Theo Todman's Web Page - Notes Pages
(Work In Progress: output at 18/09/2023 09:07:38)
- Henry – our beloved Tibetan Terrier – had to be put down on Thursday 1st September 2022 at 16:00, at the age of ten and a half. He had liver cancer and had more or less stopped eating. He was such a lovely dog and wonderful companion that he deserved a few notes to record aspects of his life before it all fades from the memory. It was also a way of coping with these memories as they arose – and still arise – and cause tears and great sadness.
- My intention is ultimately to adorn the reminiscences and descriptive text –after they have been approved and redacted – with philosophical reflection, initially as footnotes1.
- I initially jotted down a few headings, which I’ve filled out over the last year2, in no particular order other than the top (purchase) and tail (death). I’ve tended to focus on the most recent memories as older ones will already have faded if they are going to. Maybe a book will be the end result, or maybe I’ll lose enthusiasm and not take it any further as happens with so many of my projects.
- I will eventually dig out as many photos as I can3 for illustrative purposes. They will also evoke further memories and may add to the narrative.
- We survived dogless for almost a whole calendar month, but then an opportunity came up4 to acquire another Tibetan Terrier, the absolute image of Henry, a puppy whom we’ve called Bertie.
- This has complicated the narrative somewhat, but will have hopefully correct (or maybe informed) some of my prejudices on the nature versus nurture debate, and allowed inductive inferences from a dataset of more than one (though a dataset of two isn’t much better).
- My intention has been only to make comparisons where this is instructive. It would not – in any case – be possible to make a full comparison between a puppy and a dog who lived nearly a full life.
- The first days7
- Poos & Wees10
- Sleeping arrangements14
- Other dogs16
- The End20
- The Future21
- We’d never had a dog. Neither Julie nor I had had a dog as children, though Julie had had cats. As a family we’d had rabbits, Guinee pigs and hamsters, and had inherited our elder daughter Becky’s cat (a rather timid boy called Mouse). Also, lots of chickens. We didn’t consider ourselves to be ‘doggie people22’: too much of a distraction, for a start.
- But now I’d retired, and we’d bought a big house with a large garden on a country road, why not …?
- It was really Becky’s idea, and she paid the £800 for the initial purchase in May 2012, though eventually bequeathed Henry to us to maintain when she got married and left home again in August 2016.
- Her initial thought was to buy an Italian Greyhound23, because they look so sweet and can be fitted into a large handbag. But we decided it might break a leg belting round our new garden given all the potholes in the lawns and would also be too much work to exercise.
- So, after some research we decided on a Tibetan Terrier24 – a more robust middle-sized dog – partly because Steve, our carpenter, had one25. The reasons were that they are highly sociable, good with children, laid back, don’t require too much exercise, aren’t yappy and don’t moult. They are, however, prone to certain infirmities26, but then so are all pedigree breeds.
- We made two visits to the breeder27, the first to make the choice and the second to collect.
- We had a choice of two Tibetan Terriers. The first was a female, very docile. The other – Henry – was much more alert and when held in my hand, bit my finger. ‘That’s my boy’, I thought. When we later came to collect him later, he was being naughty and was nipped by his mother.
- His registered name for the Kennel Club was Gentleman Hagrid; quite appropriate in a way, but ‘Henry’ worked fine, chosen because Coxes Farm – which we’d purchased but not then moved in to – was built in one of the reigns of Henry VI, VII or VIII.
- When we acquired Bertie, we found that he and Henry had shared recent ancestry. Henry’s maternal grandfather (Pinrow Dark Knight, the 2011 Tibetan Terrier top stud dog!) was Bertie’s maternal great-grandfather and great-great grandfather and also his paternal great-great grandfather. Also, his maternal great grandmother (Pinrow Lady in Black) was Bertie’s paternal great-great grandmother and great great-great grandmother, in virtue of being Pinrow Dark Knight’s mother. Finally, Araki Ethelbert – a Crufts Champion – appears in both Bertie’s maternal and paternal lines and Henry’s maternal line. And there are probably others (Pinrow Triple Echo, for instance). All very complicated and incestuous, though not quite what it seems; it’s explained more clearly in the pedigree charts, which I’ll attach in due course.
- The first days
- We brought him home in a dog-crate in the back of the car. It was quite a long journey. I can’t remember much about it. I’m not sure if he cried all the way. He’d have been 8 weeks and was very tiny. Very stressful for him, no doubt.
- One thing I do remember is that he’s pooed during the journey and rolled in it, so there was some clearing out to do when we got home (to Prince Edward Road, as Coxes Farm was still being refurbished). It was my first exposure to dogs, so a bit of a baptism of fire, but I’d dealt with children’s nappies, so not altogether a new experience.
- Otherwise, I forget. Becky was living with us at the time and she – assisted by Julie – was his primary carer as a puppy.
- Henry was a terror as a puppy – especially when he was teething – and drove Becky to tears: he was always nipping her ankles. She thought of sending him back. This is such a contrast with him later in life. I must say that I don’t personally have horrible memories of him as a puppy as I wasn’t so closely involved at that time (I didn’t become his primary carer until Becky got married and left home again, by which time he would have been four years old).
- We have lots of examples of his depredations: anything made of rubber, plastic or wood that he could get his teeth into has been deformed or has bits missing, including scissors, baskets, trowels; basically, anything left lying around in the garden.
- A fairly major incident was with some plumbing we had had done to link the effluent pipe from the downstairs toilet and shower we’d had installed to the soil-pipe from the upstairs bathroom. I’d complained that this pipe wasn’t lagged, so the plumber lagged it with only a thin expanded foam protective sheath. Henry had all this ripped off as soon as they’d left, so I got them back to cover it with repurposed rainwater pipes which thankfully proved resistant to Henry’s attentions.
- Another fondly-remembered incident involved Angie’s address book. Angie was one of my bridge partners at the time Henry was a puppy and we were sharing a car to go to a match, so she’d dropped by to pick me up. Henry was very friendly, but while we were talking had found her handbag on the floor and rooted out her address book, a substantial corner of which he consumed. It was still reasonably serviceable and was only disposed of just before he died.
- Puppies are always eating things they shouldn’t. I’m not quite sure how he managed it, but Henry seems to have swallowed an entire (though fairly small) plastic bag which thankfully I was able to extract from his posterior without incurring any vet’s bills. A small plastic star-shaped trinket was similarly extracted on another occasion with somewhat more difficulty.
- As is the case with most dogs not kept uncastrated for stud or fighting, Henry was neutered at six months old. He had to wear the cone of shame for a couple of weeks, but otherwise seemed to be fine. No doubt (so our vet told us when we were dithering with Bertie) this saved lots of trouble with aggression in later life; even delaying the operation – he said – leads to permanent changes in the brain. Neutering didn’t seem to affect his natural inclinations; a small dog next door, even after she’d had a hind leg removed following an altercation with a tractor, was always nudging him to do his duty, which he did, though not with great enthusiasm.
- Stubbornness: Henry was very much his own dog, and if he didn’t want to do something, he just wouldn’t do it. For example, we ‘had an agreement’ that when coming back home from a walk in the fields, when we reached a certain ‘crossroads’ in the paths, that was where Henry had to have his lead put back on – in exchange for a treat – so we could then cross the road. However, sometimes he’d stop – say 20 yards before where this event was to take place after I’d walked on ahead and was there waiting – and no amount coaxing or threatening would get him to move. I’d have to walk back to him.
- Compliance: That said, normally – puppyhood and aberrations aside – he did what he was told and was an even-tempered dog.
- Social Skills: Henry got on well with humans and other dogs, with the exception of Alsatians (as noted elsewhere28).
- Sideways glances: I have an intuition that Henry had a theory of mind. He (and many other dogs, especially in cartoons) would have his muzzle pointing in one direction while looking out of the corner of a (rather large) eye thereby hoping to deceive an onlooker that he was looking at one thing rather than another. I think the ‘whites of the eyes’ are important in social animals to allow such deceptions to be unmasked29.
