Friday, 6 May 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Shakespeare, who was right about pretty much everything, said that sorrows do not come in single spies, but in battalions. This morning the lovely stepfather called to say that my dog died in the night. The dear Duchess's old heart could not quite hold out until I got home from the funeral.

You can know her real name, now. There is no more privacy left to protect. (I still do not know what mad drive to discretion led me to give the dogs pseudonyms.) She was called Purdey and she was named by the nieces, when she arrived on a sunny day in August, twelve years ago, so small that she could fit into the cupped hands of the Younger Niece. She was named after the character in The New Avengers, and she was as cool and elegant as Joanna Lumley in her pomp. Although of course she would think that being compared to a popular television actress was most declassé, since she spent most of her waking hours dreaming of Chatsworth.

She was a really good dog. She was lean and athletic; in her younger days she could jump a three foot fence from a standing start, like a deer. She could run at thirty miles an hour like a cheetah, and swim along the burn like an otter. She most especially liked digging for moles and voles and other small critters, although if she ever caught her prey she had no idea what to do with it. I once saw her bark a small rabbit to death. I was rushing to set the poor thing free, while she stood over it, rather regally, barking down at it. As I got there, it sighed, and expired of fright. 

She went her own way, both literally (deciding that she would not necessarily come when she was called, but in her own sweet time, when she was good and ready) and in the mysterious ways of her doggy mind. She liked to lie alone, often going into the next room when I was working, stretching herself out in majestic solitude. When she felt like it, she would come in for love. She did not want much, just enough, and once she had it, she would wander away again.

She loved tall handsome men and very small children. She would vamp shamelessly for the Stepfather and the Brother-in-law, blinking her eyes and wagging her tail and grinning up at them. With the small people, her favourite thing was to wait until they were not looking and then move in for a quick lick of affection on the tips of their noses. She did this the last day I saw her, with one of the small great-nephews.

'Did she give you a kiss on the nose?' I asked the surprised little face.

'Yes, she did,' he said. 'A big kiss on the nose.'

With the nieces, she would stare with her serious yellow eyes, and roll over so they could rub her stomach. With my mum, she would clamber onto the bed and lie still and silent. 'She's a therapy dog,' I would say. 'Good for your aches and pains.' My friend Margaret taught her to give a paw for a biscuit. With my sister, she would creep onto the sofa, one delicate paw at a time. 'Oh you are a lap-creeper, you old thing,' The Sister would say.

With her own sister, she would curl up so close that you could not tell where one ended and the other began, and rest her regal chin on The Pigeon's shoulder.

With me; well, with me, there are not enough words. She gave an inexaustible supply of love, companionship and laughter. I took her to Colonsay, where she raced along white beaches and swam in the sea; I took her to London, where she chased squirrels in Hyde Park and lay down to rest by the Serpentine; I took her to the Lake District, where she paraded through the streets of Kirkby Lonsdale like she owned the place.

She liked a road trip. She would sit beside me in the car, staring seriously out of the window. This last trip I took alone. It was too complicated, with the funeral arrangements and I feared that her poor old heart, which was failing, would not be up to it. So I left her for four days with my mother and stepfather, with whom she was always very happy, and they found her this morning, lying by the door, that fine, brave heart finally stopped for good.

I was doing pretty well, with the whole father thing, if you can 'do well' with grief. The funeral, which I had dreaded, was actually very lovely. It was a fine and fitting goodbye. In the late afternoon, I drove the hour through the verdant English countryside to my cousin's house, the sun drowsing over the bosky trees, letting the knowledge of loss settle and stretch in me. I felt oddly calm. But this morning, the loss of my dog came as a hard blow on a fresh bruise.

I had to run some errands. I found myself in Cirencester. I went into a bookshop. I realised that I was looking for a book called: What to do when your dad and your dog dies. It turns out there is no such book.

'Damn,' I thought to myself. 'I shall have to write that bloody book my bloody self.'

As I write this, my very small friend H comes into the room and arranges herself on my lap. 'Pictures of DOGGIES,' she cries. 'I like that doggy,' she says, pointing at the darling old Duchess.

She stops, thinks for a moment. Then she says: 'I like her eyes.'

I look down at her. She is three years old. I think: life really does go on.

This ship is not sinking. We are taking on a bit of water over the side, just now. My plan is: to keep bailing.


