Let’s take the summer off. Not do anything, have a bit of time for ourselves”.
“Yes, let’s go away for a month or so, just drive round France, stopping here and there. We won’t have to worry about getting back or who’s going to look after…”
It was, in truth, a bit of a half-hearted conversation. Not that there’s anything wrong with driving round France for a month or so – I’m sure it’d be very nice – but it wasn’t going to happen. That coming weekend, we both knew, we’d be back at Shoreham Dog Rescue.
It’s been a bit of an emotional time, here at Whistler Towers. I’m looking around and where there should be someone, there’s no one. I’m listening out, and where there should be noise, there’s no noise. For the first time in our famly life, we’re dog-less. And it’s just not right.
Our family has always had dogs. When the kids were little we had Maxwell and Lexa. When the kids were older we had Poppy and Molly and Moby. For a while we had Lily who actually lived next door, but preferred it at ours. And for a different while we had Pluto, who we brought back from Greece. Mostly we also had Rosie The Pussycat, and Princey, who was her baby. We haven’t even mentioned Tracy the Hamster (after Tracy Beaker, obvs), Fluffy the lop-eared lionhead bunny rabbit, Luna, Fluffy’s girlfriend and, as night follows day, their kids. There was a tank of goldfish all, for reasons lost in time, called Peter.
There’s always been noise and paws. And now there’s not. It’s life’s deal, I know. You can have the love but you also have the grief. It’s not a new story, but it doesn’t get easier.
Nothing and no one could replace Maxwell. He was the Godfather – the Dogfather – the one who made it all happen. I took Maxwell to puppy training classees, but Maxwell trained me first. All single men should get a dog. Single men are, you know, single. A dog will train a single man to be a useful member of society. You have to be home for the dog. To feed the dog, to walk him, to let him out. But if something should stop you getting home when you said you’d be home – and this happens to all single men – the dog will still love you. When Maxwell went for his final walk… No, can’t talk about that.
Poppy was a sweet. The rescue centre said she’d probably been stolen, taken to a puppy farm and put to work making babies. Then she was hurled out, found on a roadside, broken, still lactating. She needed some puppies, so we went back to the RSPCA and found the pups. Both of them fitted inside my hat. That was 14 years ago, nearly 15 now.
Molly was the last. She stayed two weeks after Moby woofed his last woof and, as is so often the way with married couples and partners, she knew one without the other wasn’t right.
The next day was the first day ever we woke up and didn’t go for a walk. That’s just not right, is it? A life without paws is… it’s a bit half-hearted, and leaves you empty hearted.
France is lovely. Driving around in the sunshine, stopping off pour un croissant et un cafe.. It would be lovely. But we both know that by the time you read this, there’ll be paws. And don’t even ask who’s on the cover of the next Whistler.