When the `doggy` God in heaven decided to take you Sam, I was devastated to say the least. You had been with us for eleven glorious years and I can honestly say you were the best dog ever.
You were gentle, kind, handsome, funny and a real doggy gentleman. You were always around, either splayed out on the driveway enjoying the morning sunshine, or, your huge frame was always under my feet, in my office, in the kitchen, lounge, dining room and bedroom. You were silent in your presence, but always comforting, lifting your head, demanding a stroke.
With your luxurious cream coat, you were admired wherever you went, your thick mane resembling that of a proud lion. The photo above shows you gallantly displaying your rosette for first prize in the veteran class of a dog show. A veteran you may have been, but in your mind you were still a puppy. You ducked and dived trying to catch the ball when the family played, you swam in lakes and the sea, you being so fanatical about water.
You were never any trouble, travelled well and sat firm by the car when you saw us packing for holidays. There was no way you would let us leave without you!! You loved the countryside, the lochs the mountains, any fresh air really and we would often comment that you preferred your walks to your dinner!
When you fell ill, it was literally overnight. When we went to bed you were fine, nothing untoward. When we found you the next morning, it was amidst vomit and distress. Even then, when we rushed you to the vet, did I think for one minute we wouldn`t be bringing you home. I cried as we walked you into the treatment room. Did you know? Because even though you collapsed on the floor, you tried to get up and you looked at me as if to say, “Please take me home.” You hated the vets at the best of times. But you then settled into an almost resigned state, your body full-stretch on the floor, your psyche quiet and forlorn.
The vet pumped you with pain-killers and tried to tell us, as they can only do, that there was little hope, that something catastrophic had happened in your gut. “But how can that be?” I asked. “We took him for a walk only twelve hours ago – he was fine,” I sobbed.
Not wanting to give up. We asked the vet to try everything – anything – without causing you anymore distress. We had to leave you to let them try, and even as they carried you out, you raised your head in question as we disappeared from your sight. My beautiful boy.
But it was not to be. We came back after a few hours and you hadn`t responded to treatment and as I lay with you on the floor, you quietly and gently slipped away, your pain over. Not having been ravaged by a long illness, you were as beautiful in death as you were in life.
We took you home and buried you under the cabin veranda, your favourite spot in the garden where you had whiled away many happy hours sunning yourself.
I told myself, as people racked with grief at the loss of a much – loved pet do, that, that was it, no more dogs, I can`t go through this again!
But the reality of your death, was not to grieve over losing you, but to celebrate you and all you had brought to us. How you had enriched our lives and taught us so much, of humility and loyalty and how, by showing you affection and love, you gave back a love in return, that was so unconditional, it took our breath away.
So, with the house silent and empty and screaming the lack of your presence, I tenuously started to surf the internet. Just to have a look you will understand. After looking at many breeds, my heart began to dither and melt. Life without a dog, was really not a life at all. We live in the countryside, love walking and have a huge garden. We have so much to give a dog that all the past heartache of losing you Sam, was superseded by that knowledge.
We decided not to have another Golden Retriever as I didn`t want to feel we were replacing you, but to have a new dog in its own right. After a lot of studying, trying to find the breed that would match our life-style, we decided on a Flat Coated Retriever. The breed is very much like the Golden Retriever and Labrador in temperament, but the Flat Coats, has the name suggests, has a flatter, sleeker coat and are slighter in frame. But they are fun, happy, loyal, exuberant dogs and love the outdoor life. Just as Sam had. Perfect!
So, that done, it was time to find one! Easier said than done. Flat Coats are very popular and in demand and, because we wanted a liver colour, quite hard to get. There weren`t many around, and as we also decided on a bitch this time, this narrowed our search even greater. We even picked a name – Amy.
Each time I found a breeder, the pups expected were already sold, but as luck would have it, a breeder who had just sold her litter, told me she had another litter due in a few months. So I put my name down with Tracy Ballard from Clock Tower Kennels, and we said we would like a liver coloured little girl. The expectant parents were – mum black in colour – dad a liver colour – so we had a chance of getting our liver little girl. This situation suited us perfectly as I didn`t want to have a new puppy too close to Sam`s death.
The weeks went by and with a few emails exchanged with Tracy to see how things were going, and marking off each week on the calendar when the pups were due, we were on tender hooks. Would we get our little liver girl puppy? I was still missing Sam so much, but I now tried to focus on our `new arrival` and was secure in the knowledge that Sam would have approved of us having a bitch as – didn`t he just love the girls!
Finally, quiet unexpectedly and with a few days to go to the expected day, I received an email from Tracy. Nine pups, six black and three liver. And two of the liver pups were girls!
We had our new puppy – and that is the moment when you, Amy, came into our lives.
