Today we sadly lost Polly, a rescue Cocker, who was with us for 14 of her 16 years. She has gone to join Biggles and Windsor and Newbury and Patsy and it’s the end of what has been a very happy, loving relationship.
For the first time in almost three decades, there is a total break with the routine that owning a dog necessarily enforces. No feeding, walking, letting out, minding, caring, snuggling, stroking, patting, cursing, losing, finding, tracking, training, sleeping, vetting, weeping.
Gone. But yet not gone, because everywhere there is all this, now pointless, kit.
Blankets, beds, whistles, bowls, feed bins, scoops, medicines. The essential presence of a dog remains and if there is ever a moment when you can truly liken a dog to a human, it is in their going – yet not leaving. To put your hand on a blanket or a tweed collar, while the heart seems to temporarily lose power. That absence takes your strength until you remind yourself you’re not the first… there are others… you’re not alone… it’s only a dog… get over yourself… and yet…. maybe that is Love, or perhaps it is just Loss.
Making a sandwich for lunch, there is the space at your feet, where Polly would be, radar full-on, in case you dropped something from the cutting board. Beating you to the backdoor, so that she could herd you towards the office, not for any reward, but because that is where you should be.
We won’t ever again be reminded to feed her at a time apparent only to her, a time based entirely on the clock in her head. Polly’s feeding habits had been those she learned from Patterdale Patsy when Polly was still a frightened, rescued kid. Square shoulders, glance around, make sure you can see all threats to the bowl; eat as though no more food will ever be available. Patsy, in her turn, had learned as a puppy from Newbury, the greediest Labrador on God’s green earth, who could make a starving White Shark look like a benign trout. Each dog we owned, met the one before and passed on their bad habits, which provided us with thirty years of happiness. Each dog looked different and each a distinctive character, but they all seemed to behave exactly the same.
Mornings of routine. Out. Garden. Pee. Sniff. Pee. Round the side into the next garden. Sniff. Search. Sniff. Crap. Scratch. Glance to ascertain your position relative to her bowl (about 300m and not in sight). Run. Run Faster. Hurdle the Path like an Olympian. Run. Back Door. CURSES it’s shut. Wait. The irritation of finding the breakfast has not been, in her absence, magically added to her bowl. The irritation made palpable by a look but tempered by a grin of sheer delight that once again the Gods had provided food and these people had been taught to serve it properly. Eat, Drink. Lie in the kitchen bed until the Owners have finished their food and then get them into that office. Apart from anything else, she knew or perhaps she had actually demanded, another bed there, which was in a perfect position for water, light, heat, smells, next to the Owners feet.
And all the time she talked, less so recently because she had gone deaf and was now uncertain if she’d said Rabbit or Boomerang. She talked about her aches and pains, her needs, the door being shut, the door being open too much, the bed being uncomfortable, the food when below par, the empty water bowl. She could gabble happily for hours, and would have made an intelligible member of SAGE.
She loved Madame to the point of distraction and she was kind to me by occasionally allowing herself to lie in my lap.
With a decent functioning Kidney system, she might well have had another year, despite her age. But she didn’t, and now we don’t know what to do.