Tuesday, 30 December 2014

It's a Dog's Life


As we gallop towards the New Year of 2015, I need to have some sort of emotional closure regarding the passing of our beloved pooch, Trudy Beagle.  So, if you are not a dog devotee, you might want to click off this blog right now.  However, if you are a pup person, then I hope you’ll stay and read to the end.
          Trudy Beagle was a rescue hound.  When she came into our lives she was two-and-a-half years old.  She was completely untrained, and as mad as a hatter.  Back then our children were six, eight and ten.  Fortunately they were borderline crazy too, so Trudy instantly merged with her ‘pack’.
          We decided to plunge straight into the deep end with our new family member and, as we waved good-bye to the anxious kennel owner, set off to Greenwich Park.  Upon arrival, my son insisted he was responsible enough to hold the lead.  He was carted along for a couple of minutes by a deliriously happy baying hound whose sole intent was to cover as much of Greenwich Park in the shortest time possible.  You could almost hear our beagle’s mind computing all the possibilities of this adventure: squirrels to chase…other dogs to bark at…picnickers and food.  Oh yeah – FOOD!
          And with that Trudy Beagle lugged my son under a horse chestnut tree.  The ground was littered with conkers, many still in their prickly green cases.  Trudy Beagle’s soft paddy paws encountered a zillion needles.  She shrieked in pain startling my son who promptly dropped the leash.  Within a nano-second all hell broke loose.  Unrestrained, our latest family member shot off, grabbing unguarded sandwiches from picnickers and delighting in her new found freedom.
          ‘Stop that dog!’ my husband shouted as he launched into an Olympic sprint and gave chase.
          But nobody could catch her.  Trudy Beagle was like an unguided missile, zig-zagging through trees, ducking under bushes, and only breaking cover to bat her sandy eyelashes at a handsome spaniel walking obediently to heel with its master.
          ‘Stop…dog…!’ gasped my husband, now totally puce in the face.  Fortunately, while the spaniel and our beagle got acquainted via the art of bottom sniffing and waggy tails, the spaniel’s owner bent down and grabbed our hound’s lead.
          ‘Oh, thank God,’ I cried, finally catching up, three bawling children in tow.  ‘We thought we’d never retrieve her.’
          ‘What a lovely little dog,’ said the spaniel’s owner. ‘Had her long?’
          ‘About an hour,’ my husband replied.
          In 2003 I took delivery of a top of the range Nissan X-Trail with sumptuous cream leather seats.  We were only just back from our annual summer holiday and our pooch needed collecting from the kennel.  As I rolled up, the owner eyed my car incredulously.
          ‘You’re going to allow your beagle in that?’ she asked, goggle-eyed.
          ‘Absolutely,’ I assured, ‘Trudy will go in the boot and be just fine.  Look, there’s a dog guard firmly in place.’
          At this point I would like to give a tip for anybody looking to have a beagle.  Dog guards don’t work.  Instead, invest in a dog crate.  Our beagle had the dog guard down within five minutes.  By this point I was driving along a duel carriageway with no hard shoulder to pull over on, while a black-tan-and-white-blur bounced around the interior and hurled herself at the glass.  I had electric windows going up and down, the seat belt alarm bonging away and my vision obscured as a hyperventilating canine lunatic finally settled on my lap with two paws on the steering wheel.  Not long afterwards, I exchanged my posh car for a not-so-posh dog-proof Citroen Picasso.
          Over the years, many, many excursions took place with Greenwich Park being a firm favourite.  Our children would run down steep hills yelling with delight, a small tri-coloured dog barking joyfully at their heels.  There would be picnics and bike rides and scooter fun and races, and always always always Trudy Beagle would be in the thick of it.  On one occasion we came across an artificial lake with little boats for hire.  Our children, older now, jumped in a boat and began to row while Mr V and I stood on the side hanging on to our pooch.  But Trudy Beagle was having none of it – she wasn’t being left out of her pack!  Seconds later she’d slipped her collar and jumped into the water.  All we could see was a tan head and black nose swimming in a straight line towards our children.  Minutes later she was on board and causing squeals of protest as a million drops of water were sprayed everywhere.
          Trudy Beagle endeared many.  She also managed to annoy a good few too.  One rather brisk and breezy day we went for a proper boat ride on the Thames.  Thoroughly over-excited, our beagle sat ram-rod straight, ears floating out horizontally as the wind whipped about.  She barked non-stop.  As we sailed past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Tower of London, none of the tourists could hear any of the history coming over the tannoy thanks to incessant yaps and woofs.
          ‘Somebody shurrup that dang dog,’ drawled a pissed off American.
          As our children grew and grew, so did our beagle.  But whereas our children grew upwards, our beagle grew outwards.  Beagles are obsessed with food.  I can always remember my brother-in-law visiting and staring at the dog.
          ‘Has Trudy’s head shrunk?’ he asked.