- Intelligence: I have a ‘thing’ about the way in which intelligence is attributed to dogs (and other animals). Humans tend to ‘mark’ the intelligence of animals in a human way – reflecting things that humans find interesting, amusing or useful. As noted, Henry was his own dog and wouldn’t perform to order or do what he didn’t want to do or thought had no reason to it. So, he wouldn’t receive a stick thrown for him to fetch. But Tibetan Terriers are noted for their intelligence, though I don’t know for what reason given how resistant they are to training. However, I was sure there was ‘someone in there’, something I’m not convinced of in some dogs; but maybe their owners know better. He often looked as though he was thinking deeply about something or other – our friend Debbie, the owner (then) of two pugs, called him The Professor. Naomi suggested he was only thinking about sausages.
- Fireworks: Henry was completely indifferent to fireworks, so we didn’t have to worry about him quivering behind the sofa on bonfire night. Indeed, he was perfectly happy to go out for his final wee during peek display time.
- Barking / guests / postmen: Henry didn’t bark much; indeed, he didn’t even bark when he should have, which is surprising given the role of Tibetan Terriers in Tibet as alert dogs. Bertie’s just the same. He’d ignore interlopers – usually lost delivery drivers – marching up and down our gravel drive. He’d greet takeaway deliverers and Jehovah’s Witnesses with excessive enthusiasm. But this was good when we had guests as he was always friendly, and when he barked we knew there was a reason for it – usually he needed to be let out (irritating in the middle of the night, but better than the alternative).
- Poos & Wees
- This isn’t a very wholesome topic, but as every dog-walker knows, not only is canine excretion a primary aim of the daily walks, but an activity that has to be carefully managed and one that can cause much anxiety, for the owner if not the dog. It’s all rather gross, but no worse than what has to be gone through with babies and small children, and much better than dealing with aged incontinent humans, I imagine (Julie would know). It’s a part of life we try to put out of mind but is manageable if it involves those we love.
- I often wonder what dogs think of their owners’ inordinate interest in their poos. Of course, dogs are interested in excreta of all forms, so maybe they think it’s entirely possible that their owners take away their poos for a leisurely sniff, though this myth would be exploded when the bagged-up offering finds its way into one bin or another.
- At this point I must mention the Poo Fairy30. I’ve occasionally seen full poo-bags dangling from tree branches or otherwise left lying around and – the saying goes – people who leave them must believe there’s a Poo Fairy who picks them up and disposes of them. I imagine the situation is more prosaic, as I’ve caused this situation myself (mostly, I’ve eventually remembered and retrieved the discarded item). People on ‘back and forth’ walks don’t fancy carrying the offensive item around with them for miles, so leave the full poo-bag dangling conspicuously so they can pick it up on the way back. But, sometimes, they can’t remember where they left it, or else forget completely31.
- Spinning poos: Maybe all dogs have a slightly different technique, and ones that differ at the various stages of their life. Unless ‘caught short’ both Henry and now Bertie try to hold on until a suitable grassy patch is available – Henry had a favourite place for each walk and his pace would accelerate as it loomed into view lest he failed to get there in time. Once there, he’d hop up and down going round on the spot in circles, clockwise then anticlockwise (and vice-versa) until he stopped to complete the deed or poolets would pop out machine-gun style during his rotations. Bertie (at age 15 months) doesn’t have the same technique, but dashes back and forth frantically and then stops; no rotation. So, pooing-technique doesn’t seem to be a characteristic of the breed.
- Choosy wees: Certainly in adulthood, Henry was a standard male dog as far as marking his territory with the standard ‘cocked leg’ stance. I can’t remember whether he did this as a puppy, but Bertie (at 15 months) doesn’t do so but adopts the female squatting stance, and only ‘goes’ when he needs to. We’ll see what happens as he matures, but Bertie had a long coat which would interfere with the ‘marking’ (not to say, get soaked, so maybe that was the reason, which may have become ingrained. But both Henry and Bertie have been very particular when it comes to the ‘last wee of the day’. Henry used to be infuriating, especially in the pouring rain, when at midnight he’d wander up and down the garden by the side of the drive turning this way and that, cocking his leg but not doing anything, going from lavender bush to lavender bush until he eventually found a spot and orientation he was happy with. Bertie is nowhere near as fussy, but still takes his time. Both have been creatures of habit and insist on going out – and being rewarded – whether they have anything to do or not; sometimes flagrantly not even pretending to try. I’ve read somewhere that dogs try to orient themselves along the Earth’s magnetic field when they excrete32. Maybe that’s the explanation, but I don’t think Henry had either a favourite spot or direction.
- Coprophagia: It’s a common trait in puppies – and older dogs – that they will eat their own poo (in the case of puppies) or that of other animals. I can’t remember what Henry did as a puppy as I wasn’t his primary carer, but Bertie went through a brief phase of eating his own poo or any other bit of grot he came across if not carefully watched. It seems this is normal. In adult life, Henry had a predilection for fresh horse poo, and would grab bits of dried horse poo and treat it as a game to have it removed from him. That made walks down the bridle path more stressful than they ought to have been, though maybe the concern is unwarranted. Horse poo might be nutritious, and eating it benign provided the dog is wormed. The same goes for rabbit droppings, but not for fox poo.
- Rolling: Every dog owner will have experienced the annoying situation where – after an expensive grooming session – their dog exchanges the smell of roses for the smell of fox by rolling in its wee or – worse – its poo. Henry was wont to do this – as is Bertie. It seems that it’s not certain why dogs do this, but there are theories33. I’ve always thought that the post-grooming smell imposed on dogs must be insufferable for them, given their acute sense of smell. We cannot really know what it is like to be a dog (any more than a bat34) but we can be sure that their sensibilities are not ours.
- Henry went to puppy training – mostly when he’d ceased to be a puppy – for a few years but, thankfully, it was nothing to do with me: Julie’s job.
- Basically, Tibetan Terriers don’t like being trained. I don’t know what they have to do at Crufts to win prizes – do they just need to look pretty, or do they have to jump through hoops as well? Presumably if it’s just a ‘best of breed’ competition they only need to compete against other reluctant dogs.
- Anyway, Henry was taught to sit and lie down with the promise of the appropriate reward, but didn’t perform immediately or with enthusiasm. I don’t think he did well at ‘weaving’ between posts and was always the worst at recall and the slowest at anything. Nothing to do with not knowing what he was supposed to do, just a reluctance to do it. Unfortunately, there was no other Tibetan Terrier on the course with whom he could share the wooden spoon. I think he was kept down a year but was eventually rescued from further humiliation by the Covid pandemic which put all such activities on hold.
- As noted elsewhere, games of ‘fetch’ involved the thrower having to do his own fetching, so wasn’t much fun for man or dog.
- I didn’t spend a lot of time playing with Henry because he wasn’t really interested and didn’t play ‘fetch’: games of ‘fetch’ involved the thrower having to do his own fetching, so wasn’t much fun for man or dog. However, there were a couple of interactions he seemed to enjoy.
- The blanket game: After a walk in the rain Henry would need to be dried with a towel, but would never just stand there and let me dry him but would always try to bite the towel and drag it away. So, the technique was to throw the towel over his head to restrict the biting and then use the residue to dry the still-exposed bits of dog. It was fun, and he seemed to enjoy it too. He knew what was to be expected, so resisted being captured.
- Chasing with a cane: Like most dogs, no doubt, he’d enjoy grabbing some item he wasn’t supposed to have and then challenge you to take it from him. He was quite a good runner, so it’d be impossible to get anything back from him in a large garden in which he couldn’t be cornered. This was no fun for either participant. So, he’d belt off and then come running back just out of range as a big tease. I think on one occasion he stole something he really ought not to have had, so I chased him with a bamboo cane in the hope that the excitement would cause him to drop it. I can’t remember whether this worked – presumably it did eventually as he’d got bored. But the idea of chasing him with a cane to give him a tap on the bottom took off. Again, he’d belt off and then run back just out of range – or just within range to make the game interesting – and challenge me to tap him with the cane.
