Thursday, September 06, 2012


We lost the dog today.

I just forgot how sad I could get.

We keep cheering each other up and reminding ourselves of the positives, but it's not really doing much good.

She was fine yesterday, hanging around the dinner table to see if she could cadge a few scraps. She went racing down the garden this morning absolutely sure she had spied a cat. She had two small biscuits and then got on the settee. About mid-morning, I noticed that she was panting and not really asleep. Julie's nurse came at 12 and Sheba went to her water bowl, I say “her water bowl” but it's the water bowl she shared with the cat. She made to move outside but dribbled wee all the way out of the conservatory. She had never done this before. She got back on the settee and we could see she was not well. Her eyes were rolling and she was panting hard. I rang the vet and they could see her at 12:30. We managed to get her in the car, but instead of getting excited as we drove up Park Road thinking she was going somewhere exciting, she just lay on the back seat next to Julie. At the vets, she did not want to get out and I had to lift her. She managed to walk in but lay on the floor outside the vet's door.

Sorry, just had a short break, watched a bit of the One Show, but as I got up I glanced at the settee and was upset not to see Sheba lying in her usual spot.

The vet took her for an X-ray and a scan. I expected the worse and I was not disappointed. She had a massive growth on her spleen. It could be cancerous, about a 90% chance. Our choices? They could operate and remove the growth but the op would probably kill her – she was 13 and quite a large dog with a heart murmur. I opted to have her put down. We managed to call Pete who came down and we had 10 minutes alone with her. She was in a little pain, but lay quite quietly on the vet's table. The actual injection is a strong tranquillizer and quite quick, she was gone in just a minute.

I always draw the short straw. I had to take Suzy down to be put to sleep in 1999. That was traumatic, but now that more than 10 years have elapsed, it has faded in the memory. Today's has not had time to fade and it's quite raw.

The vets were very good. They ask if you want cremation (No) and provide a large box to bring her home in. She was weighed just before she went in to see the vet and was 28 kilos. That a large amount to lift as “dead weight”. I got Pete to come back in and lift the box into the van. She went home with Pete and Julie in the van and I drove the car. It was all so sudden.

Pete dug a nice grave halfway down the garden near the bush where she liked to “hide” her football when you kicked it. We removed her collar and Julie remembered that we never had another name tag made for it. Her first collar, which wore out, had a tag that Julie had had made with Shebba on it. We teased her often about that and sometimes called the dog Shebba for fun. We put her in with her yellow Frisbee and the “manky football” she loved so much. I took a few photos. I spied another of her footballs near the door and kicked it angrily towards the apple tree. Pete retrieved it later and placed it on the grave. I spent the evening comforting Julie and expecting the sense of loss to fade.

I went to bed early convinced that I would be able to sleep, but all I could do was doze and think about the dog. I had to précis the Chiefs football season over and over in my mind to stop from feeling sad and finally went to sleep, only to wake at 03:30 for the toilet and just dozed until time to get up.

In the morning Pete appeared and confessed that he had slept little and could not stop thinking about Sheba. We agreed that it was probably the suddenness of her going that had affected us so badly.

I thought it might help to remember what I had been telling the family for years, i.e. “That dog lives better than we do!”. And, she did.

Sheba was a rescue dog from Gt. Yarmouth. She arrived in the spring of 2000 on a Saturday. Pete and Steve were both away at University and I was working away at Finborough during the week, so I thought that Julie should have a dog for company and as “protection”. Suzy had passed away a few months earlier. They brought her over from Yarmouth in a car and we waited at home. She bounded out of the car and into the house. She was a bit bigger than we had hoped for but they said she wouldn't grow much more (they were wrong). She immediately latched on to Julie. I gave them a cheque for £50. I hope it helped to place other dogs. We prepared the garden by having a small brick wall built to close the gap between the bathroom and the garage. We blocked the gap between the hedge and the garage with the old metal gates that used to be at the top of the drive way.

We had a lead and we walked her down the road. She pulled a lot, so Julie bought a special collar to train her not to pull. It was never entirely successful. She settled straight in. How many time did I say over the years, “Dog, it was the luckiest day of your life when you arrived!”? She followed Julie everywhere and incessantly – most likely afraid she would lose her. I was at work on the Monday but got reports everyday by telephone. She soon proved her worth during the week when she barked at a woman causing a row in our road in the early hours and woke Julie. Clearly nothing could move near the house without her knowing and then letting you know. This talent stayed with her all her life.

We booked her in to the Bridge Vets and had her spayed and vaccinated.

One of her first walks was to Salhouse Broad. We had one of the extendible leads so she could roam a bit and we occasionally let her off the lead entirely. Fortunately, she was on the lead when she spied a group of ducks sitting on the quay side and charged. She flew through the air and landed in the Broad. She just sank. I managed to grab her collar and pull her out. I have never seen a more surprised look on the face of a dog.

One of her favourite walk was down to Caen Meadow where she would race up the hill for the ball and swim nearly across the river chasing a stick or the ball. When young she never tired of this. As a middle-aged dog she loved to play there in the snow and would happily lie in the river even if she had to break the ice in order to get in.

I thought to finish this today, but have to stop. Julie, Pete and I were just talking about Sheba and we all started crying again. You can tell yourself how silly this is, but it doesn't seem to do any good. I intended to pick it up on Sunday, but I was in the garden and was telling my next door neighbour Geoffrey about it and I stated crying again. I think I'll have to leave it for a bit until I can get some kind of closure. I feel so silly, but I just can't deal with this at the moment.

Months have gone by and I'm ready to finish this off.

We are never really good without a dog, so after my knee replacement and some recovery time we found a small Jack Russell/Patterdale terrier cross for sale in Norwich. Just a 12 week old puppy and with the same colour fur as Sheba; so I bought it. She has settled in well. We move on, but we don't forget.

Just heard today that my friend, Linda Taylor, has lost her dog, Shelby. Hope she and Robert get over it quicker than we did.

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