A friendship of a lifetime

All through our lives we make decisions.

Some of those decisions are easy and some are hard.  Some are joyful while others are sad.

On Tuesday I made what is easily the most difficult and most painful decision of my life.

I have written many times about Sandy.  I have written about various escapades and scrapes that we have been through together.  I am probably going to repeat myself many times over, but I make no apology.

Sandy first entered our lives in May of 1999.  She was a six week old puppy and I didn’t want her.  We had a Jack Russell at the time and one was enough.  However, my dear daughter K8 dumped her into my arms, whereupon the puppy looked me in the eyes and I was hooked.

From that moment on, we were pretty much inseparable.  The little puppy grew and grew into a very handsome long-haired collie.  She was bright, very intelligent, affectionate and very funny.  Sandy taught me that dogs indeed do have a sense of humour.

In the beginning, the Jack Russell used to boss and bully her around.  Sandy took it all in her stride and never complained.  As the year passed I realised why Sandy was so meek in the face of the bullying – she was learning and biding her time.  She quickly grew and as soon as she was big enough, she started playing back precisely the bully tricks of the Jack Russell.  She was always gentle about it though – it was more of a reminder of the torment she had been put through.  The Jack Russell was not amused.

Sandy had two great loves in life – tennis and the car.

Most summer evenings she would trot over to where the tennis racket was kept and give it a nudge with her nose.  Having taken the hint, I would bring her out and bash balls around the garden.  She was an amazing catcher.  Somehow she could jump in the air and catch a ball that was flying across her path, no matter how hard I had hit the ball or whatever the angle.  She rarely missed.  In later years, she got bored of nudging the tennis racket and developed a new signal – we had a tall twiggy plant growing in a pot on the floor, and Sandy would go and nudge that as a sign she wanted a game.  I never worked out the reasoning or the logic there.

The car was a different story.

She took to the car like a fish to water.  Her favourite spot was sitting in the passenger seat, where she would sit solemnly staring out the front windscreen.  Bends in the road didn’t bother her – she would just lean into them as if she were on a motorcycle.  She never ever did anything that would disturb my concentration.  The only time she would acknowledge my presence would be when we were stopped at traffic lights and occasionally then she would gently place a paw on my left hand as if to reassure me.  As soon as the lights changed, she would remove the paw again.

Usually when we reached our destination, I would leave her in the car.  She didn’t mind this in the least and would immediately plonk herself into the driver’s seat and would sit proudly at the wheel as if she were waiting to pick up a passenger.  Quite often she would gather a small crowd of laughing admirers, but would ignore them until I came back.

On a few occasions we had to go out and leave her at home.  This was not allowed.  On our return, we would be greeted with some sign of her displeasure.  She might have upended the wastepaper basket or torn up a page of a newspaper.  Once we came back to a wrapped loaf of bread plonked in the middle of the sitting room floor.  It’s wrapping was unbroken and I never worked out how she did that.  Usually she wouldn’t speak to us for the rest of the day either.  The lesson was simple – thou shalt not leave Sandy at home.

Another little story I remember from Sandy’s very early years was a wee spat she had with Zoe, the Jack Russell.  Zoe was a thieving little whore and would whip stuff off the kitchen table without batting an eyelid.  Sandy was quite capable of robbing stuff but in her entire life the only thing she ever robbed were bread-crusts if one of us left a half eaten sandwich around.  She would show interest in meals placed where she could reach them, but never, ever stole anything.  Anyhows, this one time we had been out somewhere and came back to find Sandy stretched out on the couch while Zoe danced frantic circles around her.  I investigated and discovered that Sandy was guarding a wrapped parcel of sirloin steak.  Obviously Zoe had robbed it, and Sandy had taken it off her and was minding it for us until we returned.  Like the loaf of bread, the meat wrapping was unbroken.  Again, I don’t know how she did that.

Sandy was incredibly gentle.  Her two hates in life were cats and the heron, both of which would drive her into a frenzy.  Anything else though was there to be mothered.

She adopted two guinea-pigs we had for a while, and used to herd them into a corner to wash them.  If she found a fledgeling in the garden that had stunned itself by flying into our windows, she would mind it until it was capable of flying away.  She adopted a pair of hedgehogs and if she found them in the dark, she would rush back to fetch me to admire them.  One year, a pair of doves nested just above one of Sandy’s favourite spots in the garden.  One chick hatched and it became firm friends with Sandy.  Sandy would lie there in the sun with the fledgeling sitting on a branch just over her head.