- Grits: Henry’s diet was substantially kibble (known to us as ‘grits’) – either made up to order according to breed, age and weight (by Tails.com) or bought off the shelf. Always a reputable brand, so not cheap. We have friends who give their cockerpoo kibble and kibble only, with dental kibble as treats. This is no life for a dog, so we used to supplement this meagre diet with egg (fried, boiled or scrambled), liver, beef or fish; not necessarily prime cuts, but such as to excite a dog’s palate. Gristly bits would do.
- The tap: Henry had a routine of drinking from the garden tap rather from his bowl. He’d lick the tap to indicate35 that he wanted it turned on. He was more expert at drinking (lapping from the descending stream) than is Bertie36.
- Treatlets: Henry delighted in three forms of the same treat37 – basically chicken breast cooked rock solid so as to look like orange plastic or else processed into coins or strips of a similar look. I had – and still have – misgivings about using ‘prime’ chicken for dogs. Any chicken that ands up in dog treats must have led a short and miserable life in a factory farm. Reconstituted left-overs don’t add any incremental suffering but prime cuts sound as though they might – though I imagine that something must have happened to the meat to make it unsuitable for human consumption. Anyway Henry (and now Bertie) loved them, so there we go. For Henry, the ‘coins’ were used as general-purpose treats for rewarding poos or at various stages of the walk. He knew when another coin was due in the slot and wouldn’t move until the contract had been fulfilled38. The un-reconstituted chicken breasts were used to spice up his grits while there was a regular routine with the strips. Before Henry’s bedtime, I’d extract two strips from the packet and Henry would leap up onto the smaller of our two leather sofas and I’d feed the strips – one at a time – into the corner of his mouth. He was very careful not to bite my fingers as the strips were fed in and he’d guillotine them to pieces. It was always the same side – the left, I think. This gave me a slight worry that he’d get repetitive strain injury, though it didn’t seem to. The routine seemed to be very reassuring for Henry, but maybe these routines were simply things he enjoyed and looked forward to.
- Dental Treats: These were fairly large green star-profiled rubbery items. One a day, to be thrown on the floor, when Henry would grab it eagerly and run off to consume it in his favourite corner. This was prior to the treatlet-strips ritual, and he’d be outraged if we’d run out of DTs for whatever reason. I’m not sure whether they really improved his teeth, which didn’t look particularly clean, though we never needed to resort to the canine dentist; maybe if he’d lived out his allotted span his teeth would have required attention. Maybe we’ll see how Bertie gets on in that department.
- Scraps: Henry wasn’t a persistent scavenger like some dogs, but did like to hoover up anything that fell from the table, as was often the case when the grandchildren were over towards the end of his life. Henry the Hoover seemed an appropriate appellation. It’s a rule not to feed dogs from the table, but I admit to breaking it on occasion as it’s such fun for both parties. Henry never got fat39, so it can have done him no harm. He had a particular delight in papadums. We’d refer to this as him ‘making a phone call’ as (to my mind at least) the noise he made sounded like the alert on Kenneth Branagh’s mobile in Wallander.
- Sleeping arrangements
- The cage: When a puppy (and maybe up to the age of three) Henry spent the night and his daytime naps in his cage at the far end of the lounge. He seemed happy enough with this arrangement but, as he got older, we let him sleep on the sofas.
- Sofas: He had his choice of the two green-leather sofas in the back lounge. He’d have a blanket to lie on, but not to protect the sofa particularly. We weren’t concerned with insisting he slept in his basket. This made keeping him off the sofas in holiday lets somewhat problematic, and we didn’t really try. He didn’t shed hair and wasn’t a waterdog so it caused no damage.
- Bedtime in Norfolk: Many pet-owners seem to allow their dogs (or cats) to sleep on their beds. No chance with us. Henry’s place was downstairs. However, on our first ‘doggie holiday’ in Norfolk we hired a stables-conversion with no upstairs and he whined outside our room on the first night to such an extent that we let him in and he slept on our bed. The idea off having a large lump of smelly dog on top of you at night didn’t appeal, and the offer wasn’t repeated.
- First visit to Coxes Farm: When we acquired Henry at 8 weeks old we still lived in our small semi in Prince Edward’s Road, Billericay. Towards the end of the period when our ‘new’ (actually 500-year-old) house was being made habitable, I took Henry – still a rather tiny puppy – on a long walk to see his future home. Probably a couple of miles. He did make it, but he was far too tired to walk the return trip, so I had to carry him. Not too onerous. On reflection, the whole trip was somewhat misguided, given that there are rules about how far puppies are supposed to walk, but it didn’t seem to cause him any lasting harm.
- Runs with Becky: during his first four years, Becky would take Henry with her when she went for a run up the bridle path off Coxes Farm Road. I’m not sure how these runs went, though they must have been Ok, or they wouldn’t have been repeated.
- Henry chooses the way: Once we’d moved to Coxes Farm, walkies were no problem. There were lots of options, and Henry used to decide on the one that suited him on a particular day. He couldn’t always get his way, given the weather and other likely impediments, but normally he did. I note here that Henry – once he’d grown up enough to be left to his own devices, more or less – didn’t get my undivided attention. I tried at first to listen to philosophical podcasts, but the trouble with these was that they required a lot of follow-up work before the next one in the queue could receive attention; this wasn’t usually possible before the next walk. Hence, I moved on to languages; initially on Duolingo but eventually on Ling. Maybe I should have given him more attention, but dog-walking takes quite a lot of time40, and most of that time is utilised by male dogs in sniffing and weeing, so if they are left to their own devices they seem quite happy, especially if they have no interest in playing fetch. When the weather was fine, we had the options of fields or bridle paths, as well as country roads with few cars, so the health and safety risks were few.
- Turn Left: Naturally, when exiting the front gate at Coxes Farm we had the option of turning left or right. Turning left provided further options of road or bridle path. The road option had its longer and shorter routes – either to the end of the road (about a mile and a half the round trip) or turning left at the end. It was possible to do a complete loop, but it involved going down a stretch of fairly busy road with no pavements. I tried this once, but usually turned back on reaching it. The extra bit before this road – adding another half-mile the round trip – gave the opportunity to interact with some confined dogs: an unfortunate Alsatian that was kept chained up all day and barked from a distance, and a large dalmatian-type dog that would bound up to the gate and run along the fence but thankfully couldn’t get any further. But the short walk had several opportunities for positive inter-dog interaction. One was with Trevor and his antiquated greyhound Bobby. Trevor used to race greyhounds, but Bobby had never been up for it so had had a free ride and was the last in the line. This hadn’t earned him the privilege of living in the house; he was confined to what looked like a large chicken shed – though I was assured that Trevor had never had chickens41 in it. We used to meet them on late-night walks: when Henry was younger, he had two walks a day, but as he got older – by which time Bobby had died – only one. Trevor and I would talk football; I’m not sure what Henry and Bobby talked about, but they seemed to get on OK. There were several Alsatians in the road, some of which would on occasion escape, much to our peril, but Henry’s favourite friend was Monty, a white cockerpoo much his junior. They occasionally met when both were out walking, but it was usually nose-to-nose through the gate, with much whimpering42.
