“and If you can’t be, with the one you love, Honey, Love the one you’re with” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
I hope people don’t think I’m a hard arse.
Katie doesn’t even seem cold yet, and I’m getting another dog.
Yes, I’ve been here before, I’ve had a wonderful dog, who has died and it left me shattered.
When Laddie died, it bought my parents and I down, we sulked about it for weeks, Gone was our special boy, Half German Shepherd and Half Collie, The dog who could stand on concrete and bounce a tennis ball and amuse himself, The dog who would (wrongly) be allowed to go to the local park by himself, and return with gifts… a squeaky toy hammer, a babys dummy, a pair of mens red undies, a bag of garbage, an entire tree branch.
Laddie loved us as much as we loved him, and I still love him even today.
Losing that wonderful personality from our lives was gut wrenching.
I can remember my Sister being angry with us, “Oh for Gods sake, It wasn’t the bloody Queen Mother!” No, He was more special than that, He was OUR dog, He was family. But none of us said anything, and if we did, I don’t remember, I only remember the silence and how we felt.
Dad always took him for a walk in the evening, He never had a lead, but we never needed one. Laddie was as sharp as a tack and very well behaved… Well except with the dog across the road who he hated, a fight broke out twice in the park between Buddy and Laddie. I tried to separate the two once and that was a bad mistake, Laddie almost bit right through my hand, He’d bitten first, then understood later.
I remember his guilty look, I remember the blood and the pain, I remember My Dad (A huge, muscular truckie) almost passing out upon seeing all the blood, and Mum left to clean me up.
Mum was always the Nurse.
My hand swelled up like a tennis ball.
It’s what happens when you have a dog, and you just accept it… it was my mistake.
I was never quite sure whose side Laddie was on, I’d sit on Dads side of the table and tell Mum that I was pinching Dads tea, and Laddie sat there growling and showing me all his teeth… But then I’d say “Would you like some, Laddie?” and his face would change from angry to “Yes please!” as he licked his lips, only to resume growling again if Dad came into the kitchen and asked “What’s This?”
Laddie had cancer, and his frame melted away to a skeleton, He was taken to the local vet in the truck that Dad used for work, Laddie had never been in a car before, and although he was dying and in obvious pain, he was really happy.
The vet rang the next day with the worst news, which had been expected.
The Vet suggested that the best thing would be to put Laddie down, and I agreed.
I wanted to see Laddie and asked if they could please hold on and wait till I get there so I could see him one last time.
Mum had never seen me do anything like that before, I cried in her arms and she cried too.
At the time I wasn’t well and had to wait for my Dad to come back from work, I wrung my hands waiting for Dad to return, No Mobile phones back in the late 80s, at least not easily available to the likes of us who didn’t have much.
But with only a few hours to go, the vet rang again, to say Laddie had died.
I had missed him, it was awful. I had sent my best friend to the vet and he had died alone, I still feel guilty about that till this day, but there really was no way for me to get there by myself.
Coming home in the car, from anywhere, and not having that big welcome he’d always give us was hard, and perhaps it was some relief to my parents when I bit the bullet months later, after I started to feel that perhaps we should, really get another dog.
Dad was missing the walks they went on, Mum missed the person she’d share a bit of cake with “If you die, Laddie, We won’t eat any” She’d say.
We received Laddies ashes, I think they were posted, but I’m not sure.
I bought home a newspaper and looked up dogs at the back, in the classifieds.
I found a listing for Alaskan Malamutes, phoned the number and soon I was telling the breeder (Loretta) about Laddie and how much we missed him. and she said, “We have a little one here called Benny”.
So Dad and I set off for Point Cook, not too far from here.
We stood in a little dish at the front door, to kill any parvo virus on our shoes and entered. There were pups everywhere, The poor mum had given birth to fifteen.
We were shown Benny, He was tiny, and fluffy,
He was a long coated Malamute. It’s considered a defect in the breed, as snow and water don’t fall off their coat, instead the coat would get soaked and if it froze, the dog could die.
For a companion, it’s not so bad, but they do need more brushing. Laddie loved being brushed more than anything, but Benny hated it, and so did Katie who was to follow, the two malamutes always told me off when I did it.
Dad loved him right from the start, I wasn’t sure, I still missed Laddie.
Loretta almost made me pick him up saying “He’s your puppy”.