Last February I brought her to the vet for her annual boosters.

While we were there the vet gave her a good check and discovered a lump in one of her teats.  I booked her in on the spot to have the lump removed.

The following morning the vet rang to say that they had x-rayed her, and could I call over.  They showed me the x-ray and there were a couple of distinct shadows in her chest cavity.  The tumour was malignant and had spread.  I was told that an operation would be pointless and would just cause extra pain.  They estimated five months.

The last five months I confess have been hell.  Sandy showed no real sign of any problems and was as happy as ever, particularly as we started spoiling her something rotten.  As the months went by, I began to have an irrational hope that the x-rays and the vets were wrong, even though three vets had examined the x-rays.  She seemed as happy as ever, with bright intelligent eyes and a cold wet black nose.

The five months expired last Saturday.  Sandy was as fine as ever.  The only thing wrong was that the tumour had grown enormous and the ugly thing hung down like a cow’s udder.  I will never be able to look at a cow again!

On Sunday, as if by some evil cue, Sandy changed.  She could no longer sit upright as the tumour was in the way.  She couldn’t stretch out on the window ledge for the same reason.  Sandy loved that ledge.  It was her favourite spot.  She started showing signs of distress.

Monday morning she was as bright as ever and we hoped the previous day was just a temporary aberration.  But as the day passed she deteriorated.  She was obviously in distress.  We comforted her as best we could.

I didn’t sleep for long on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, I came down hoping things had improved.  They hadn’t.  She was just lying on the kitchen floor looking distressed, and wouldn’t even look at food.

It was then, at that moment I made the single hardest, most painful decision of my life.

On Tuesday evening at five, Sandy went gently to sleep in my arms.

The biggest hearted dog in the world had broken my heart.

Sandy

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr

Comments

A friendship of a lifetime — 74 Comments

  1. Oh Grandad,  I had a funny feeling when you didn’t post yesterday that it might have something to do with Sandy.
    I’m sitting here crying with you.
    That must be the hardest post you have ever written, but it’s the best eulogy I have ever read.
    Our previous dog after sixteen years so I really do understand, not that that’s any consolation at the moment.
    Keep the tissues handy and give Herself a hug from me.       

  2. Thank you Melemian.  We had a small burial ceremony this morning in a nice sunny corner of the garden she loved so much.  To put it mildly, it was very painful.  She was always a quiet dog, but the silence in the house is deafening.  I have to go out shortly, and it will be my first car journey without my co-pilot.  I am not looking forward to it.

  3. A beautiful homage to a lovely animal. You are a lucky man to have had that long experience, and Sandy was a lucky dog too.

  4. Anyone who does not believe in the existence of souls or who conceitedly believes they they are restricted to humans, need only look in the eyes of a dog. I grieve with thee. Sandy will live on in your memories and in ours since you have been kind enough to share her with us.

  5. Thanks John and Jim.  I have known many many dogs in my time, but Sandy really was unique.  I know there are those who will scoff and say it’s only a dog, but Sandy was living proof of the error of that statement.  She was indeed a companion and friend.  It will be a long time before the pain subsides, but the memories never will.

  6. Ah Grandad, I am so sorry. I know from my own experience how difficult it is to make that decision but even harder to allow someone you love to suffer. You gave Sandy a great life and did the best you could for her right to the very end. Today’s post is a lovely tribute to her. This household of dog lovers has you and Herself in our thoughts today.

  7. Thank you both [and welcome Driad!].  This was in some ways the most difficult thing I have ever written, but in other ways it was the easiest.  One thing I didn’t lack was material.  As it is, I could have written so much more, as I never even touched on her loyalty or many of the things she did that made us laugh out loud.  I have just driven for the first time since, and the car was very empty without her beside me.

  8. i should not have read this at work, deepy sorry for sandy’s passing, may the happier memories comfort you  in this very rough time. bless you both

  9. I can empathise with you all the way on this one GD. Losing our best friend is an extremely hard thing to go through. We lost our white GSD last year and I fully expect to lose his partner this year as she is developing cataracts and her back end is going.
     
    My thoughts are with you m8.