- Bridle path: A couple of hundred yards after turning left out of the drive is a long bridle path with many options. It’s ideal dog-walking territory and Henry could be let off-lead, with some caveats to be rehearsed shortly. Mostly the bridle path is a tunnel through the trees, so is Ok in the drizzle, but can turn into a wind-tunnel in a storm. Unfortunately, as it’s a bridle path, it’s used by horse-riders and gets churned up after heavy rain; so much so that outside mid-summer (when it’s dry) or mid-winter (when it’s frozen solid) it’s impassable about half-way along. Once, I nearly lost a Barbour wellie foolishly trying to wade through a swamp. Assuming the path was passable, it meandered on over a foot-wide concrete bridge across the stream, ending up at a church converted for residential use. Thereafter, there’s the option of retracing one’s steps or turning right or left – right taking you on, via a country lane, to the major road between Billericay and Wickford via Crays Hill: a very long walk indeed, which Henry and I only undertook once. Turning left is less onerous, provided you don’t get lost, through the woods and past the sewage works. Again, Henry and I only went this way once. The only impediment is the stile at the end, leading to the field of sheep. For some reason – I think he was put off by the Alsatians barking behind a gate – Henry just would not be bundled over the stile – it’s very awkward, over a fairly high wall. Thankfully, the farmer’s wife43 was there to hand Henry over after she’d caught him – he’d run off, dragging his lead behind him, after I’d climbed over. These excursions aside, the only real impediments were firstly other dogs when – in most cases – Henry had to be put back on a lead – except when we met up with Debbie’s husband Les and their dog Pepper, a mad scrap of a terrier-mix who loved to fetch stones thrown for her. The other impediments were horses. Again, Henry had to be put back on lead lest he get trodden on and had to be discouraged from trying to play with them as with a large dog or from frightening them by barking. This was also true on meeting horses on the road, but the space there is much less confined. One particularly perilous moment was when a horse that had thrown its rider galloped past, but we survived. A final worry was consumption of horse-poo and other undesirables, discussed elsewhere44. In general, Henry could be trusted to stay fairly close, but on one occasion after trundling along the path for quite some way he didn’t come bounding along when called as he usually did. He’d decided to return home – including trotting along the road. Thankfully, he arrived home unscathed; I think he was let in through our gate by a passing motorist. The only family worry was whether I’d expired and he’d come running home to raise the alarm – but this worry was quickly dispelled by a phone call.
- Turn Right: This direction had two alternatives – off past the school at the end of the road and then either over the footbridge (see below) and then round the streets or off to the Green, or turning left – either down the path by the side of the school (if the nettles and thistles had been cut down) or over the road and back. Either way, we had access to the fields where there is a public right of way. We had many a wonderful time there where Henry could free-range without any worries of dangerous interactions. Well, there was a rather grim-looking boxer whose elderly owners kept him on lead and led him round the other edge of the field – on the grounds that ‘he’s a rescue’ and they didn’t know how he’d react. They still don’t know, years later. There were also options for much longer walks rather than just ‘there and back’, or we could loop round to the bridle path.
- Footbridge: This is a large footbridge over the main road from Billericay to Wickford. Very rarely used apart from by me and Henry. Henry was initially reluctant as a small puppy, partly because of the height of the steps, but also because he could see between them onto the road, but as he grew he became an enthusiastic bridge-climber, maybe encouraged by the reward of a treatlet at the top; but he also seemed to like the view from the top45 and would stare off into the distance.
- Neighbours: Many of the houses in Coxes Farm Road are large with long drives, and I doubt I’d have had much to do with the neighbours were it not for walking Henry. But dogs are an excellent ice breaker – whether for meeting people out walking their own dogs or only pottering in the garden. Dogs make an invaluable meeting point for neighbourly introductions. There are, of course, numerous opportunities for encounters wherever we go, particularly with dog-walkers and others in the local parks.
- Long walks: Holidays aside46, Bertie and I tended not to go for very long walks, partly because neither of us needed or wanted them, but also because I didn’t want to spend that much time on them. Part of the reason for choosing a Tibetan Terrier was because they didn’t need a lot of walking. That said, I did buy an Ordinance Survey map of the local area, though I only ever used the iPhone App, so that we could do some exploring when the weather was nice and sunny. This involved wandering along the paths around the local fields. The deviations from the end of the bridle path have been mentioned, and the altercation with the dogs at Crays Hall Farm will be mentioned shortly47. Otherwise, we meandered around and discovered that the OS maps aren’t as useful as might be imagined. They would suggest that there were bridges across streams or paths between fields when there weren’t, which would require us to retrace our steps – sometimes several times in the course of a single exploration – which could be tiring on a hot afternoon. I suspect the farmers of manipulating the landscape and blocking rights of way.
- Other dogs
- Henry was basically happy in the company of other dogs. He was on occasion sorely tested by Poppy – our friends’ slightly hyperactive cockerpoo – who would try to eat his food and take his place on the sofa but Henry was48 usually quite compliant and accommodating.
- However, Henry had a ‘thing’ about Alsatians and other wolf-like dogs, and the rest of this section deals with them.
- If approached by just one of them he’d try to attack it, much to the surprise of the unfortunate dog, presumably surprised to be attacked by a medium-sized bundle of fluff. This happened once in a pub in Langham, Norfolk, where he was surprised by a large Alsatian going past the table we were dining at. He had it by the throat and I had to separate them and gave Henry a big smack (which I regretted: it was mainly for the benefit of the Alsatian’s rather annoyed owners, and I don’t know whether Henry’s motivation was protective – either virtuously of us, or selfishly and pre-emptively of himself – or purely instinctive).
- I had a theory that Tibetan Terriers’ evolutionary history would predispose them to attack wolves, given that they were guard dogs – their historic role was to bark on encountering intruders to alert the Tibetan Mastiffs who would do the actual fighting. I had a similar theory about Henry’s antipathy to motorcycles (and horses) – to fight off marauders – and helicopters – standing in for eagles.
- It’s dangerous to develop an inductive argument from a sample of one, as I’ve learnt from experience with Bertie, our new puppy, who has no such antipathy to Alsatians – there were two up out road – Max and Finn – when he was a small puppy. They would bound up to their gate as we went past, barking and snarling, but Bertie would be completely unperturbed and just wanting to play, straining to rub noses with them (not a good idea if he wants to keep his).
- So, Henry’s antipathy towards Alsatians49 – as is the case for most dogs with antipathies to certain other dogs – is most likely down to past experience. There are two that I’m aware of:-
- Henry was involved in an altercation with an Alsatian in Norsey Woods, Billericay, when Julie was out walking with our friend Debbie and her dogs. I wasn’t there, so don’t know the details.
- The altercation I’m very well-aware of was one outside Crays Hall Farm. Henry and I had gone for a long walk – in the days when Henry ‘did’ long walks – and were on our way back past the farm in the direction of the bridle path via the converted church. On the way past the long drive to the farm we saw two dogs – a large Alsatian and a small Staffie – in the distance belting in our direction, barking menacingly. I’d hoped they’d stop at the entrance even though the gate was open, but they didn’t. Henry hid behind my legs – so much for your faithful hound defending his owner to the last drop of his blood – but, when the Alsatian bit his bottom, Henry squealed and pulled his head out of his collar and ran off up the road (thankfully single-track, with no cars). I was relieved that they left me alone, and Henry seemed OK though presumably scarred psychologically (his bottom seemed fine).
- Norfolk: for several years – initially in May 2017 but subsequently in the autumn – we have been to Langham in Norfolk with the family and our friends Pete & Carolyn and their rather hyper-sensitive cockerpoo Poppy. When the family have come we’ve usually stayed in separate houses to our friends. While Henry was very laid back, there was always a bit of tension between him and Poppy. Anyway, the reason we went to Norfolk was because of its reputation for dog-friendliness (though – post Covid – almost everywhere rural is dog-friendly given the explosion of dog-ownership during the pandemic). We’ve always had good times. Apart from an altercation with an Alsatian noted above50 and complaints from a couple of ‘old bags’ (noted elsewhere51) Henry was fine in pub restaurants and on walkies. Our favourite walks were at Blakeney52, where we could go along the causeways over the saltmarshes. He also loved the steam-train rides, unlike Poppy who was a quivering wreck.
