Sunday, 8 May 2011


Posted By Tania Kindersley.

I wake up very very early, let the Pigeon out, read the fall-out from the AV vote and pretend that I am taking in all the subtle political ramifications, and then decide to go back to bed. I drove five hundred miles yesterday; I am going to do some lounging, dammit.

When I finally do get up, I realise why I have been putting it off. It is not so much that I am weary, although I am, it is that we must take the first walk with only two of us.

I don't want to make a great song and dance about this. I shy away from those people who take a set-back in life and blow it up into a five act opera. I think I might have been a bit drama queeny once, in my twenties, but now I am stumping into middle age I admire stoicism more and more and try to emulate it.

So I almost don't want to write this. But there are ghosts everywhere. Last night, sitting on the sofa, with the Pigeon huddled up against me, I kept looking at the place where the Duchess would arrange herself, black and beautiful on the scarlet carpet, staring up at me with her level, yellow gaze. The walk of course was peopled entirely with phantoms. I had not thought of that. The burn, the lawn, the beech hedge (which she used to dive under and then emerge back out of, making the whole thing shiver and rustle), the woods, the long slope of rough ground where the gorse grows. She was there, and there, and there, and there.

We turned a corner and I saw the Pigeon looking back at me expectantly, as if she had spotted something and wanted to know what she should do about it. I had taken my spectacles off because of tears. (Better out than in, says the voice in my head.) I put the specs back on and saw a young roe deer, stock still in the middle of the path, regarding us gravely. The Pigeon also stood still, looking back at me to see if she could chase. The best thing I ever taught the dogs was not to chase deer. I used to live next to a keeper who told me bloodthirsty tales of does protecting their young from dogs by bringing up their front hooves and smashing them down on the dogs' heads, carving their skulls clean in two. Now I think about it, I'm not quite sure that can be true, but for a long time I lived in dread of the defensive skull-splitting deer, and both dogs knew it was the one thing they could not pursue.

I shook my head at the Pigeon. She looked disappointed but resigned. The deer turned, sauntered away, as calm as if he were tame. When he got to the fence, he gave a bounding jump, and disappeared among the sheep, who affected to ignore him.

'I've got not time for deer,' my friend A always says. 'They eat everything and what do they do? What do deer actually do?'

'They look pretty?' I venture, tentatively.

'Well,' says A. 'I'm not buying that Bambi shit.'

Anyway, the deer did look pretty, and I was glad we saw him, and it stopped me from blubbing for five minutes. It felt, as it always does with the deer, very slightly magical.

The sheep did even better. The sheep actually made me laugh. They have been brought down from the hill into the south meadow, and all the mothers are doing their proud mamma thing, and all the lambs are tiny and obedient. Except for three very naughty ones, who are racing up and down the front of the field as if they are practising for the Olympics. I never saw lambs do proper running races before, but that is what they are doing. I think: oh, oh, I hope the black one wins.

The Pigeon pays them no attention. It was the Duchess who would stare beadily at sheep, remembering her collie blood, as if knowing she was supposed to do something with them, but could not quite recall what.

I stand and watch. Two piebald ones start leaping up into the air, a pure vertical jump, all four legs off the ground. They seem to do this just because they can. Then they frown at each other, remember that life is earnest, life is real, and start butting heads like Spanish rams. Then there are more hundred yard dashes. The other, good lambs, look at this from across the meadow, half envy, half disapproval. I'm not sure I saw anything quite like it before.

I think: if the sheep can make me laugh, then everything will be all right. I think: that is life, right there in that field.

No pictures today. It was raining.

This is the last one I took of my two girls together:

M & P last picture

I just read this through. It all sounds quite rational. I believe in rational. There must be no startling of the horses. In my head, I am actually saying to myself the one thing if someone else said it to me would make me want to shout and throw things. I am saying: Come on, it was a dog, not a person. There are humans dying, that is much worse. But my sister says: Love is love. And she is right.

That dog was only a dog, but she was such a damn good dog. She was fine and beautiful and funny and quirky and elegant. She gave us all joy. She was my constant companion. I miss her so much it is like someone has carved a piece out of my side.


