason to get up each morning, take him out for his morning walk, no matter what the weather, and was literally someone to talk to as Kay was already away at university. He would curl up on one side of my bed at night and still be there in the morning, encouraging me to get up and feed him! 
Two and a half years ago, Freddie developed chronic gastric problems, alternating between diarrhoea and vomiting. The vet reckoned from blood results that he had either liver or pancreas problems, possibly a tumour, but he was already of an age where to be opened up and undergo invasive tests was probably not a good idea.  Already back in 2011, I was preparing myself for our parting and not looking forward to it. But Freddie surprised us all and, although he had many ups and downs, he always managed a good walk in the morning and periods in-between where he was fine.

As more time went by, he had signs of arthritis too and would often lick his wrists to relieve the pain in them. Unfortunately any painkillers prescribed by the vet irritated his gut, so he could not take them for more than a few days without them making him sick or causing diarrhoea.

In addition to all that, in the spring of this year,  aged 14, he became incontinent and I had to cover the sofas and his own bed with waterproofing and nappy squares to cope with it. (Fortunately by now, his arthritis meant he could not jump up onto my bed anymore, so he slept on his own bed). His bedding and the sofa throws over the waterproofed sofas were getting a daily wash and my poor old washing machine coped admirably with the extra loads, sometimes three or four times daily.

Sadly a few weeks ago, things got even worse, as Freddie became doubly incontinent and began pooing absent-mindedly in the house.  It was a nightmare, when I had to take him to my mother at the start of her house move, as I was terrified he would muck the house up for the new owners, but I followed him around like a shadow and made sure there were no accidents.

By now I had began to discuss with Kay the possibility of putting him to sleep and she came down for a long weekend to see him and discuss it with me. We dithered and postponed the deed, because apart from the incontinence he was still the same lovable old rogue we knew and was still loving his walks and looking at us adoringly. How could we walk him in to the vet, with only minor inconveniences wrong with him, and have him put down? As if to steer us in the right direction, fate was to intervene.

On Monday 28th October, I instantly knew something was wrong. He did not want to get out of his bed and come downstairs with me and by mid-morning, Kay and I tried to cajole him. It was apparent, he could not stand on his legs, so we carried him downstairs in a blanket and supported him, while he did a wee in the garden. As we returned him to his bed, he was trembling with pain. We knew the time had come and there was no backward glance as I rang the vet.

Now, the vet is a one-man band whom we have used ever since Freddie was a puppy. To my horror, the vet was not at work that day, but away at a conference.......... something he never did, but of course had chosen that very day I needed him! In a way, I was relieved we could defer the appointment to the next day, as it meant 24 more hours with Freddie. I gave him a painkiller to ease any pain and we went to bed that night thinking we had made the right decision.

Next morning, Freddie, energised by the painkiller, was up on his feet, as soon as I opened my eyes, and he hopped, skipped and jumped down the stairs to the kitchen. He foraged round the rubbish bin, as he often did, and sniffed around the base of the cupboards for crumbs. He was his old self. We had to remind ourselves that it was the painkiller talking and that he would only stand a few days of that before he was vomiting or pooing liquids. We were also pretty certain that if we had gone back on our decision, he might well have relapsed in a day or two again and Kay would not have been there to say the final goodbye. We decided to go ahead with our decision, having taken the courage at last after so long to make one at all. With heavy hearts, we fed him his favourite foods, (which latterly had always upset him), took him for a nice leisurely walk in his favourite park, followed by a car-ride to the vet.

I know, he was nearly fifteen, which is a grand age for a dog of his size, and that he had a lot of things going wrong with him. I know too that I had put up with six months of his incontinence, when others have told me they wouldn't have done. However, if we had been able to put him to sleep on the day his legs collapsed, there would have been no contest, but the fact that he rallied round the next day has left me with the feeling that I killed him. 

