Tuesday, 23 October 2007

"Short-term" dogs - and Hector

While we had Charlie, we also had a black labrador who was a relation (despite the colour) but not in any way the same. Black Rocket was a rangy bitch. A nice enough companion but before she was very old, she developed a problem with all her mucous membranes. This involved drooling, eyes running etc. As we had a small baby, and Petty could not find a cure, we ultimately had to make the decision that she would be happier in Valhalla. For some time, I painted all over inside her mouth at least twice a day with something given to us by Petty. Not a nice job but would have been worth it if it had worked.

Rocket was followed by another yellow lab, Jasper. He was a beautiful animal but he never got control of his gut, so there were piles every morning - fortunately on a stone floor. As time went by it developed into a diarrhoea form of movement. In the end, he went to stay with Petty in the hope that he could do something about it. Finally his back end turned massively inside out, so he went to join Rocket. This all caused us much distress and made us feel that although we loved labradors, we should perhaps not try with one again. However, we were not going to give up the idea of a dog altogether.

One day, my sil rang to say that a friend had a Border Terrier with a litter of mongrels. The mum was a lovely well behaved dog and they were looking for homes for the puppies. Right, said I, I will be over. Of course I fell for the babies - they are always so adorable, aren't they?
Before long they were old enough to go to their homes so one morning I collected a small person who could almost stand on my hand. We spent the day getting to know each other and then we heard the car and No1 was home. We went out of the front door to greet him and the small object started as he meant to go on - he growled! and growled! and growled!!!!! I seem to remember that No 1 was able to laugh - he really was a ridiculous sight being so small. We called him Hector.

I think that was about 1967. Little did we know what a mixed 17 years we were letting ourselves in for!

Towards the end of 1968 No 1 was offered a job in Singapore. The available work in the North East, in ship owning/repairing was not exciting and he really needed to do something drastic. To me it really was drastic - we had 2 children and a dog. I had only lived for a short time outside the NE of England. All my friends and interests were here. My Father was getting old and my Mother had multiple sclerosis. On the other hand, I had 3 younger brothers, our son was 6 1/2 and daughter was 5 - ages that would move easily. What about Hector? My parents had 2 Sausage Dogs, (sorry, Dachshunds), Fish and Chips. Fish was a black and tan bitch but Chips was a large red dog. Hector knew them well. The parents said they would take Hector which was a golden offer and I am sure was made with some misgiving. No 1 went off to prepare the ground and find accommodation and so on. I was left to sort out our belongings and complete the sale of the Old House. Having completed all that, I moved, with the children, to my parents and Hector of course. It was not long after we got there that Chips and Hector had a whale of a fight. Thank goodness it happened before I left because it was clear that they could not keep Hector if they were going to fight - they were too old for that. So the decision was forced on us to take Hector with us.

The flight and the 4 years in Singapore were not without incident but they are for the next post.

Friday, 12 October 2007


While we were still at Withy Brook, A was born. As Charlie was a child substitute up to that moment, it could have been difficult. However, he was a dog in a million. He certainly was not adversely affected by the advent of a baby into his life. The fact that said baby was a 'screamer' affected his missus a great deal more than him!.

Life continued in a rather different way. A baby who had to be 'walked'. Charlie did not know the meaning of the word - so this was a benefit though the walks were constricted to the only road, because of the pram! An extra person entered his life - the Mother's help. I dare say she slipped him food which, being a labrador, was of immense importance. When the baby was about 10 months old, missus became pregnant again and after a while, it was found that her blood pressure was up. As far as I can remember, it was at about 6 months. After that life became very boring for a labrador. Missus was in bed. The mother's help looked after the baby during the day. Master came home about 6.0 but the baby had to be put to bed. The dog took a very minor part. Looking back, as I write this, all I remember was the terrible frustration of being bed-bound and the difficulties of a hyper-active todler. No memories of how we looked after a yellow labrador. It is part of his glory that he did not cause us any problems.

It was probably during this time that 2 things happened. The first was when I was up. An Indian carpet seller came to try to sell us carpets (!) He got no nearer than the front gate. A yellow lion stood between him and me. A huge ruff and a deep voice were enough to persuade him that I did not need one of his carpets.

The other thing was when, about 1.00 am, a knocking came at the door. We were the last house on the way up to the moor. No 1 went down to see what it was all about. He was quite frightened and took Charlie with him. Again the huge ruff and the deep bark were enough to reduce the man whose car had failed up the hill to a heap of shaking jelly!!

In the end the baby who had caused Missus to be in bed for 2 1/2 months arrived. 6 months later the family moved to Hurworth and The Old House. This was a large house in the village. It had a large garden, but there were no longer fields around. Despite this, Charlie seemed to keep well. He was, by now getting on in age. He developed a kidney problem. The vet that we used was in Darlington. Those of you who know the Herriot stories may remember that Herriot used a vet in Darlington for small dog problems. This was Petty who was a brilliant vet and looked after Charlie very well. By the time he died, I reckoned I had bought at least one wheel of Petty's Bentley!! Charlie was not allowed any meat for the last part of his life and lived on a special kidney diet, which came in a can. The butcher and his delivery boy knew about the ban on meat. Charlie had always had an absolute passion for kidneys. No 1 went to Harrow School and had fond memories of Sunday breakfast - bacon, egg, mushroom, and kidney. As a result, we often bought kidneys from the butcher. One awful day, the 'boy' gave Charlie kidney, or maybe put the kidneys where he could get at them. The result was fatal. During that night he started to leak almost continuously and could not stand up by morning. It was clear what was to happen. I took him to see Petty, knowing what he would say. I could not stay with him - isn't that awful? But I just couldn't. I went back to the car and just wept and wept. After a short time Petty came out and said that Charlie had gone peacefully to Dogs Valhalla and what could he do for me? He offered a cigarette which I took, but all he could really do was leave me till I felt I could drive home. I got there in the end! (I have tears in my eyes as I write this)

More will come in the next addition. It would not be right to go on, after Charlie's going.