  1. Oh Tania - floods of tears from me now. Got to go on the school run, but I am so so sorry - Purdey will be missed by us all. It's all in the eyes. Here's a big virtual 'oh bloody hell' to the world that has dealt you this double blow. L x

  2. I am so incredibly sorry. She was truly marvellous and the internet will miss her. Sending all possible kind thoughts at a horrible time.

  3. Oh Tania I'm so, so sorry to hear about the Duchess. You know I'm not much of a doggy person but you write so beautifully and share such wonderful photos of the Duchess and the Pigeon that I think they're probably my two favourite dogs. I hope you're home soon so that you can get some solace from the Pigeon.

    ps - Purdey always makes me think of very posh shotguns, so perhaps it was appropriate that she dreamed of Chatsworth?

  4. So, so sorry for your loss and hope the Pigeon is a source of solace to you x

  5. I am now sitting here weeping all over the keyboard. Beautiful words, beautiful dogs, beautiful father, horrible timing. Bless you and keep you.

  6. Oh Tania, no. I'm so so sorry. I wish I could think of something more to say than "Bloody hell, this is terribly unfair" but that's really all I've got. I'll be thinking of you, of course, as I have been.

  7. This series of posts has been heart-breaking and today's is an awful additional blow. Please take care in this perilous time and get home soon to the Pigeon and your lilacs.

  8. I think you've made an incredibly brave start with the book and perhaps it isn't about fathers and dogs at all. Is it about physical loss and what to do about it? I'd buy it.

  9. Ka Kite Tania, my heart goes out to you. Damn, this hasn't been a good week, has it?

    I too lost a beloved dog not long before we moved to the UK - here's my blog posting about it if you get bored. It might also help to know that others are also paddling in the sea of doggie grief:

    We have a saying in New Zealand, Kia Kaha, which means "be strong". Good luck hon and kiss the other dog for me...

    Arohanui, Sharon x

  10. Oh I am so, so sorry. I wish I could write some words that would help.

    Your wonderful father and your dear Duchess. Thanks to your wonderful words, they will be remembered by all of your readers.

    Such an unbearably sad thing. I'm so sorry.

  11. Oh what a horrid, life shifting time you are having at the moment. My heart goes out to you.

  12. Tania- many warm hugs and kisses. i am really sorry for your doggy's loss. x shayma

  13. Oh Tania, so upset and so very sorry - typing this with wet eyes and a heavy heart.
    You have written so beautifully and movingly about her lately and even more so today, sharing such precious images and making the Duchess came alive through your limpid and loving words.
    We will miss her so - her looks and her poses in all her nobility.
    My hearth is with you, wherever you are now, and with the dear dear Pigeon. C xx

  14. What's strange is that I felt like I knew her, love seeing the photos you would post. I have a lump in my throat and tears pooled in my eyes - I'm so sorry for your aching heart. All my love to you. xxx

  15. So very sorry, I feel for you. A noble, loving dog is a thing to treasure. I love your pictures of her and can understand how she will be missed.

  16. I'm so sorry about Purdey, Tania. A terrible double loss for you. Yes, keep bailing, and know that warm hearts are thinking of you.

  17. Oh bugger bugger bugger and I'm sorry if that's rude and impolite and maybe even crass but it's just so cruel that you've been hit so hard twice in a row and I want to rail against it for you. So bugger. And the railing is for the Pigeon too.

  18. Oh Bluddy Hell! Just Bluddy Hell! And Blessings. God bless the Duchess, and God Bless you and bring you home safely.

  19. Tania, I've held back from commenting because I can't really add to the floods of good wishes already submitted on the loss of your wonderful Dad. That this further sad news should come at this particular time must be unbearable. Knowing how much you loved the Duchess and seeing her noble beauty on your blog so many times has given me a sense of having known and loved her, too. I'm so sorry. xx

  20. I am so very very sorry for your losses. My heart is so very heavy over this blow - sending all possible prayers for you.

  21. TerenceBlacker6 May 2011 at 18:32

    Ridiculously, heartbreakingly unfair. She was a princess among dogs, as full of love and kindness as her owner. I'm so sorry Tarns. Thinking of you.

  22. We, the Devoted Readers, know that you may not be able to read all our comments, but your Duchess, Purdey, was loved by many and will be missed. It is cruel of fate to take both your father and one of your loved companions so close to each other, and you're in all our thoughts. I don't know that there are any words that could comfort at a time like this, but I hope the outpouring of love is of some comfort, or at least a brief smile, to you.