  10. Oh Grandad,
    I’m so sorry.
    I have to keep retyping as I can’t see through the tears. As others here, I have similar memories of both my dogs. When I saw the picture of Sandy I thought how much she looks like my Lassie only mine was more the golden colour.
    My heart goes out to you and Herself and all your family.
    I know there are no words so I’ll just keep you in my heart and send loving thoughts your way.
    joy

  11. Thank you everyone.It means a lot!

    Caratacus – I read that link but I had to warn Herself off and it would have cracked her up completely.  I confess, I had a wee regression myself.  Thank you.

  12. Ah, my deepest sympathies, Grandad. They so quickly become family it’s hard to ever think of them otherwise, especially when they hurt…

  13. That was a really nice tribute. Anyone who says ‘its just a dog’ can go and shite. They’re a member of the family… 

  14. Sorry to read about your sad loss GD. My son lost his best friend , a special King Charles Spaniel, just over a year ago. He’s not over it yet, very sad.

  15. Words will never completely describe how horrible it feels when your forever friend dies in your arms. From the cradle to the grave, that lifelong bond never wanes and makes it all the more harder to accept the inevitable.
    To me, there will never be a comparison between dogs and humans. Once that friendship is created, you’ll never have a more caring, loyal and attentive partner than your beloved pooch. Give me a dog over a human anyday.
    My heart and feelings are with you et al, GD.

  16. You have to have been there to appreciate the sentiment, my friend.  There are so many nice words there from your readers.  I lost my four legged companion a few years ago.  He’s buried in our flower patch – with a special rose called ‘Remember Me’ planted above him. I also have tears ……….

  17. Again, thanks everyone.  It’s sad how many of us have been down the same path.  It is the one major fault with dogs – they just don’t live long enough!

  18. So sorry for your loss. Your story reminded me of my favourite pet as a child. She was the most loyal and beautiful Wicklow collie with eyes so blue that people thought she was blind. She was far from blind. The best rat catcher! And I thought she was the most magnificent creature ever created. She minded me as well as Sandy minded you. I still dream about her 30 years on. My heart broke the day she passed away. Our family was devastated. we are blessed with our wonderful pets. Thank you for sharing your love for Sandy.

  19. I explain to some Chinese acquaintances that in Ireland we don’t cook dog meat “because the dog is our best friend and we don’t want to eat our friend.” Let me add that I see many people in this country treating this animal lovingly as a friend. It’s a joy to behold.

    Dogs that have played for several years with growing children and then fade with age (one year of a dog’s life being equal to seven years of a human life) are sadly missed by those children. I know someone who silently took an ageing family pet to the vet one Saturday morning while his teenage children were away at a holiday centre with their mother. He just couldn’t face the awful task of trying to tell them in advance of the need to put it to sleep.

    I’ll drink a glass of local red wine (1999 Cabernet Sauvignon , blackcurranty bouquet) this evening in memory of Sandy – and I’ll tell a friend or two about your personal feelings of loss.

  20. Very sorry to hear about this GD.
     
    I can empathize with you as we had a lovely Wicklow border collie who we had to get put to sleep at the age of 15. Heartbreaking.
     
    Chin up.

  21. My deepest sympathy, it is the hardest decision ever, the heartbreak that we will outlive our much loved pets. I have had cats and dogs but only cats for some time now as my health is not good enough to take care of a dog. I know a lot of people don’t think so but some cats become just as close, some are pets, some like children and a very rare few are more like dogs and are friends. I found the poem ‘If It Should Be’ very comforting, I am sure you found it on the pet bereavement site. The comfort is you gave them the best possible life and death when it is unavoidable. I wish I could be as sure of a peaceful death! in time you just remember the best times and if there is a heaven I don’t want to go if there are no pets there.

  22. Again, I thank you all.  I have been a little overwhelmed [in a nice way] by the response.  I sort of expected a few “get a fucking grip on yourself; it’s only a fucking dog” comments, but the comments are lovely.  I think it all just goes to show the incredible impact a pet can have.  And in general, pets are much nicer than people!

  23.   “I sort of expected a few “get a fucking grip on yourself; it’s only a fucking dog” comments,”  

    Believe you me, old man, it wasn’t easy.

  24. The reason we’re takin’ it easy on ya is because we’ve probably all felt the same pain but couldn’t or wouldn’t express it as well. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword and much more theraputic.

