The house is a little quieter today. There’s no padding of paws up the hallway, no frenzy of barking when you arrive home, no little yap to let you know you are taking a bit too long to dish out his dinner.
For the first time in 10 years we are without a pet in our household.
After losing Abbey earlier this year yesterday we had to say goodbye to Chandler.
The ever-patient, bumbling Chandler who bore indignities galore when the children dressed him in dolls clothes, wheeled him in dolly’s pram and took him on daily adventures in cardboard boxes.
“Quick get in the boat the giant salami is coming, I got Chandler, quick swim”.
The girls were just two and five when the dogs arrived around Easter, 2002. The dogs were about two or three years old and had lived in a house with two little girls before, but sadly a divorce meant they could no longer be kept.
It struck me yesterday that there had never been a single day when I had been concerned about the girls with Chandler. Despite how young they were, and the amount of carrying, pulling, tugging they subjected him to in their various activities there was never a single nip, or growl or even a cross look. Just doleful brown eyes looking up at me “can you see what they are doing to me now, seriously this outfit is ridiculous”.
Chandler was a placid creature bossed around by his sister Abbey who frequently pushed him out of bed, stole the best spots in the sun and was generally disagreeable when he irritated her, which was frequently.
He was a dog who hated being alone. During my stay-at-home mum years he followed me around the house, close at my heels whenever I moved. When Abbey had an overnight stay at the vets Chandler was inconsolable, barking non-stop right through the night. We were between houses at the time, and given we always had toileting issues with him I couldn’t take him inside, eventually in a fit of desperation I ended up locking him in a bathroom. He was still unhappy, until I slept in the bathtub beside him. To add insult to injury he proceeded to snore as soon as he knew he had company for the night!
In his younger days, before the Cushing’s Disease and cataracts, he was an expert escape artist. Making his way out of the Brisbane backyard on many occasions. He could often be found racing my car back home, careering around the corner as he saw me approach, fully believing if he made it back to the yard before the car was in the drive I’d never know he had been gone!
Once he dug a hole big enough for Abbey to escape from, she made it to the local shops where the shopkeepers sent her home with their parents. A lovely elderly couple, who hand fed her and let her sleep in bed with them. When she was returned she obviously shared the story of this wonderful place where you were idolised and adored as a pet, this time he dug a bigger hole and the two of them ended up at the shop!
Sorting through the photos this morning I was on nostalgia overdrive – the girls were so small, the beaming smiles, the dogs looking so young and healthy. So many photos where the dogs were snapped wandering into the shot, always there in the background. Witness to all the big events (and keepers of many secrets) the dogs provided company and lessons in care and responsibility.
After Chandler lost Abbey he ended up with the run of the house. Yet he missed her dreadfully. His face a picture of despair each morning as we left for our busy lives, it was his worst nightmare, alone all day.
When he was coughing and breathing heavily yesterday morning I feared the worst. The vet confirmed his heart murmur, which he had since birth, was now at a grade 5 out of 6. There was medication but it would only buy a little more time. So I made the decision. The appointment scheduled for the afternoon to give the girls a chance to see him one last time.
I collected the girls from school and they said their goodbyes, passing him between each other on the back seat, tears streaming down their faces.
In at the vets it was a matter of minutes for a chapter of our life to end.
In the middle of the tears I queried the sense in having pets at all – to which Hippie Child replied “I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it, they were our friends”.