People ask me, if I am going to get another dog. My answer doesn't need thinking about. It's a clear and resounding "No". There will never be another dog that would come close to the wonderful dog Freddie was, who would be as loving, as intelligent, as docile, as caring, as funny, as......... Freddie-like.  When we lose a close relative, we don't replace them, do we? Freddie was one of  our family, not just a dog.  He's irreplaceable.

I like to think of him up in doggie heaven now, watching over me, as I blunder along on my own.  Rest in Peace, Freddie. You are sorely missed.

12 November 2013

The Highs and Lows of October

October was a bit of a blur. One minute it was September, suddenly it's mid-November and the bit inbetween has passed me by. Not in an I've-been-unconscious sort of way. More in an I've-not-had a minute to myself kind of way. In a nutshell, it has been manic. Mostly good, partially bad, but manic nonetheless.

First, the good news..........

My mother has moved up to London and is now 5 minutes drive from me. The sale of her house went relatively smoothly. Exchange of contracts was 26 September with a completion/moving date of 25 October. I had labelled the move in three phases:
  1. Moving out of her 4-bedroom house on the coast
  2. Staying a week with me while her furniture was in storage, so that we could have her retirement flat decorated and double-glazing put in
  3. Moving in to the retirement flat

Known for my good organisation (I have lists for everything and even lists of lists) I planned it meticulously like the Cabinet Office sorting out World War II. Not a detail was left behind. Gradually over the first few weeks of October, it all fell into place like a well-rehearsed play with nobody forgetting their lines or missing a cue. Even the weather behaved itself. It had been rain, rain and rain for most of the month, but on moving day, the sun shone, it was dry and we saw the furniture and 37 boxes of possessions off onto to the big van. (The removal men were heard to say "Doesn't your mother have a lot of china"!)  Phase One was a success.

Phase 2 went relatively well. In fact, apart from Hurricane Jude, it would have been a roaring success. Over the weekend preceding Phase 2 week, the news and weather reports had been heralding the arrival of Jude with all sorts of dire warnings and predicted mayhem, so our double-glazing team rang me to cry off their appointed installation on the Monday 28th and to regroup instead on the Tuesday.  With that being the only minor blip in the timetable, all else proceeded smoothly. The painters turned up on the Monday in storm conditions and had the flat completely painted by the Wednesday. On Thursday, I vacuumed the carpets to within an inch of their lives and we awaited Phase 3.
On Friday 1 November, the start of Phase 3, my mother and I stood in the empty flat bathed in sunshine and watched as the removal firm brought in her furniture and possessions. As I had suspected (and tried in vain to warn my mother several times) a four-bedroom house will not fit into a 1-bedroom flat. We had done some serious down-sizing, off-loaded many items to charity or left them behind in the house at the request of the new owner, but still there was too much to fit into the tiny flat. So far as furniture was concerned, we had a mahogany bookcase and a wing chair that seemed to be lacking a place to settle. (The former has now been donated to charity along with the books it once held and the wing chair sits determinedly squashed between two other items, making the lounge look like a doctor's waiting room! There were 37 boxes altogether to unpack and they were all clogging up the little space between the furniture, so there was nothing for it but to start unpacking with gusto. The removal firm had been paid to do the packing (but not unpacking) and had used a whole forest of paper to wrap even the smallest of items. Very soon my mother and I were standing head-height in scrunched-up paper and we still had thirty or more boxes to unpack! Over several days, we managed to unpack the possessions and find a home for most of it. We carefully folded each sheet of paper for the removal firm to reuse and it (and the boxes) were collected yesterday.
My mother is happy in her new home, has made lots of new friends already through an organised coffee morning and afternoon tea. There are other events scheduled over the coming weeks and her social life has improved 100%, not to mention the fact that I pop over most days. She wishes she'd made the move a lot earlier.
And now for the bad news. The very bad news.........
My beloved Snoopy has gone to the big park in the sky and I miss him terribly. I'll write more about that another day, when I feel I can, but his death on the Tuesday of phase 2 could not have come at a worse moment in some ways, although was a blessing in others.