  25. So sorry.  Tears came to me as I remembered the loss of my 13-year friends Rascal eight years ago.  There are still days when I expect to see him waiting at the door for me. 

  26. Maybe through all this, your readers can empathise because of their emotional attachment to their own pets. But, I think you are also seeing a bit of genuine affection for you in there ……… ya ol’ crank !

  27. It;s very comforting to see some old friends [Hi, JA!] and to welcome some new [Welcome, Joan!]

    John – I think it’s peoples reactions to their own losses.  “Affection” for me I imagine extends to using me as an example to their children – “eat your greens or you’ll grow up all cranky and mean like that Grandad fella”

     

  28. Dave, Wendy and Jan – Thank you. I have the door to the garden open at the moment, and I still keep expecting her to wander in.

  29. Hi Grandad,

    Sorry to read about your friend.  I am going to mangle this saying, but it goes something like this, “The more I know my dog, the less I like people.” 
    My wife and I just lost our dog, Paddy Poodle, on June 1st, and our cat Daisy on June 26th.  Seems like out of the corner of my eye I sometimes sense movement and I’ll turn, expecting to see one of them.  It’s weird.  Take care.

  30. Welcome Patrick! Mangled or not, it mirrors my sentiments. It’s sad to lose one close pet, but two?  That is indeed very hard and I am very sorry to hear that. 

  31. I am so sorry, Grandad.  I know that she meant a lot to you and the rest of the family.  I only met her once, but I could tell she was a kind and gentle dog.  I had a German Shepherd from the age of 5 to 16.  We had countless adventures together and he knew more about me than anyone.  He was my best friend, so I understand your loss.  Rest in Peace, Sandy.

  32. Thanks, JD.  Indeed you did meet her. One of the few here!  Indeed you probably have a few of her hairs lying around – She was a great one for covering everyone in hair and fur.

  33. When you loose your friend your heart and soul feels the emptiness and the pain.  I feel your pain but can never feel “your” emptiness because Sandy was and is yours alone always.  Fill the void in your heart and spirit when you are ready and you will never regret the new addition to your life and will always remember your old friend through your new friend.  John

  34. That is indeed very true, John.  As I have said, we have a “loan” of my daughter’s dog, as she has her hands full at the moment and her dog was getting somewhat neglected.  He is a temporary filler for the void and does lessen the pain.  However no dog can ever replace Sandy as [like any other dog/pet/person or whatever] she was unique.  Our temporary canine is just a very welcome distraction.

  35. So sorry for your loss. I lost my Reuben this year, he jumped the wall somehow and into a car. Burying him was the most heart breaking thing I have ever had to do. I hope your heart has healed somewhat x

  36. Welcome Limmster [albeit under sad circumstances].  That must have been a terrible shock and you have my full sympathies.  I have always said that I have shed more tears burying pets than I ever have at a relative’s funeral.  Sad, but true!  Penny, our new arrival is doing her damnedest to fill Sandy’s place but the latter will always be a very special part of my life.

  37. This is one of the most moving posts I have read in a long while. There is nothing more heartbreaking than losing a life companion, be it an animal or otherwise. My own Granddad and I still reminisce and shed a few tears over our dog Ben who was with us for 12 years, who sadly passed in 2004. A loving relationship with a pet touches us in the deepest of ways. RIP Sandy x 

  38. Thank you, Shande.  It is nearly three months on now, and we have a new dog Penny, who is a lovely playful and very affectionate two year old Lurcher, but I miss Sandy on a daily basis.  There is rarely a day goes past that I don’t get a lump in my throat or an eye that isn’t as dry as it should be. 

  39. Pingback: Blog Awards Ireland Winners List 2012 IRELAND

  40. Pingback: Blog Awards Ireland 2012 winners | Niallofcork UNITED STATES

  41. Hi Richard,

    Congratulations and well done on your award last night, your Blog is fantastic and this post is also great, very touching and beautifully written, only a newcomer to blogging myself this year and this blog gives me great inspiration to keep it going-

    Noel

    • Thanks, Noel.  I am honestly still a bit stunned at the response.  This post was written at a bad time, and I didn't even read it again until last night [I had to refresh my memory as to what the fuss was about].  I confess it brought back terrible memories of five months watching a very dear friend, for Sandy was a very close friend, head towards her end.  For five months I dreaded that day that I knew was coming.  Every day for five months I wondered how I was going to have the strength.  In the end, the final day was far harder than my worst fears.