While we were at the house, an Italian man and his teenage daughter turned up, I think Benny was about the last to be sold, but they were all too young to go to homes yet.
Mario, Lorettas husband, ushered Dad into a corner to do business, Dad handed over the cash and the deal was done, Benny was to be the first dog we ever paid for, they’d usually simply turn up, as Laddie had, Mums Boss found him at work.
Mario told us later “I’m Italian myself, and I can see Benny digging a den in Pappas veggie garden and that’d be that” Well as it turned out, Benny did dig a few holes, but they were generally tragic, never deep enough to bury a bone, which would be left with a sprinkle of dirt on the top.
Benny was a brilliant dog, and we loved him.
A month or so passed and we picked up Benny before Christmas, He howled all the way home, in Mums arms.
Unlike Laddie, Benny had rides in the car, Dad hated the idea of a dog in his nice clean Kingsw… oh, Sorry, Fairmont (I hope you got the reference) But Benny was welcome. Mum and I looked at each other, I’m not sure why, but Dad had softened.
So we often went to country markets at Gisbourne, Blackwood and Daylesford, where people always asked us the same questions, What breed is he?, Does he eat a lot?, Does he cope well in summer? Mum and I joked about printing up a sheet with all the answers.
While Laddie would be inside in the winter, curled up near the heater, Benny hated all heat and any trace of sunlight. He would lay on the concrete verandah in winter, or on the cold bathroom tiles, with his back legs stretched out to the back and his pads pointing upwards.
And unlike Laddie, Benny wouldn’t sleep in my room, I have no idea why, It was either my parents room or the bathroom. But he’d come in and sleep near me in the morning after his walk with Dad to get the newspaper, as unlike my parents, I was never an early riser.
Benny had a harness which had been hand made for him, it was made of leather and was lined with sheep skin, and I strongly suspect that the guy who made it, specialised in leather gear, for men, rather than for dogs… in fact it fits me perfectly.
Sometimes Benny would refuse to wear his harness and utter rude howls at us, until Mum spat the dummy and ordered him to “Get your harness on!” though sometimes that didn’t work either.
Then I’d say “Well Mum, I’ll wear this harness” and I’d begin to put it on, Benny would go quiet and give me a look like “Hey, That’s mine!”… then he’d settle and allow me to put it on him instead.
We lost Dad to cancer.
Benny was a comfort to Mum and I, and I was glad to have him with us.
Bennys legs went on him at around ten, his “wrists” were on the ground, and not held up like they should have been, and then his hips went.
One night he was crying in pain, he was actually saying “Oh No, Oh No, Oh No” over and over, it was heart breaking.
The vet was called, and there was nothing to be done for him, I held Benny close and the drug was given in our backyard, Benny was taken away in a body bag, Three of us had to carry him out, We passed by Mums bedroom… She was there crying with our neighbour, I had not expected it, I think she was trying to hide her feelings from me, perhaps because she felt that it might make me feel worse. Mum saw us and I heard her fall apart.
The bag was put into the vets boot, he was clearly upset too, offered some kind words, which I don’t remember.
I watched the car drive all the way up the street, and remember the red tail lights turning left and vanishing, I broke down.
A neighbour came over to offer some comfort.
Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with cancer.
One day the vet returned, He was a tall Indian man dressed in a suit, He handed us the box containing Bennys ashes, He offered us his condolences and sat with us for a while. I thought he was very kind to do that.
I decided that we needed another dog, and this was done fairly quickly too, I didn’t wait. I consulted the internet, namely the Ozmals group on Yahoo (Yahoo groups were still cool at this time), I knew a breeder who’s girl was about to have pups, and several people were lined up for them… but she had one, just one.
I really wanted a male, so I hung off, I just liked boy dogs, I didn’t think a female would be as good, call me a sexist if you like… Katie was about to change my mind.
Katie had come up too, and unlike the other one, needed a home or would lose her life.
She had been begging food from staff at Pukapunyal Army Base, she would take whatever she could get and sleep in the nearby bush.
Where she had come from, nobody knew, Had she been dumped or had she escaped from a home?… there had been a horrible storm around that time, and fireworks too, she hated both.
The local vet had held her for longer than she should have, She had just put down a male who was apparently aggressive and she didn’t want to do the same to Katie who she thought was lovely and deserved a chance.
She had been driving Katie everywhere, looking for her owners, or looking for new ones, nobody wanted her.