Over the next few weeks, we kept in touch with your progress and set about getting all the things we would need. Bed, toys, leads, bowls and blankets. We felt as though we were getting ready for a new baby. Which of course we were. The great day came when we could make our first visit to see you when you were just four weeks old. And what a delight. After a two-hour journey (and a sleepless night full of excitement) we were finally going to meet you, to offer you your new life – as best we could.
Seeing you just melted away all of our pain and longing for Sam and helped us rejoice that his life and the joy he had brought to us and all he had taught us, had now led us to you.
Having to leave you was torture but we were happy, because just another five weeks and you would be coming home.
The great day came and everyone in our family and village waited in anticipation for your home-coming. I was nervous as well as excited. It hit me that again, we were taking on a huge responsibility. Not only in caring for you for the rest of your life, but to make your life happy and content and give you all that your breed desires. You would only know one life. And that would be with us. Whatever we decided for you, would be the basis of your existence. I could only hope we would do the best for you.
Amy with her breeder, grandma and dad
Amy with Grandma and Dad the day she left them.
So here you are – home at last.
You settled in really well. The weather was cold and snowy. But you didn`t care and as your breed suggests, you revelled in the playtime of the snow.
You helped in the garden, even helping Peter split the logs.
Everyone loved you – but then how could they not.
You were mischievous from the start. But little did I know just how mischievous you would become!
So my darling as you grow and we get used to each other and are both learning the rules of the household – (me with you in it!) I keep reminding myself that, as you chew through the kitchen cupboard doors, that I must treasure this time. But I can`t help asking, when looking for my slippers for the umpteenth time, or trying to find my sweeping brush, or finding the `poo` bags that I keep in my walking jacket pocket that are now usually full of holes because you keep pinching them,(not nice to discover when picking up poo) where has my quiet carefree life gone? When will I ever get any writing done? Have I done the right thing in having you?
So dear reader. I will now leave you with an inventory of my life with Amy – and leave you to decide!
LIVING WITH AMY
Now, with all the things I have to do today – I would like you to be very good. Where have you got that from? No, we don`t have time to make a pudding.
Oh, alright then, you can help with the cleaning. But we need to hurry because we have lots to do.
I don`t know how you are going to get down the stairs. It`s no use looking like that – I did tell you not to go up now didn`t I.
You managed to get down then!
You are lovely to look at, you can be good at times, but truth be told, you do take up a lot of my time having to play with you and making sure you aren`t up to any mischief when I should be at my desk working. But, the reason you came into my life in the first place was to keep me company and fill the empty void that Sam, your predecessor, left in my life.
Sam of course is a hard act to follow. He was a real gentleman (in the doggy sense) and very laid back and most of the time he just lay around, (well he was eleven I suppose) and as you are only five months old, I will have to concede that to expect you to do the same is asking a bit much.
But Amy my darling puppy, I do have to work sometime. So when you are hanging onto my slippers under my desk, or running off with my notepad that holds all of the precious notes that will never come into my head again in this lifetime, or ripping up everything out of my rubbish bin, or chewing up the most expensive afghan rug that took me an age to persuade my husband to purchase, could you perhaps have a little understanding and sympathy with your mistress and give me a break sometime.
I don`t want to keep threatening you with a trip back to Worcester ( your place of birth and to Tracy the breeder that failed to warn me that Flat Coat Retriever puppies can be hell on earth – shame on her) Only joking Tracy. I do want to treasure these puppy days that will disappear with your fast growing legs that seem to get lankier by the day and I do keep reminding myself, as I dab the blood from my punctured skin as you chew my hands and legs off, that these days will soon be gone forever (thank the Lord)
But please, could you remember that your years are seven times my years – and have a little mercy if I run out of stamina (and patience) as I sprint across the lawn (I wish) to try to retrieve my shoes before they are nothing but shredded leather. Forgive me for always feeling guilty when wishing you asleep so that I can enjoy a glass of wine by the fire, after spending weeks of glorious anticipation of your arrival. It is truly wonderful to see your lithe body laid still in your bed, and my husband and I quickly retreat into the sanctity of the lounge keeping the TV low so as not to wake you.
But my darling little girl, despite all of this, I wouldn`t change anything for the world. Only perhaps to bring Sam back. But his time is done. He had a truly wonderful life and he gave us a truly wonderful life back. I will never forget Sam
How could I – when he enriched our lives so.
But I have to face the fact – no matter how hard it is to lose our beloved pets, it is better to have loved them – then never to have loved them at all.
And now another chapter begins.
So little puppy with all of your life ahead of you, let us, as your keepers, give you the richness of life you deserve to make you happy and contented in your life here with us.
So I will keep searching for my slippers, I will keep dabbing the blood from my skin, I will retrieve the shoes from the lawn, the sweeping brush and the car sponge. I will clear away the shredded paper and hopefully rewrite the chewed up notebooks.
Because I know, from you, we will get all of your unconditional love and loyalty – for the rest of your life.
I love you Amy.