- Henry is left behind: pre-Covid we used to have annual island holidays (either in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic) with our friends Mike & Sylvia. Henry, of course, couldn’t come with us and had to be ‘dog sat’ by one of the children. Once he was looked after by a couple who specialised in dog-sitting, in their own home. He seemed to have got on fine, apart from eating too many biscuits, but we didn’t repeat the arrangement.
- Dorset: this is a more recent innovation as a second holiday to replace those overseas ones banned during Covid. Quite similar to Norfolk, really, staying in larger properties with Pete, Carolyn and Poppy and elements of our family.
- Old Bags: Once he had grown up, Henry was very even-tempered and rarely barked. However, he had a couple of altercations with irritable old ladies on a holiday in Dorset. I forget the details.
- One was in a café in a small and rather exclusive village. Henry barked a bit – I’m not quite sure what provoked him, and I eventually had to take him outside after some ancient crone was heard complaining to her late-middle-aged son about people who couldn’t control their dogs. Presumably she’d forgotten similar complaints many decades ago about mothers who couldn’t control their children.
- The other occasion was on a headland where we let Henry off lead. He liked to greet people, maybe sometime too enthusiastically, and did so to some middle-aged lady who obviously didn’t like dogs and complained along similar lines.
- I suspect that in many cases (unlike these ones) where owners say that their neurotic dog is the way they are because some dog ‘went for’ it in the past – while regrettably sometimes correctly described – there is a misunderstanding of dog-play, where an already neurotic dog doesn’t like the rather too ‘in your face’ attentions of a boisterous but playful dog. We have this trouble sometimes with Bertie.
- Vets: We didn’t insure Henry, but self-insured. My records tell me we spent £6.6k on vets’ bills for Henry during the 6 years or so that we (rather than Becky) had sole responsibility for his upkeep. He had quite a few recurrent health problems, though he didn’t get into fights or have accidents. He had three vets, or vet practices, throughout his life.
- The first specialised in greyhounds and always thought Henry was over-weight when he wasn’t. This was when Becky was living at home, so had primary care of Henry (and probably did have him insured at this stage – up to age 4, maybe).
- The second was a branch of Vets4Pets at Pets at Home53 in Pipps Hill: somewhat variable. One vet was an excellent subcontinental lady who unfortunately left to move to Bradford to get married. The others were well-meaning but had a habit of recommending expensive blood tests ‘just in case’. That said, £2.3k was spent on his monthly ‘plan’ out of a total of £3k. During this period he had one crisis – dysentery54 – which had to be outsourced to an emergency vet at a cost of £1k. We moved to another vet in April 2021 because they hadn’t diagnosed his hypothyroidism55.
- Finally, we joined a highly recommended local vet – he’d studied veterinary medicine at Trinity College Cambridge at around the same time as I’d been at King’s – though in Henry’s last months we had various Greek, French and Spanish assistants56. We spent £2.3k – including ‘termination’ charges – up to the end on 1st September 2022. Henry wasn’t well during most of this period – he had another dose of dysentery57, in June 2021, though this cost less than half the previous episode despite a similar ‘stay’. His final month cost £1.1k.
- Hopefully, Bertie won’t have so many problems as Henry. He’s ‘with’ the above vet. So far he’s been healthy58, though he’s still only a puppy.
- Allergies: Henry used to scratch a lot, sometime grievously so. This was eventually put down to hypothyroidism59, but we tried treating him with human antihistamines, on the advice of Vets4Pets, to no good effect.
- Ears: Tibetan Terriers have very hairy ear canals which are prone to get infected and smelly, and lead to much fruitless scratching. You are supposed to remove this hair on a regular basis, but that is easier said than done. Thornit is recommended – both to treat the infection and to help pluck the hair – but we were somewhat disappointed. Henry didn’t like having his ear-hair tweaked. So much so that he eventually refused to go to be groomed by Dial-a-Dogwash who tweaked his ears too vigorously. Occasionally the vet would prescribe drops.
- Eyes: Henry occasionally got sticky eyes, for which he was prescribed drops. He was very trusting and compliant in their application once he got used to them.
- Knee dislocation: I wasn’t sure what this condition was called60. Occasionally, Henry would stop using one of his hind legs. All that needed to be done was to grab the leg and give it a tug and he’d be fine. The corrective procedure didn’t seem to hurt him.
- Reverse sneezing61: Otherwise called paroxysmal respiration – a sudden (and repeated) snorting intake of breath that stops the dog in its tracks and can be disconcerting on the first occasion. Apparently, this is very common in dogs – Bertie suffers from the condition occasionally – and is harmless, though may be indicative of nasal mites which might require flushing out. Only if the condition persists, I imagine. The YouTube video from the link above shows a solution – to cover the dog’s nose (which I discovered myself and which worked fine with Henry, though it didn’t work when I tried it with Bertie).
- Dysentery: I don’t think this was the clinical diagnosis62 but on two occasions Henry had acute diarrhoea – coupled with extreme thirst – with passing of blood. Thankfully on the lawn rather than on the carpet, though on one occasion he exploded at the vet’s. It was very disconcerting and distressing for Henry. On both occasions he had to be kept in at the vet’s on a drip for a couple of nights, but then made a complete recovery. On the first occasion we took him to an emergency vet in the middle of the night. Presumably it was something he ate while out walking when I wasn’t watching what he was doing.
- Hypothyroidism63: This should have been easy to diagnose, but wasn’t spotted by Pets at Home. Henry had the classic symptoms: lethargy and fur-loss, especially from the tail – leading to ‘rats tail’. I’ll add a photo in due course. He was treated with Thyroxine supplements – I obtained them in bulk online as it was cheaper but needed to pay for a prescription from the vet. He seemed to make a full recovery (though it would have required medication for life).
- Liver cancer: We were never really sure whether this is what Henry had at the end – it wasn’t worth finding out precisely what fatal condition he had. This is discussed below64.
- As all dog-owners will know, dogs get smelly and tousled if not groomed fairly regularly. If Tibetan Terriers are to be shown at Crufts, their fur (really ‘hair’) is allowed to grow long – down to the ground, much like Dougal’s in The Magic Roundabout65. We never let Henry’s hair grow long as we though it’d be too much bother, and that he’d get too hot in the summer. It seems the latter worry is misplaced, though the former is definitely true – at least for ‘puppy hair’ as we discovered with Bertie. So, with short hair, Henry was easy to maintain, particularly as he wasn’t a water dog and had no inclination to roll in the mud or swim in our pond. In general, a monthly wash and trim was fine. That said, a rummage through my accounting database reveals rather patchy information: sometimes I just have ‘Henry’s grooming’ or ‘Henry’s wash’ with no indication who by – presumably cash in hand to someone. Often he’d come back stinking of perfume. He didn’t seem distressed, but you’d have though it’d drive dogs mad, given their sensitive noses. Consequently – and because of his allergies – we’d provide our own ‘medicated’ shampoo.
- Dial-a-Dogwash: Henry was washed in a van outside Coxes Farm a few times at the end of 2014 and in early 2015. As with everything, he was originally keen, but after a few sessions he was very reluctant. We assume this was down to overly-aggressive attention to his ear-canal hair.
- Pets At Home: During 2105 Henry had about half a dozen trips to Pets at Home – industrial-scale grooming opposite the vets’. It involved a bath alongside sundry other baths with other dogs. He was always happy to go, but then he was happy to go to the vets’ as well. He was just a happy dog. My records are patchy thereafter but show another session in 2020.
- Natasha: Henry started regular grooming with Natasha in 2021. Very good, and we’ve continued with her for Bertie. She’s quite prescriptive about what we need to do and slightly incongruous – she works so hard that she often looks exhausted, gets repetitive-strain injury and is booked up for months ahead, yet drives a Porsche. Maybe this is all connected, but not worth it in my view.
- Home Showering: this really was only required after a poo-roll, or some other catastrophe, but the shower in the guest room in the outbuildings was eminently suitable if the weather was too cold for a hosing-down in the garden. It was used weekly towards the end of his life, as noted below.