I admit I dallied, Had I known what I know now, I would have taken Katie immediately, but it’s hard to know how a dog will be.
Someone bought Rhondas puppy, and that made the choice easy, I took Katie.
Everything was arranged and Rhonda bought Katie to us, sometimes I think Rhonda told me a fib, but if she did, I don’t mind at all.
We probably didn’t take as much care as we should have,Benny had been old and barely able to walk, but when he was young, he was as powerful as a train, or at least seemed to be.
So Katie bolted up the street and I thought that was it, nobody could catch her. but she saw a neighbour and wanted to say Hello, so thankfully she was retrieved.
Katie and I had some good long walks which I hadn’t been used to as Benny could barely manage the park, just a few doors up, as he got old and his body failed him.
About a month or so later, I had bowel surgery, and it wasn’t long after that that the radiation and chemo began.
I don’t remember much of Katie then, I was barely well enough to do much of anything.
I remember that she used to come into Mums room, and wrap herself behind the curtains, and fall asleep there.
She was a very timid dog though, she would act as if I was about to give her a belting anytime I raised my hand, she grew to understand that I wouldn’t hit her, and began to love me.
She loved her Mum, she’d spend a lot of time licking her… or perhaps she knew something then that wasn’t obvious to us, but was to her… Mum had been losing weight and getting frail.
I remember the day that my PICC line was removed, and that was a huge relief, it was always in the way, I never really had a good shower because of it, and it itched like mad where the sticky patch covered its external bits.
Although I still had the bag, on my body, and that was a nuisance.
As I recovered, Katie and I would go for nice long walks together, and it helped a lot.
Mum had had a few attacks where she almost stopped breathing, and an ambulance was called the second time.
I had found mum on her bedroom floor that morning, whacking the wardrobe with a shoe, hoping to wake me up, Katie was sitting next to her, confused and offering her paw.
The third time it happened, the ambos were too late, and Mum died.
Then it was just Katie, Vicky and I, and somehow, we coped.
Katie and I would generally go on big walks together, We’d walk to Seddon, or to the creek, which has a lovely dog park around it, sometimes I think I was online too much and should’ve been walking with her… but we did go out every day except if it was too hot or wet.
And people would stop us and ask questions, the same ones they asked us of Benny.
And in the evening I would feed Katie, which was one thing Mum suspected I’d forget to do.
She used to get doggy meatballs, an egg, and some milk.
Katie was very fond of milk.
And she’d sleep beside me every night, and I would be soothed to sleep by her breathing, and the knowledge that I wasn’t entirely alone.
Katies health declined, and I’m not sure why, She was slowing, but I could cope with that. I’d rather have an old slow dog than no dog at all.
I’m sure I’ve told you the story.
It lead to the night I dreaded most of all, She was crying, like Benny had nine years earlier, and I held my darling girl, and the drug was given, I held her to the end, until there was no life left, and wondered yet again, why I was left in witness and why I couldn’t have gone too.
Katie and I were inseparable, and now we were forced apart, I didn’t think I could bare it.
She had meant more to me than anything, I adored her, I didn’t think I would, but I couldn’t have asked for anything to be so near perfect, I’ve been heartbroken for weeks, and lost, and wondering who I am without her.
It was always Katie and I, always.
I lost her in the car going to the vet, her eyes kind of went blank, and although she lived for two days after that, I know that she wasn’t the same afterwards.
So I sit here typing away with tears streaming down my face, some have said it’s too early, I am still grieving for Katie but know that I must try again or condemn myself to being lonely.
When I picked up Katies Ashes, The vet there said, that she doesn’t understand waiting, because there are other dogs who need a home, she said, it’s like your best friend dies and thinking that you wouldn’t find a best friend again… I’m not sure if she’s right, but I had been thinking along similar lines.
I know the drill now.
I get a dog, and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get one who will love me, and support me, though at this time I doubt that any would be as good as Katie… but I thought highly of Laddie and Benny too.
And then, on some dark day in the future, they will have to be put down, or simply die in their sleep. I’ll be fearing that if I’m to go first, who will take my old dog? and who will take care of them as well as I did? I don’t care about myself, to be frank, I hate being alive but fear death, or perhaps, the dying. but I would like to end all the fears I have and be forgotten, as I will be.
Jette needs a home, I need a dog.