          It was at that point I knew she had to go on a diet.  Over the years our pooch stole many a breakfast, dinner and tea at any given opportunity.  By the age of seven, she’d finally learnt the words sit, stay and down.  Training a beagle is a lifelong task and there’s no guarantee you will crack it.  But for a beagle, ours was very well behaved.  She had pretty good recall, provided there wasn’t a rabbit about.  She was also incredibly sweet natured and tolerant enduring three young children man-handling her, including having her claws painted by our daughters and being dressed in doll’s clothes and put to bed in a dolly cradle.  When our children turned into teenagers, Trudy Beagle was more than happy to loll around listening to a mash of Lady Gaga, Florence and the Machine and Heavy Metal.  Possibly the din contributed to her deafness in later years.
          We didn’t realise how deaf our pooch had become until a couple of years ago.  We were back at our favourite haunt, Greenwich Park, and had permitted Trudy off the lead for a little while.  Our calls completely failed to attract her attention.  I can still remember her standing stock still and looking around as if to say, ‘Where have Mum and Dad gone?’  It was then that we realised her eyesight wasn’t so hot either.
          Indeed, the only hot thing about Trudy Beagle in her later years was her ability to parp and empty a room in seconds.  Just last Christmas my brother-in-law (never a dog lover and in particular not a Trudy Beagle lover) was reduced to pinching his nose with his thumb and forefinger and saying, ‘Somebody do something about that dog’s bottom.’
          My children were secretly delighted as they weren’t particularly fond of their uncle.
          Of course, a dog’s parp is very useful if you happen to parp yourself and need somebody to blame.
          ‘Gosh, that dog’s parping again,’ said Mr V on one occasion, flapping his hand about but looking decidedly guilty.
          ‘Funny that,’ I remarked, ‘because she’s out in the garden.’
          ‘Ah.’
          And then, just days before this Christmas, our pooch had what I can only describe as a funny turn.  She was instantly whisked off to the late night animal hospital.  They were a bit baffled but decided she’d had a bad arthritis attack.  Indeed, Trudy Beagle did seem to recover and within forty-eight hours was back to demanding food, scenting out Christmas presents and unwrapping them, and even rootling out her doggy Christmas stocking.  I can still remember inwardly smiling before putting on my stern face and saying, ‘Not until Christmas Day!’
          How I wish I’d let her have that stocking there and then.  Our darling golden oldie never did get to open it.  Two days before Christmas she had another funny turn resulting in some sort of seizure.  Suddenly we were back at the animal hospital, this time with our children.  The vet suspected a brain tumour.  Our girl was thirteen-and-a-half years old.  That’s meant to be ninety-four in human years.  It was time to say good-bye.
          We couldn’t stand the idea of having her put to sleep in the exam room with all its antiseptic smells, although to be honest our beagle looked beyond caring.  As the vet said, the lights were on, but nobody was home.  We went through to a little sitting room where Trudy Beagle was made comfortable on a blanket at our feet.  We patted her head and stroked her faded tri-coloured coat, but she didn’t engage, instead staring vacantly at the wall.  As the vet began to inject pink liquid into our pooch’s paw, we all began to cry.  The pats and strokes became more urgent, tears plopping onto fur.  Within seconds our beagle’s head drooped, her chin finally resting on her front paws as she went to eternal sleep.
          ‘I’ll leave you all together for a little while,’ the vet murmured, and disappeared through a discreet door at the back of the room.
          We spent ten minutes with our lovely girl, who simply looked as though she was resting.  We continued to pat and stroke her, and reminisced about the day we first got her.  Finally we stood up to leave.  It was at that point our dog parped.  And despite our tears, we laughed.  It was as if Trudy Beagle was saying, ‘I might be gone, but I’ll never be forgotten.’
          And she never will be.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, Debbie that made me cry!
    Our greyhound, Cherry is so much like Trudy. She's food obsessed and does the most awful smells, and she's quite mad at times too.

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    1. Grr, sent before I'd finished!
      What a pity she didn't get to open her stocking, but she's happy at the rainbow bridge now, watching over you all xx

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  2. So sad Debbie, but so many happy memories of your little Trudy Beagle. What a lovely eulogy for an adorable member of your family xxx

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  3. We lost our girl too at thirteen and a half, also to a suspected brain tumour. It's been just over fifteen years since when we've lost our other dog and our cat. Due to other circumstances we never had any more but you don't forget, do you. I miss them still.

    What a delightful character your Trudy sounds. Seems to me your were as lucky to find her all those years ago as she was you - and nothing will take away your memories.

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