- The End
- The last weeks:
- The trouble with this section is that – while the events were in progress – I wasn’t cognisant of their importance in Henry’s life or – rather – death. So, I didn’t keep notes and may have got the details, timing and interrelationships wrong. Additionally, the weather was hotter than66 it had ever been in this country, so it wasn’t clear whether lethargy was down to the heat or something more sinister.
- Firstly, Henry got even more scratchy than usual, so we took him to the vets. His usual vet – Alan – was unavailable for family reasons, so he was seen by a Greek lady who prescribed Piriton anti-histamine tablets and suggested that he be showered weekly with some gentle shampoo. According to the bottle, the procedure was to dowse and shampoo him, leave the shampoo on for 10 minutes and then shower it off. The procedure went fine because it was great drying weather, and allowed for walkies which might otherwise have been forbidden in the near 40-degree sunshine. All well and good, though I’m not sure it did any good as far as the scratching was concerned: the vet also said that we shouldn’t irritate his neck using a collar, but removing it just gave Henry an easier scratch, so that most of the fur in that area got scratched off and his neck got bloodied. Also, we had to guess the Piriton dosage and there was a covid outbreak at the vets which made enquiries and general continuity difficult. Only the most urgent emergencies could be accommodated.
- Then Henry went off his grits. Like all dogs, I suppose, he was less than enthusiastic about his kibble unless tempted by various tasty morsels placed on top. But, in his last few weeks Henry absolutely refused to eat any of them. He became adept at extracting the morsels – usually chicken – from amongst the kibble, however well mixed in they were. So, we had to supplement his diet. Julie produces a puree of chicken and vegetables which he wolfed down on a few occasions before getting bored with it.
- Around this time he developed a strange clicking sound in his jaw, or otherwise around his mouth. We took him back to the vets to get him checked out and saw a third vet, this time a kindly Spanish lady who’d spent many years in France, according to an earlier receptionist, who saw him through to the end. He’d also started sicking up copious amounts of bright yellow liquid – presumably – which was also worrying, especially when it landed on my shoes. All this resulted in him starting to lose weight: down to something like 15.5 Kg, from his rather plump 18Kg.
- I was concerned that there might be some mechanical problem with his jaw, or maybe his teeth, but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong, though she noticed that he was very sensitive about one side being prodded. She thought the clicking could have been a sort of slurping sound caused by the bile, but I wasn’t convinced. This was never really followed up. I do think, though, that this was a cause of his refusing to eat his dry kibble, despite it having been a large part of his diet for years. Initially he’d agree to eat it moistened, as it is given to puppies, but soon gave up.
- The vet thought there was something wrong with some glands in his neck, and took a biopsy. She also took blood samples and a non-sedated ultrasound scan of his belly, shaving off bits of fur to enable the same. Henry was a very good and compliant dog throughout all this procedure.
- As time went by, Henry increasingly refused his food, despite the abandonment of his kibble and its replacement by various tastier and easier to eat alternatives. We’ve ended up with rather a lot of tins where he was initially enthusiastic, but then refused the next tin. As he ate less and less roughage, he ended up with squirty poos and having to have his bottom wiped. He didn’t seem to view this as demeaning, though.
- Eventually, he had further scans and a liver biopsy when sedated. The scans required most of his fur to be removed from his stomach area, making him look rather silly, but only revealed that his spleen had been displaced by his liver to the extent that the vet found it hard to find. The results of his biopsy – fluid taken from liver – showed no bacterial infection, so the vet thought that the problem could only be cancer. We could have allowed more invasive surgery – ‘opening him up’ – to settle the matter67 definitively but decided that this would cause him unnecessary suffering and was in any case somewhat idle – not to say expensive – as we had no intention, given his age, of inflicting chemotherapy or other nasty treatments on him.
- Well, in his last few weeks he tried to carry on with his tail up. Julie and I took him jointly on short slow walks. On the final one of these he collapsed after only 500 metres and had to be carried back home. Often on his walks we saw no-one, but this time we saw a number of neighbours who enquired as to his well-being, and even a passing cyclist stopped to ask how he was.
- As it happened, Julie had her 70th birthday party at the end of August. We’d planned a grander gathering, but scaled things down since Henry was so ill. We have a photo of him68 lying in front of the guests for a group photo, looking rather disreputable given his shaved belly. He was really on form, very sociable, and even went scavenging for – and ate – lots of titbits, just like his old self. We hoped he’d turned a corner. Sadly, this was not so.
- The appointment for his annual injections happened to be due in a couple of days, so we repurposed it for what was to be his final check-up, with the understanding – based on the results of the biopsy, which we’d not yet received – that if the prognosis was terrible, he’d be put down there and then.
- The walk to the scaffold:
- Henry had eaten nothing the day before, so it was encouraging that he ate a scrambled egg from Julie’s hand in the morning. We’d stopped trying to persuade him – or to deceive him – into taking his thyroxin tablets for the last couple of days, given that it seemed to further put him off even the tastiest morsel and he had only a few days to live in any case, most likely. This ‘mini meal’ contained only a tiny fraction of his required daily calory intake, but it made me hope against hope that he might stagger on for a few more days. Julie was less optimistic.
- Around 15:40 we harnessed him up – he didn’t really respond to the routine ‘paw’ whereby he’d raise his right paw so it could be threaded through the harness (he was never so responsive to ‘other paw’, but he never used to resist). His leg was so light and thin. Well, he plodded off to the car – gingerly stepping over the back-doorstep, which is hardly a step at all. Historically he’d have leapt into the back seat of the old Fiesta, latterly occasionally rapping a knee on the way up though without complaining. Today he was far too weak to jump or even be helped up, so had to be bundled in. After strapping him in I thought of riding in the back seat with him, but thought he’d find this unusual and unsettling, so contented myself with giving him an occasional stroke from the front passenger seat; not an easy manipulation, so I stopped when he seemed contentedly flopped. The journey was uneventful, with no other dogs to bark at in his ear-splitting way. No need to shout “stop that Henry!”.
- We’d taken the Fiesta rather than the Insignia as parking-space at the Vet’s is at a premium so the smaller the car the better. When we got there the place was chockers, so Julie – the expert parker, and hence the driver on this occasion – queued up while a jumble of cars unscrambled themselves. Fortuitously a gap opened up and Julie was able to slip the car into a non-parking space – a narrow gap right next to the entrance by the poo-bin.
- Despite this prime parking spot, things looked less than auspicious in that a man with a large Alsatian was standing next to the ramp which we’d imagined would be all Henry could manage. Historically, Henry would have done his pieces as he had a ‘thing’ about Alsatians and other wolf-alikes, as I’ve already explained69. However, he wasn’t up to engaging with it, and thankfully it wasn’t interested either.
- To be on the safe side, we helped Henry to climb the couple of fairly steep steps that join on the ramp, so he was able to enter the vet’s under his own steam. It was less busy than I’d expected given the dodgems outside. To the left was a grumpy couple trying to control a bruiser of a staffie-type dog, and – maybe70 – a lady with a cat-basket. Again, no barking.
- We weighed him on the way in, as is routine. He’d dropped to 12.6 Kg from his healthy weight of 18 Kg. He’d been 15.5 Kg a week earlier when we first brought him in because he’d got fussy with his eating after his jaw started making clicking noises. We dithered about in the lobby before being asked to sit down by the receptionist. Then after a couple of minutes the vet arrived. Henry had seen her on a couple of occasions before recently. As I’ve mentioned before, Henry never had any fear of vets and treated a visit thereto as a grand day out. So, despite his previous visit having involved a sedation and biopsy and the one before that having involved the non-sedated giving of samples of blood and serum from glands in his neck, he still wagged his tail on seeing the vet approach.