  23. I'm so sorry. Life - it's just one thing after another. Sending virtual hugs your way x

  24. So sad.

  25. Oh my goodness - I'm so very sorry for everything you're going through. I know how painful losing an animal can be - and to come on top of your father must be so hard. I hope you can find some solace in the Pigeon. x

  26. Dear Tania,

    After my post yesterday this news felt like such an additional blow for you and all your readers who love being stranded with you on dog island daily. I am so so sorry, the Duchess was magnificent.

    I would like to think that she couldn't wait for you as she has gone to be with your Dad to guide him through his next journey.

    Keep bailing and sailing and be very very gentle with yourself. We are all sending you more kind thoughts than you could kmow.
    Amanda xx

  27. When my father died very suddenly, we bought my mother a puppy to keep her busy. She named it Oscar, after my father's childhood dog. Ouch Tania.

  28. Oh Lord. Simply dismayed to read this. I'm so, so sorry. Sending you the best thoughts and wishes.


  29. I am so so sorry for your losses. Although I have also preferred cats, I have come to love the pictures of your dogs and would always smile when I saw them. Knowing her real name now makes me remember my own beloved father who died 21 years ago, whom I think of daily, and who once owned a Purdey shotgun. My heart is heavy and sad for you and Pigeon.

  30. So sorry - we all feel we knew The Duchess, you write about her and Pigeon so warmly. Happening whilst you were away for your Dad's funeral is such a terrible twist of fate. Keep bailing. Fiona

  31. I am so sorry to hear this too soon after your Darkling dad and I send huge hugs and lots sloppy licks from the Rookyard gang of four. All utterly useless whippets (bar one itelligent jack russel).
    There is a fabulous peom about dogs and explains why they are so terribly special:

    When God had made the Earth
    and the sky, the flowers and the trees,
    He then made all the animals
    and all the birds and bees.

    And when his work was finished,
    not one was quite the same.
    He said,’I’ll walk this earth of
    mine and give each one a name.’

    And so he travelled land and
    sea and everywhere he went,
    One little creature followed him
    Until its strength was spent.

    When all was named upon the
    earth and in the sky and sea,
    This little creature said,’Dear
    Lord, there’s not one left for me.’

    The father smiled and softly
    said,’I’ve left you to the end,
    I’ve turned my own name back
    To front and called you ‘dog’,
    my friend.’

  32. Oh I am so sorry. There is nothing to say but that. What a beautiful dog, and a beautiful tribute to her.

  33. Beautiful, this post is truly beautiful. Courage, my friend.

    Helena xx

  34. Hug. It's all I can think of.

  35. Oh Tania, you must be wondering where the next blow is coming from. I am so sorry x

  36. So,so sorry.

  37. Like others who have left comments, I'm crying as I type this. I'm so very very sorry. However if reincarnation does exist, I want to come back as one of your dogs, it sounds like you had a ball together.
    I hope Pigeon is OK.
    So sorry

  38. Dearest Tania,
    I am "de-lurking" myself because I am absolutely broken hearted for you. Being both a doggie person, and a daddy's girl, I am not sure how you are still standing - I really don't think I would be. Saying "sorry" seems so inept - but I am truly sorry that you have to go through this.
    I hope you find something to comfort and keep you warm as you adjust to your new circumstances (maybe the wet nose of your dearest Pigeon?)

  39. Oh, I am having quite the cry about this in San Francisco.

    My new coworker had some photos of her dog up in her cubicle and I asked about him. She apologized, as she said he was older, but had died rather suddenly and she wanted to remember him. I said, no apology needed at all. I thought it was a lovely way to remember him.

    I hope you never feel the need to apologize for your photos of Purdey and that you do keep posting your memories of her.

  40. So sorry to hear about the Duchess. Bailing...yes, bailing is sometimes the best plan. I've also found humour to be helpful.

    I don't know of any books about what to do when your dad and your dog die, but there is one about when your dad and your cat die, written by Geneen Roth—The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It: Over the Edge and Back with My Dad, My Cat, and Me.

    Thank goodness for very small friends...they are so vibrant and close to the truth.


  41. I am so so sorry.I love all dogs but she was truly special.Much love to you and Pigeon.

  42. So very sorry for this last piece of dreadful news. Thanks for posting the photos of your dogs on the blog it feels like we know them. A well lived and full life for the wonderful Duchess.

    Sincere sympathy

  43. Purdey will now be sitting most regally in dog heaven. So sorry Tania.

  44. Loss is the price we pay for love. The greater the love, the deeper the loss, the more wrenching the grief, but also the warmer and gentler the consolation that we have had such love in our lives. One day you will feel that consolation more than you feel the grief, but not yet.

