This week I want to talk to you about dogs. My dogs to be specific; what they meant to me and what it was like when they both went to sleep a fortnight ago.
I adopted beautiful boxers Finn and Hope four years ago when I moved in with my partner.
I have always been a dog lover and a firm believer that a dog makes a house a home. I’d never actually had a dog of my own, only much loved family dogs, until I met Finn and Hope. I say ‘met’ because, as I soon discovered, making friends with a boxer is something of a different experience to getting to know any other breed.
Eight-year-old brown brindle Hope was wary of me at first. Despite my best efforts to bond with her, the former rescue dog saw me as a threat. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me and barked at me whenever I was close to her beloved master.
Finn, on the other hand, a big white four year old took to me right away. Whenever I sat on the floor, he’d reverse towards me and plonk himself on my lap. So friendly, he could lick you to death and play ball until you thought you’d keel over.
With a bit of coaxing, Hope soon came around and became my chum. She’d put her front paws on my shoulders and give me her own special bosies. We’d take the pups for walks around Aberdeen’s Duthie Park, and feel proud of such a bonnie and mischievous pair.
On summer nights, Finn and Hope would lie outside in the garden, getting up only to bark at passers-by, such was their instinct to protect us. In the winter, they’d try to outdo each other to secure a place in front of the wood burning fire as soon as they saw one of us reach for the paper. Finn would lie so close to the flames we could sometimes smell his fur starting to cook.
When friends came round for dinner, Finn would rest his head on their laps as they sat round the table, trying to persuade them that he was being genuinely affectionate and not just trying to get a sneaky peek and what they were eating.
Hope was the leader, in fact I think Finn thought she was his mum, as he daren’t try to take a toy from her despite thinking it was okay to jump all over us if we had his favourite blue rubber ball. Hope loved going to the park and would run around excitedly as soon as she saw me open my wardrobe to get my jacket out.
I could spend pages and pages talking about the things they did that made us smile. But what I really want to talk to you about is how they left us. We found out two years ago that Hope had a heart condition called Boxer Cardiomyopathy. We took her to the Dick Vet School in Edinburgh and they prescribed her with tablets that would regulate her heart beats.
She did well on these and lived a lot longer than the vets expected. She was always so content and loved to snuggle with Finn as we watched TV. But come this Valentine’s Day Hope, now almost 12 years old, had lost a lot of weight, was off her food and kept being sick. We knew that the time we had been dreading was coming. We did all we could for her but, the next day, the time came to say goodbye to our faithful friend.
Finn had been off his food too. Even when he was offered chicken and liver (which he only gets as a treat and would normally drool for in anticipation) he declined.
We thought that they’d maybe both picked up a virus and Hope wasn’t strong enough to fight it. Or, because he loved Hope so much, her illness and death had made him sad. I searched online to find out different ways to make Finn happy after the loss of his lifelong partner.
We planned to take him to the beach the next day to cheer him up. Finn went into the vet the day after Hope went to sleep and the vet suspected he’d eaten some of his rubber ball.
Alas our poor boy was riddled with cancer and there was nothing they could do. We never did get to take him to the beach.
Finn’s death was so unexpected, we didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye and to thank him for the years of happiness he gave us. Hope too - the playful and affectionate old lady.
But we took some comfort in knowing that our wee boy Finn didn’t have to suffer, that he’d kept his dignity right to the end and that he’d followed beautiful and gentle Hope to the big park in the sky.
And as they told us at the pet crmatorium when we went to pick up their ashes the following week: “Let us never forget them but learn from their silent wisdom.”