- The vet was shocked at how much he’d weakened over the past week. It was true – he looked terrible. His abdomen looked normal, other than that it had been shaved to enable ultrasound scans the previous week, but it was mostly his tumour-afflicted liver. Otherwise, he was skeletally thin, though this was disguised somewhat by his luxurious fur. She was adamant that this was the end for Henry, and we agreed. We’d discussed and rejected more invasive investigation and treatment at a previous consultation. We couldn’t let him starve to death and lose control of his bodily functions.
- So, we were taken to a consulting room where the procedure was explained to us and a consent form signed. Then Henry was led away to a further consulting room where he was fitted out with a catheter in his front right leg to make the lethal injection easier to administer. We’d ordered a book - "Glazebrook (Louise) - The Book Your Dog Wishes You Would Read" - which had arrived that morning from Amazon – which had a Chapter on canine euthanasia, so we knew what to expect, especially as we’d previously had a similar experience with Mouse, our late cat.
- The book had led us to believe that Henry would come back sedated, and effectively ‘gone’, but he was alert. He had the catheter strapped on with blue tape. He was such a gentle and trusting dog that sedation would not have been necessary. We were allowed to spend a last few minutes with him alone. This was difficult to write, and now is difficult to read as it brings back such sad memories71.
- How can anyone know what would be going on in a dog’s mind in such circumstances? Is he trusting us to make him better, or just to help him out? Or just doing what he’s told and living from minute to minute? I don’t know why he stopped eating. He didn’t seem in any obvious pain – we were told that there are no pain-receptors in the liver and that he wouldn’t have pain from the tumour. Maybe he always felt full because of the pressure on his stomach. Maybe he didn’t want to live any more72.
- Well, we stroked him and I took his head in my hands and stared into his tired eyes. He stared back as he always did, and I then let his head lie down on the table. The vet then came in and we agreed the procedure could start. She had a surprisingly large syringe of yellow liquid which was placed in the catheter. As usual, Henry was fully compliant. She started to inject the liquid and after a couple of seconds Henry raised his head. I was worried that the procedure was unpleasant for him, but immediately his head fell back down and he was gone. No spasms or growling; just silence.
- We were left with him for another few minutes. I needed to pat and stroke his dead but still warm body for the last time, even though he was no longer able to be comforted or, indeed, in need of comfort. Naturally, we were in tears. But he was at peace and hadn’t had to suffer the indignities of a really old dog – deafness, blindness, incontinence, dementia, and all the other concomitants of senility they don’t tell you about when you buy a puppy (as the book said73).
- Then the formalities. The vet offered us the option of exiting by the back door and paying the final bill another time, but we decided to get it all over with there and then. We’re not sentimental about remains – animal or human – and we don’t visit graves. So, Henry has been cremated and his ashes presumably interred in a common grave. I don’t want to dig too deep in that direction. We declined the offer of ‘his ashes’. We’re told anecdotally that you don’t actually get your own dog’s ashes, but a representative sample. Not that it would matter74.
- So, out we went back through reception. ‘Henry isn’t it’, said the receptionist before looking at her screen, then ‘Oh, I’m so sorry … would you like to pay another time …’. Julie retreated to the car, and I paid the bill which included the cost of his final biopsy. We left, exhausted and with a sense of emptiness. We wanted our lovely dog back.
- It had been only 5 days from the above events when I initially wrote this section75. There have been many tears. So many things remind you of the departed family member. No one to hoover up the food the grandchildren drop, no-one to take you for walkies, no-one to demand his dental treat at 18:00 precisely. I found myself crying out – in private, at least – “Henry, my dog, my dog” and bursting into tears76. Memories that now are still painful have become precious. I’ve written this account so they don’t completely fade, or get confused with the antics of our new dog, Bertie.
- The Future
- We’d initially decided to wait 6 months before acquiring a new dog, partly for cash-flow reasons (an investment matured at the end of March 2023), partly to allow time for reflection and partly to allow for a holiday with friends to Tenerife in February 2023. But Henry left such a large hole in our lives that we decided to make some initial investigations.
- We initially considered a rescue dog – and a very needy-looking Saluki called Oliver came up77. We applied but were rejected as having grandchildren who might be at risk from a dog of unknown background and as having the wrong lifestyle for a young boy-racer. And none of their other dogs would suit, either. Oddly, after we’d acquired our next dog, we received an email asking whether we were still interested in Oliver. Sadly, we couldn’t accommodate him anymore. I hope he found a home.
- So, we looked further on-line78. There were two puppies available: one the absolute image of Henry, and the other white and sable. We’d been warned79 not to go by ‘looks’, but Bertie – as we have called him – seemed to have the right personality to go with his good looks. This has happily been borne out by subsequent experience.
In-Page Footnotes:Footnote 1: Footnote 2:
- This Note hasn’t received the focus it deserves, having been started soon after Henry’s demise.
- Originally, I said that ‘I intend to spend an hour or so a day for up to 6 months’. In practice, this has dragged on for a whole year, with the first draft completed more or less on the anniversary of Henry’s obit.
- My intention is to use my Timeline software, as exemplified in by Blog item for Coxes Farm Repairs.
- This narrative will then feature as the introduction, with photos in a timeline, with annotations.
Footnote 23: Footnote 24:
- See BBC - Will Self - Investigation of a Dog.
- Will Self (Wikipedia: Will Self, as unsentimental as they come) was initially sceptical of the dog-owning project, but now, to quote … Will Self ponders the close connection between man and dog, as his dog nears the end of his life. He reflects on lessons learnt: 'You've taught me such a lot these past fifteen years, I wonder, old friend, what you have to teach me now that you're dying?'
→ Wikipedia: Tibetan Terrier,
→ dogtime.com: Tibetan Terrier,
→ The Tibetan Terrier Association,
→ The Tibetan Terrier Breeder and Owners Club,
→ "Janes (Mateja), Etc. - Population structure and genetic history of Tibetan Terriers".
- Presumably the characteristics of the breed may be so and so, but those of individuals may vary.
- For instance, the second link above claims that Tibetan Terriers hate to be left alone, and also bark a lot, but I’ve found that they can be quickly enculturated out of separation anxiety – provided they know you’re coming back, or are around somewhere, and hardly bark at all.
- I had intended to reference these resources in detail as this biography progressed, but haven’t done so yet.
- Last I heard – when Steve came round to meet Bertie in November 2022, she was still alive, aged 15, though seemingly spending most of the time sleeping. We’ve never actually met her, so can make no comparison with Henry.
Footnote 29: Footnote 30:
- Her name was Tina Coghlan, and it was her first litter. I forget the address, but it was an old farmhouse with a swimming pool at the end of a long country road.
- I read about this mythical being a while back in an article about poo-bags being left dangling from branches, as above, but more recently it seems to be the subject of a publicity campaign with the aim of getting poos bagged up – ‘any bin will do’: see Keep Britain Tidy: Dog Poo Fairy.
Footnote 32: Footnote 33: Footnote 34: Footnote 35:
- The question ‘what to do with the poo-bag until the next poo bin’ is particularly acute with a young puppy, for whom nothing is more enticing than a full poo-bag swinging back and forth. I had this problem with Bertie. I’ve solved it now by carrying a zip-up food storage bag, into which the full poo-bag can be slipped and both secreted in a pocket (best in colder weather when wearing a jacket). Sounds revolting, but entirely rational. Best not to forget it’s there, though.
- "Rowlands (Mark) - The Philosopher and the Wolf" claims that domesticated dogs live in a ‘magical world’ where doors open – and presumably taps turn on – ‘by magic’ while wild dogs – such as wolves – work things out for themselves, or as a pack.
- Well, the world of domesticated dogs includes humans who are open to manipulation and provide dogs with all they could desire, at least in the best situations. That humans help them if asked is as natural for domesticated dogs as whatever wolves do is for them.
- Bertie somehow manages to get a nose-full of water and sneezes and snorts thereafter. Never the case with Henry as far as I remember.
