In 2010 I suffered the great loss of my last 2 dogs, Hebe a Chocolate Labrador and Meggie a Border Terrier. Only 2 years before that my older chocolate Labrador Flora, Hebe’s mother, went to the great kennel in the sky. So I was suffering monumental grief. We had always agreed as a family that as Hebe and Meggie had been together since Hebe was born they would die together. Meggie was 6 months old when Hebe was born and from the very beginning they had a strong bond and were inseparable. Meggie would hop into the whelping box and help Flora care for her 8 puppies. I used to breed chocolate Labradors and every so often would keep a female from the litter. Our first chocolate Labrador Hebe, whom we brought home as a puppy from a farmer in Derbyshire, had 3 litters in all and as Flora was a very sickly puppy I hand reared her and couldn’t let her go! She developed into a stunning working dog and I decided I wanted to maintain the line as the offspring were easy to train and had such good temperaments. She had 3 litters of puppies and as her mother Hebe died early from cancer at the age of eight, I kept a puppy from Flora’s last litter and we called her Hebe in memory of her Grandmother. Hebe (the younger) never had puppies so I never continued the line.
It was clear that at the age of 16 Meggie and Hebe (the younger) had lived a wonderful life and although still able to go on very short walks their end was nigh. On Mothering Sunday we went for our last family dog walk with Meggie and Hebe and we agreed that the following Saturday when all the family were at home we would take them to the vet for a dignified end. In London it is unusual for a vet to come to the house to put an animal to sleep unless extreme circumstances, so I booked our slot for the following Saturday morning. However, it did not turn out that way. On the Wednesday afternoon at 5pm Meggie had a fit. I rang the vet and having alerted my daughter in law to meet me there, I scooped her up and along with their bed put both her and Hebe in the car. I was beside myself. This was not how it was meant to happen. Other than my daughter in law the boys weren’t there and it was happening all too quickly. I wanted a dignified end for my dogs but in the end it was traumatic. The vet was very kind and thought that if he gave her an injection Meggie would be out of pain until the morning when the boys could come and say goodbye but then Meggie had another seizure and at that moment I knew what I had to do. I felt utterly bereft and long after they had gone could still hear Meggie and Hebe walking on the wood and stone floors in the house.
At the same time as Hebe and Meggie died, my Aunt, a sprightly 80 year old farming in Yorkshire, died in intensive care of a long drawn out bout of septicaemia after cutting her foot through her wellington boot, on a foot scraper. I missed talking to my Aunt and I missed the dogs and the house became a sad place to be and so I decided to sell and embark on a new life in the country. I didn’t want another dog straight away and was concerned that if I had another chocolate Labrador or a border terrier I would be forever comparing them to my old dogs. It was July and the house had not yet sold and I capitulated and my wonderful sons gave me a delightful border terrier puppy, 9 weeks old. I named her Rummage after finder her rummaging about in the flower beds where she used to hide her chews. The thing about having a puppy with no older dog to “bring it along”, resulted in my finding the training a bit of a struggle as I became “the old dog”. It is fair to say she was a very lively puppy and, for example, if I was sewing at the dining table she would race round the floor looking for any pins I had dropped. Careful as I was, she would always find one then leap on to a chair where she would sit and hold her tongue out for me to find the pin! She never swallowed one but I was always worried that she might. I procured a magnet and would do a sweep of the floor to ensure I had picked all the pins up. One day after a particularly stressful morning, having lost Rummy on Wimbledon Common for half an hour, I realised my training skills were sadly lacking and I decided to try puppy classes.