He wasn’t “just a dog”

Almost seventeen years ago, a colleague at work told me that her dog had had pups. “They’re a cross between a red setter and a border collie” she said adding that “Bella” their mum was a gentle soul – “Don’t suppose you want one?” she asked. The words were barely out of her mouth when I made the phonecall to my hubby to persuade him we needed a dog.

He didn’t take much convincing, and just like that the plans were made and we waited until our pup was ready for separation from his mother. My colleague told me that she had the perfect one earmarked for us. “he’s the runt of the litter she said, “but I just know he’ll be perfect one for you”

And so we went to the farm to collect our pup, under no obligation to choose the “runt” but found ourselves drawn to this particular pup with two different-coloured eyes. There was just something about him.

We wrapped him in a towel and I made a silent promise to his lovely mum, that we would look after him always and love him forever. I was a first time mum-to-be myself and I felt so guilty for taking him away from her.

As we drove home, our ball of fur Rodney snuggled on my husband’s lap and moments later threw up all over him. I’m not sure whether it was it the car drive or the trauma of separation that caused it. Rodney always seemed to be so attuned to life and his surroundings. Maybe rather than a skill acquired, it was something he was born with.

Rodders became our practice baby ahead of the birth of our first actual one.  My sister sat with him while I attended ante-natal classes.  I watched the neighbourhood cats suspiciously as they prowled along the back garden walls. Precious first born syndrome seemed to kick in with my puppy dog and Mama Bear was ready to protect him from ferocious felines!

And like most first borns, his every move and different pose was photographed. His energy was inexhaustible. Always running and bounding. Always excited and always bloody digging – but forever gentle. He was his mother’s son.

And when my daughter came to join the party, Rodney, though still adored, accepted his move further down the pecking order. He loved company which was just as well, as the numbers grew and grew. He was a horse, bad guy, good guy, unicorn, cushion, reindeer and scoffer of food the kids didn’t want to eat. He sniffed each new baby as they arrived home, and licked away the tears that fell for the miscarried ones.


He had special dinner on his birthdays and his sock hung on the mantle-piece alongside those of my children every Christmas Eve. He loved to swim in the sea and rivers, yet was never so keen on being washed with clean water. He knocked unsuspecting visitors over with excited welcomes and chewed everything that was dropped accidentally in the garden.

He drove me crazy, robbing washing from the basket as I tried to hang it on the line and took us for a walk rather than the other way round – until lately.


Recently he got old, or at least it seemed recently. The passing of time seemed suddenly to creep up on him  – and us. And the washing basket dramas were because he couldn’t see it, so he fell into it. And the walks became less about managing to tire him out and more about his managing to stand up. And that gorgeous face looked so tired and those beautiful two different coloured eyes, couldn’t see so well, but still looked at us so trustingly.


And we tried because we loved him so much, and we didn’t want to say goodbye and we sought assurances that he wasn’t in pain and that he had a quality of life until it became so blatantly apparent that he didn’t.
So we said goodbye – and our hearts are broken.


He wasn’t “just a dog”. He was part of our family.We’ll miss you always Rodney and we’ll love you forever – I promise . xx

He’s struggling.

A rolling stone gathers no moss apparently. Well we’re rolling, rolling, rolling, here and there’s barely time to gather our thoughts, never mind any moss.

After a crazy busy week, we’ve had a Drama Feis, birthday party and chess tournament this weekend and now we’re rolling towards my son’s confirmation midweek and my daughter’s transition year musical every single evening.  All the usual mayhem has to be fit in, in between, and it will be, even if it’s accompanied by lots of grumbling about there not being enough hours in the day.

But on top of all that, and in spite of the excitement about the upcoming confirmation celebrations and musical staging (after months of practice), there’s an air of uncertainty that hangs over us. Our ancient, sixteen and a half year old dog, isn’t great.

I’ve written about him before and how he was getting old and slowing down hugely. He even looked as if he needed a touch of “just for dogs” around his greying temples. But now the discomforts and struggles of old age are really setting in.


He’s almost completely blind, he has lost his hearing, and his sense of smell has rapidly diminished. His back legs are weak and stiff and he’s sleeping a lot.  It may be from the medication that he hates but that he has to take for his kidneys, which blood tests have revealed are deteriorating also. He has to change diet and drink more water, and the situation will be reviewed.

He’s just a dog, some might think, but we love him so much. As my husband reminisced with our twelve year old son, about the fact that he can’t remember life before Rodney, my twelve year old reminded him that in his case “there was no life before Rodney”.

Rodney arrived six months before my daughter was born and has greeted each child with a sniff and a tail wag once they arrived home from hospital. Each new arrival saw him pushed further and further down the priority pecking order but it also brought him a new fan in due course, and a new heart bursting with love for him.

The older children are in denial. “He’ll be fine” they say, when they catch me watching him struggle, or sleeping yet again. They think this medication is going to solve it all. They don’t want to think of the alternative.


I hope they’re right, but he’s old, very old. We need to do the right thing for him.  I just wish I knew what that was.


Family pet

Our dog will be sixteen later this year. He was our first “baby” and is called Rodney (we’re huge Only Fools and Horses fans here!). He is a black and white border collie cross with two different colour eyes. He has an incredibly gentle nature which is tested on a daily basis by an over enthusiastic two year old who tries to use him as a horse and a five year old who tries to coax him into his bubble car. He greets the children excitedly every day when they go out the back to play with him and they in turn never fail to include him when asked about the number in our family – ten of course!

They love to find him asleep in the morning time and take turns to give him a doggy treat or some warm milk on the colder nights before they go to bed themselves. He has worn birthday hats at their parties and has his own Christmas sock complete with embroidered name.  He is a much loved part of our family.

But he is old.  These days I can see that he doesn’t have the energy to play with the children as he did before. Now, after a comparatively short while running around with them, he escapes to his kennel to rest and, try as my two year old might, cannot be coaxed back out. His breathing is louder and more laboured, and he’s definitely more grey around the temples. He has been checked over by the vet and is in good health – for his age. Sometimes during the day when I see him lying in the sun, a little bit too relaxed, I bang on the window and disturb the poor fella, just to check……to check what I know is possibly not that far away.

Rodney has met every single one of our children as they came home from hospital. He accepted his fate, as over the years, he moved further and further down the pecking order. He has been through everything with us as a family, playing excitedly through good times and sitting quietly by our feet through the sad ones. My back garden looks as if we own as race horse rather than a dog and we curse him daily for that but my children have learned a lot through having a family pet. They have learned responsibility, compassion foranimals and to always check where you play for dog poo first (definitely the worst part of having a dog!) They have also learned a special type of love.

While my older children are aware and fearful somewhat of Rodney’s advancing years and we’ve tried to prepare them for what might not be too far away, the younger kids remain oblivious.  I know when the day comes there will be heartbreak in this house, after all Rodders has been there their entire lives.  While it seems strange to be considering his obituary just yet, I feel compelled to try protect them from what’s coming, but I can’t. I can’t even bear to imagine him not being here myself. Seems daft, he is after all an animal, not a person, but he’s our Rodders, a plonker in his own right, but still our gorgeous black and white sixteen year old puppy dog.