  1. She was never just a dog. She was a friend.

  2. No such thing as just a dog. The animals we share our homes with are friends, and loved, and much missed.

  3. That first walk with only one dog, one of the saddest I've ever known.
    Re the deer. A friend's dog was really badly hurt in Richmond park in the same situation.
    Jude x

  4. I agree with Mystica and Mona - there's no such thing as just a dog. I still dream about my chocolate lab. xx

  5. She may have been "just" a dog, but she was your lovely dog. It's only proper to mourn her.

    But I agree with you entirely, no need for five act operas or horse startling.

    Discrete tears, however, are perfectly acceptable, aren't they?

    Sympathies from another dog's human.

  6. I had my dog for 18 years, until I was 18 too, we grew up together and he was my only sibling. It took me another 20 years to let my husband and girls have a dog as my one and only was engrained on my heart. I wouldn't be without my lovely Molly dog now - they are every bit as precious as people IMHO and a good deal more unconditionally loving, Revel in your pidgeon but never forget the beauty of the love of your purdey.

    Amanda x

  7. T - my heart goes out to you. I'm so very sorry. We'll all miss her. And everyone's right - a dog is not just a dog; they are family and companions and best friends and love all rolled into a pair of chocolate/yellow eyes and a tail that just can't stop when they see you. I hope the Duchess is looking after your Pa somewhere with lots of squirrels and horses and Guinness.

  8. Happy Mother's Day from the states - I am sure that both Purdey & the Pigeon feel very lucky to have been taken care of by somebody like you.


  9. There is no such thing as 'just' love of anyone or anything. When it's as unconditional as that granted by a dog, it can never be 'just' anything.

    I love the random quote that came up somewhere: "be the person your dog thinks you are".


  10. I agree with all of the comments above, of course: no such thing as "just" a dog. I don't have a dog myself (yet) but my closest friend does, and he's as much a lively, personality-filled member of the family as anybody else. He's not even my dog but if he weren't there to sit inconveniently on my feet while destroying a bone with his massive Labrador jaws, I would be crushed.

  11. Colby Kavanagh8 May 2011 at 22:07

    When the (slightly) older of my two dogs died suddenly, the younger one was as sad as I was. We took long walks, and for over a year, anytime she saw a big black dog in the offing, she wriggled with excitement until we got close enough for her to see that it wasn't her big brother. Dogs are capable of a love and loyalty that humans aspire to but never can quite achieve. When we mourn them, it is only their due.

  12. Very sorry about your dog. I shall miss photos of her with the lovely golden eyes.

  13. Yes she was a dog, but she lived with you and then things change. We love all the quirky mannerisms of our dog, even though we would not consider ourself obsessive dog people, we still manage to bore people with stories of our dog. She is part of our family and one more part that makes up the unit that has become us.

  14. Oh dear. I have just read your last posts and am weeping all over the keyboard. I am so, so sorry Tania. What a time you have had.
    Your darling Purdy will be missed by all of us who check in each day.
    Kia Kaha xxx

  15. Tania - yes, love is love. And you loved her and she loved you, and that moves us all.

  16. Listen to your sister! Love IS love.

  17. Once again, I find myself not knowing quite what to say but wanting to say something, just to add my voice to the others. To say: "No such a thing as just a dog", and "We'll miss her" and "I'm so sorry".

    My love to you and Pigeon.

  18. As many others have said, there is no such thing as 'just a dog' - Fig the Cat is also my constant companion, all the more so being as I work from home and he is always there, at my side or padding around/sleeping nearby. Love is love, it just comes in many guises, each as valuable and precious as the next.

  19. Your gift is in finding words others search for in their heads but cannot find. Thank you for that. My darling dog has been gone since 1999, I've met and fostered others but nothing can compare with Boomer (a Yank dog would be named something macho like Boomer, wouldn't he?). I miss him still but mostly memories make me smile. You've just had your share of hurt and a bit more, haven't you? Be on the mend. Meet you back here tomorrow.

  20. no, no, no it's never just a dog and as your sister says love is love,


    keep bailing, the boat's rocky and the sea is choppy but it will get better
    I know from experience
    liz from Paris

  21. "Man's best friend" = the popularization of the term is said to have occurred in a courtroom speech by George Graham Vest in Warrensburg, Missouri in 1870 who said, "The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog."

  22. Dear Tania, she was a wonderful and majestic dog and you gave her such a fantastic life xx


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