Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A Woman's Best Friend

My beautiful, smelly crazy best friend is leaving me. He has lived with me for 14 and a half years and is around 16 years old.

I got George from the USPCA. I fell in love with his energy and Gabriel Byrne good looks. I had lost my last dog Oscar six months earlier at 16 and a half, and my home needed a dog. I wasn't really prepared for the kind of mayhem, or joy  that he brought. When he met Lily for the first time he ran up and down the stairs and round and round like a dervish , she was terrified.

I have no idea what his story was before he came to live with me; his habits and behaviour were bonkers, rather than bad. He raced about the park like he had never been free and occasionally charged an innocent passer by or skateboarder. I did a lot of apologising in the first few months.
He was a serial butter stealer and had probably ingested about 3lbs of Golden Cow's finest before I caught him, standing on all fours on the kitchen counter licking the dish clean. He refused to eat his food unless I was in the room with him and he still much prefers rainwater from a dirty bucket to tap water from his bowl.

His front door guarding is legendary and has only really settled as he has reached his very senior years. He has destroyed letter boxes and doors, nipped postman's fingers and generally terrified delivery people for years. In one horrendous episode he went through, yes through, a panel of a UPVC front door to get at a paperboy. Thankfully the paperboy was shaken but unhurt. George had to have  a huge gash in his front leg stitched and to wear the cone of shame for a week. I had to take time off work as he was busy trying  to get the cone off by means of throwing himself downstairs and into furniture.

I tried dog trainers. The first one I took him to said he was "untrainable" and I should have him put down, I didn't go back. The second one was better, but rather expensive and his techniques modified, but didn't fully cure George's anti-social tendencies. I took him to Belfast Dog Training Club when he was around 8 years old and at last found good people who helped me to manage my wayward boy. It is still a source of great pride that Geordie passed his test with flying colours, sitting, lying down, waiting while I walked to the far end of the hall and then coming flying at me on my call. He showed up the Chihuahuas and Great Danes with royal blood and snazzy outfits. He can sit with a treat a foot from his nose and will not eat it unless I say so, and he always comes when he is called on walks. Having said that, he is virtually unwalkable on a lead.

The call of the wild is strong in George and he will go off for a wander given the opportunity. He always comes back and does no harm, he just enjoys the adventure. The neighbour's garden two doors down is a favourite place for him , she feeds him chicken and biscuits and brings him home eventually. He has been returned to me by arsey dog wardens once or twice. George and I don't have much time for them and their rules.

No stranger to the vet in his youth; our George was regularly having bits of broken stick removed from his throat, his foot pads cleaned and salved and leaves and twigs pulled from his fur. Fortunately he has calmed down a lot but he had a cough and I took him to the vet a couple of weeks ago to be told he has a heart murmur . Since then he has slowed down a lot, food has to be coaxed into him , his breathing  is fast and shallow and he can no longer go for walks. he peed on the floor of the vets, so I won't be taking him back, this is something he never does, he was stressed and I hated putting him through that.

I'm coming to the realisation that my boy is going to die soon, he is old, and thin and frail. He stumbles when he walks and blood and oxygen aren't getting around his body to keep him vital. Last night I really thought I would be waking up to him having gone but he bounced out of bed and trotted to me wagging his tail. He still follows me upstairs and waits on the landing while I get washed and dressed. No amount of coaxing from other members of the family will budge him. He's my dog, my boy and I will miss him so much more than he knows.