      She was a wonderful dog, and the award is for her.

  42. A lovely story. Bringing back sad but also brilliant memories of pets I've said goodbye to.

    The heartbreak softens, but the smiles will always be as wide as ever when you remember Sandy.

    Congratulations on winning the Blog Award. Well deserved! And, I love your bio! Really want to borrow it! 

    Looking forward now to reading some more of your posts. Pat

    • Thanks Pat, and welcome to my world!  I'm afraid the heartbreak hasn't softened yet and I still miss her terribly.  It's a bit hard on Penny [our new Lurcher] but she does her best to be my bestest friend.

      Bio?  What bio?  Isn't that something to do with plant food?  Or do you mean my ravings in the About page?

  43. Pingback: The Power of We – One Man & His Dog | Irish Farmerette UNITED STATES

  44. I'm so sorry to hear about Sandy. I'm a Dutchman, living in County Limerick. I bought your book in 2010. Read it and loved it.

    I followed your blog but haven't read any posts for months now. Trying to catch up and just read about Sandy. I lost a cat in May. He was a beautiful two year old (rescue) tomcat. He was big but very gentle. We found him dead on the side of our little road. Probably hit by a car. Not a mark on him, only a trickle of blood out of his nose.

    I was in bits. I still miss him and he wasn't even with us that long. In June we got two other cats from the shelter and they are our feline family members now.

    • Feck, I accidentally hit the wrong button on the keyboard and the post got published before I was finished. What I wanted to say next was: you get so attached to pets. They become family members and bring a lot of joy. It is always hard to miss them. Thanks for sharing this story and I will continue reading your blog. All the best.

      Dolf.

      • Welcome to my little corner of the Web, Dolf! 

        The worst thing about pets is that they have such a short lifespan [unless you adopt an elephant, I suppose?].  From very early on I knew that Sandy was something special, and I always knew that our time together was limited.  The last few months were particularly cruel but at lease I had the chance to spoil Sandy rotten!

        Pets are a wonderful addition to a family.  If you are used to one in the house, the place seems very empty without them. 

        We had a rescue cat once that I grew very fond of [I'm not normally a cat lover].  He just turned up on our window sill one day and wouldn't go away!  He was the scruffiest, mangiest cat with torn ears and scars everywhere, but was a lovely character.  I think he thought he was a dog [which would explain our mutual bond?].  I missed him terribly when he died, and we haven't had a cat since.

        I just had a peek over at your place.  Beautiful photography!  I think I'll have to keep an eye on that site?

        • Thanks for the compliments about my photography. Must update a bit more frequently. I also have a rambles page, but it is called Feline Rambles.  I started it after Cato (the tomcat) died. It's all about cats so you might not be that interested. The link is in the blog entry with cat photos on my photography page.

          I think Sandy couldn't have been in a better place. You gave her a lot of love and that's most important. There are so many animals out there that are mistreated or end their lives in shelters. That's why I think it's important to adopt and not to buy. There are shelters full of lovely pets who need a home.

          Fair play for staying with Sandy until the end. It must have been so comforting for her being held by her loving human family member. Now I will stop rambling myself and go back to reading your blog entries, hoping there will be a second book at some stage. :)

  45. Pingback: Our Trip to Ireland for this year’s Blog Awards! | Register365 Official Blog IRELAND

  46. Really late here. I've missed so many things since leaving Ireland, and haven't popped in as often as I'd have liked.  When you said you had a new dog, I had an inkling about Sandy, but didn't like to ask. I'm so sorry for your loss. Rest in peace lovely doggit x

    • Welcome back EM!  Yes, it's a while now since Sandy passed but we still miss her every day.  I still get a little choked when I pass her little spot in the garden where she is resting.  She really was one in a million.

  47. mate, that is one most kindest and selfless acts any pet owner can do when the quality of life is no longer there and the animal is in pain…….. i take my hat off to you in respect….. I'm so sorry for your loss……..

    • Thank you Andrew.  Our new dog Penny has been with us now for four months.  She is a lovely dog – very loving and very funny, but I still miss Sandy on a daily basis.  Nothing can ever replace her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>