Wednesday, July 2, 2008
The End of an Era
For the first time for decades I have a hair, dust and pet-free house. Our lazy, dimwitted, eating-machine, other wise known to us all as Sheba, our ancient labrador has finally lost the battle with mortallity. Thus ended a long family history of labrador owning stretching back nearly 40 years.
I began to think she would out-live us all . She survived a change of country, three removals and three cats with her usual mixture of stoicism and resignation, and outlived her far more active brother.
One never knew exactly what was going on in her head, except that five o'clock in the evening was the highlight of her day. The hour at which the refrigerator door miraculously opened and her food bowl was transferred from floor to work-top. In the last few years she'd become very deaf and her eyesight was deteriorating but she never missed the sound of a tin opener attacking a tin of dogfood, or the the rattle of a dog lead which preceded an afternoon ramble.
She never was a happy car traveller. I can remember one nightmare journey when she was only a few months old. One of my daughters was desperate for us to bring Sheba when we picked her up from boarding school for half term. Her friends had all heard about Sheba-the-wonder-dog but apart from a photo which was displayed on her bedside locker no one had seen the actual animal. I should have been stronger. Instead I gave in, and lost count of the number of times we had to stop to clean out the car. Having disposed of her own body weight in waste matter on the outward journey, she whimpered piteously all the way home.Who had ever heard of a labrador that didn't like cars? With typically female perverseness, years later she calmly accompanied us to our new life in France, enduring a 700 mile journey crammed into the back of the car alongside all the extra junk we couldn't get into the removal van. And all accomplished without so much as a hiccup. There was a fair amount of flatulence around though!
She wasn't too keen on retrieving either. Throw her a stick and she might consent to run after it. Might even, on a good day, bring it halfway back, but after that it was : 'Oh, forget it ! Who wants to play that boring game anyway?' It has to be said, as a working dog she was a bit of a non-event.
But we miss her presence around the place, particularly when we come in after having gone shopping. She was always at the door, tail wagging, happy to see us back. We are giving ourselves a break from pets for a while. They are a comforting addition to the household, someone to enjoy a walk with, a ever -listening ear when you've had a bad day, but it has to be admitted they are a responsibility(or should be) and as such they are a tie. So regretfully we'll be dog-less for the immediate future, but it means we can take off on a whim without having to find holiday accommodation that accepts pets , and we can return to the UK without the hassle of pet passports, or forking out for boarding kennels.
Our links with labradors are still in place, however, as my aforementioned daughter has had her lab, Archie, for five years, and he has now been joined by a friend. Rooney(yes it is a 'chav' name but he was already saddled with it) was dumped outside a local vets with a front leg so badly mangled that it had to be amputated. A coursing dog with three legs is no use to anyone so poor old Rooney languished in a boarding kennels acting as an overspill for the RSPCA until the owner, who was a friend of my daughter's, recognised in her a sucker when it came to lame dogs(literally!) So Rooney landed on his three legs and is now housed in a new family, has a half share in a second hand settee and a brand new pal. And a beautiful dog he is too. Trouble is he knows it !
After such a bad start in life (he was probably less than a year old at the time) he is remarkably well behaved. Apart from his habit of self -service eating. Archie, like most labs. was an easy dog to train and despite having the legendary hoover-like appetite he has never pinched anything off work surfaces. Not so Rooney. With his long neck and body any edible article left on a kitchen worktop is almost certain to finish up in his stomach. Daughter came home from work the other day to find a box of eggs, un-opened, and miraculously un-broken nestling cosily in his bed. Maybe he had hopes of hatching them out.