- Bertie delights in eating ice-cubes, whatever the weather. I don’t think we ever tried them on Henry.
- They are actually larger than most dog-treats, so don’t deserve the diminutive suffix, but it has become our standard appellation; possibly because in the days of his puppyhood Henry would not be given a whole one at once.
- Things have got completely out of hand with Bertie who gets rewarded for doing little more than continuing in existence.
- This is – maybe – symptomatic of my approach to dogs – which is to give them as happy a life as is consistent with their health and my well-being rather than to get them to perform tricks or bend them to my will.
- On a Norfolk holiday – on a steam-railway excursion – I once saw a morbidly obese old woman with a similarly morbidly obese old dog. I’m not sure how it got around as its legs didn’t seem to reach the floor, and it had to be assisted onto the train by a porter using a wheelbarrow.
- I would find that if I didn’t occupy my mind with something ‘improving’ it would run on to my many errors of the past, and I’d end up shouting at myself.
- Recently, Trevor told me that the sheds were originally used as stables by previous owners.
- Monty has now been adopted by Bertie, and they did once have a half-hour-long chase around Monty’s garden when Bertie was a fairly small puppy. However, since this exhausting encounter they have been restricted to mutual whimpering through the gate.
- This is a rather old-fashioned designation. The farm is Humberstones and they have pigs and chickens as well as sheep. They deliver eggs, meat, sausages, pies … and have branched out to curries and various puddings. We have a weekly delivery. Claire Dare – as I now know her to be – showed an on-going interest in Henry, and was saddened by his demise, but delighted to meet Bertie.
- I have a very embarrassing – if somewhat amusing – anecdote. The farm has an antique post-box outside which I’d assumed was a public box as it had slots for the times of the next and last collections. However, they had in fact repurposed it as their incoming post-box. So, when I used it to send my stool samples for my bi-annual bowel cancer test, they got a rather unpleasant mail delivery. They did forward it on, but too late, so I had to repeat the procedure. More than you wanted to know, I’m sure.
- Bertie follows the same routine with similar enthusiasm and rewards – he also like to review the scene from the top, but is mainly interested in spotting other dogs.
- We currently have a bit on an ‘issue’ between Poppy (or his ‘parents’) and Bertie. Henry was – at least once he’d grown up – very laid-back. Bertie is anything but, and is – literally – in the face of any dog he can interact with. Poppy doesn’t like this and once removed some of Bertie’s facial fair, not that Bertie cared a jot. As a consequence, the dogs have been carefully segregated whenever we’ve met up … stair gates blocking doors, Bertie in a crate … that sort of thing. Not the way to go, in my view.
Footnote 52: Footnote 53: Footnote 56:
- The jury is still out on helicopters and horses. I’ve not noticed Bertie paying attention to helicopters, and he seems to treat horses as large dogs with whom he wants to play.
- I met some lady on a walk once who claimed one of these assistants had prescribed some medication for her cat that had killed it. I wasn’t convinced. Too much amateur internet use on the part of the owner.
- While this Note isn’t really about Bertie, I must mention his umbilical hernia. We bought him as slightly damaged goods, in that he had this hernia as a result of over-attentiveness to his umbilical cord by his mother. The breeder had offered to reimburse us when we had it fixed at the same time he was neutered, which we did when he reached 6 months. I think she imagined it’d just ‘be a stitch’. But it turned out to be a serious operation involving gauze packing which cost nearly £400. She did let us have the full refund. That wasn’t the end of the story, however, as the vet left a metallic stitch in that irritated the wound, which therefore didn’t heal. This cost a further £150 which we couldn’t recoup.
Footnote 61: Footnote 62:
- It looks like – from Wagwalking.com - Patellar Luxation – that it was patellar luxation, and that Henry had a very mild form (Grade 1). I should maybe research this further but will probably wait to see if Bertie has the problem.
Footnote 63: Footnote 65: Footnote 66: Footnote 67:
- Wagwalking.com - Amoeba Infection uses the term ‘dysentery’, but implies the condition can be cured with tablets for about £100. Maybe if caught early, or in less severe cases.
- I suppose this might have proved that he didn’t have cancer and might have found some other cause – or it might not have. The yellow sick, previously mentioned, indicated a serious liver problem.
- We had a similar dilemma in Mouse’s last days – he had an abdominal problem of some sort, which bloated his abdomen so that it reached the floor. The vet didn’t know what it was but thought all the likely candidates would be fatal. So, we decided to call it a day, as he was fairly old.
- I will add the photo in due course.
- I have good visual recall, but after a while similar episodes merge into one another and uninteresting elements get lost.
- The previous week the place on the left had been occupied by a lady in a mask with a cat basket. It was only when the masked lady said ‘hello’ that I realised it was a neighbour. ‘Oh it’s you!’ I said, having forgotten her name.
- It has been important to write this biography as – despite their differences – Bertie is so similar to Henry in appearance – especially now he’s grown up, more or less, that it’s now difficult to bring up mental images of Henry that don’t look like Bertie.
- We had a guinea-pig when the children were young which we found dead in its hutch one morning. It appeared to have asphyxiated itself by squashing its face into a corner of the hutch. Maybe animals know when their lives are no longer worth living and take whatever action they can.
- It is often lamented that we allow our pets to exit this life with dignity when their time’s up, but don’t allow ourselves to do so.
- We have Julie’s brother Stephen’s ashes in a box next to my wellingtons. We were going to scatter them – probably illegally – in Chantry Park, Ipswich, where we had latterly been used to walk with him. But Covid got in the way, and we’ve subsequently not got round to it.
- I wrote the ‘endgame’ first, on the grounds that I might forget the detail, but that anything earlier that would be forgotten had probably already been forgotten.
- I then added the section and sub-section headings and filled in the details on and off over the following year.
Footnote 77: Footnote 78: Footnote 79:
- Such sentimentality is no doubt allowed in these days where hearts are on sleeves and upper lips no longer need to be stiff. However, I was like this before fashions changed.
- Even so, one needs to avoid sinking into bathos and self-indulgence. After all, some might say, Henry was only a dog. In his early days – because my daughter bought him and gifted him to us to look after – we referred to him as our first grandchild, which received tuts from some.
- Yet dogs are cognitively and emotionally similar to pre-linguistic children. According to a reviewer, the book "Gregg (Justin) - Are Dolphins Really Smart? The Mammal Behind the Myth" …
→ “puts dolphins in their rightful place in the cognitive hierarchy — on a par with dogs”.
Well, maybe it does, but we’re so familiar with dogs that we take their qualities – intellectual and emotional – for granted. Being on a par with dogs should be a compliment rather than a slur. Incidentally, the ancient Greek Cynics were so-called because – it was said – they acted like dogs: see Wikipedia: Cynicism (philosophy). Also, this is relevant to my research on Personal Identity. Lynne Rudder Baker, one of the philosophers with whom I have much to do, makes lots of negative comparisons between human persons and dogs. I presume she never owned one.
- Even so, we must not get carried away by sentimentality. The list below is intended to show the importance of avoiding bathos, futility and self-indulgence.
- I’m reminded of the send-up in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers: Ode to an Expiring Frog.
- David was castigated by Joab for excessively lamenting the death of his rebellious son Absalom (2 Samuel 19:4).
- Provost Sheppard (Wikipedia: John Tresidder Sheppard) was said to have gone round King’s College Cambridge when in his dotage crying ‘O Rupi’ (however spelled, for Rupert Brooke: Wikipedia: Rupert Brooke), to some ridicule.
- Augustus’s futile lament over the loss of his legions (Wikipedia: Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Aftermath).
- I might add that we need balance in situations of grief. When one hears of tragic deaths – at least on the BBC – the deceased are always ‘little angels’ rather than ‘little toe-rags’ and ‘would do anything for anyone’ rather than ‘was a nasty villain’. We shouldn’t over-glamorise our departed pets either.
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