    Until then take any help you are offered, and remember and rejoice as much as you can. Record it too. Write that book - please!

  45. Oh Tania - I am so very sorry about your dear, darling Purdey dog.

    Thank you for sharing her in your post today. I cried, but through the tears, she came to life for me.

    Big hugs to you and the Pigeon. xx

  46. Oh Tania... I am so sorry. I was on the other side of the world when my last dog died - I know how heart wrenching it is to hear that news down a phone line, and the demons you battle having not been there with her at the end. It is too cruel that you've had such huge loss all at once... I'm shedding tears for you and the Pigeon, and sending you both lots of love. xx

  47. Oh gosh, that's so sad. What a time you're having. Can I quote a terrible 80s pop song and say - the only way is up. I hope you do write the bloody book your bloody self. We'd all read it. Maybe it would be good catharsis. take care.

  48. Dear Tania,
    I haven't been on here very regularly of late so have only just managed to catch up with a pile of your recent posts.
    I am so terribly sorry to hear about your losses. I remember chuckling aloud a while back when reading the anecdote about your father introducing himself to some Aussie cricketers, and have found much comfort in the photos and descriptions of the ever constant and regal Duchess.
    Fond thoughts from across the seas x
    PS: Tiny (if any) comfort - the glorious Sam West reading 'Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.' Take care.

  49. Dear Tania,
    Oh no I'm so sorry what a terrible double heartbreak for, you write so poignantly about life's difficult times I read the tear smudged text through my own tears.
    Here's to happier times and beautiful memories of your dad and Duchess Purdey.
    At this awful time your family and Pigeon are balm for the soul so overindulge...
    liz from Paris

  50. Have just caught up with your most recent posts and had to delurk to let you know that one more person is thinking of you.
    You write so beautifully, that I find myself desperate to give you the most perfect words to soothe and comfort. I can't but as you can see from these comments, there are plenty of hands to help you bail.

  51. I've just got home from the Lakes to read eloquence, if I ever had any, has left me....I'm just awash with tears and utterly bloody heartbroken for you Tania...So sorry, just so so sorry; bless the darling Duchess, beautiful Purdey, and your dearest Dad. All our kindest thoughts are with you - Love not just from silly old me, but also the husband and Fig the

  52. Dear Tania
    That is such sad news. You write so beautifully about loss but that is probably little consolation. I am sure Purdey and your father are looking down on you and returning back to you all the love you feel for them. Thinking of you and hoping you are finding comfort.

  53. Tania,i have read your blog for a while but have never posted before.indeed i have never posted on any blog but i am so sorry about your double bad news.sending you kind thoughts at this horrible time

  54. "Oh no!", I said. I am so sorry Tania. May the days ahead bring you peace and happy, happy memories.

  55. My heart goes out to you even more than before, if that's possible. Can't help but think that your beautiful Duchess will be great company for your Dad. Best to you and the Lady Pigeon,

  56. My thoughts are with you for such loss all together.

  57. Oh, so much loss. You have my support.

  58. Life is SHIT sometimes. My husband has just asked me if I have a cold and I shouted grumpily at him that no I bloody well do not and that I am blubbing whilst reading your blog.
    I absolutely share your love of dogs and am still devastated and heartbroken after losing my brown bear Labrador nearly 3 months ago. However, as strange as it seems, life does continue after death and walking the Pigeon and writing your blog (and book) and taking your photos will be just some of the daily tasks that will help you do just that: continue. My thoughts are with you at this horrible, trying time.

  59. Nooooooooooooo.

    So very sorry.

  60. So very sorry for all the loss you are experiencing Tania.Your lovely furry friend was adored and loved by you and you gave her a lovely life. Be gentle to yourself.

    Jools x

  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

  62. Dearest Tania, I could barely finish reading this post from crying. I'm so, so sorry. That's heart breaking news. I feel like I knew Purdey too through your beautiful writing and pictures of her. I can find no words so I'll just send you huge hugs and much love xx

  63. Dear Tania, I have neglected your blog for so long and I have read back over all of your posts to discover this news. I am so very sorry. Death did come in battalions. She was a good, good dog and she was loved so very much.

    I see there are 63 comments on this post already which surely shows that you touch at least 63 readers as much as you do this one. That's a lot of love, David (to strangle a Love Actually quote).

    Thinking of you. Summer is coming, which is heartening, I would imagine.



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