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My Three Dogs

This is a story based on one that I once told to a group of children
at a holiday club. We were finding out about the life of Jesus and we had come
to the day of His death and how His friends would feel about it all.
They would be sad as anyone is when someone they love dies.
Not everyone has experienced that sort of loss but more people
- especially young people - have had a beloved pet die and it was suggested
that a good way to tackle this part of the programme was to have someone talk -
and start the children talking - about the death of a pet.
And that is how I came to be sitting on the floor that day telling the story
of 'My Two Dogs' - for the children had all seen those dogs out on their walks
with us around the village - and I had photographs of them with me
and even a painting of one dog.

But then I did not include my first dog, so this time the story is:

'My Three Dogs'

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I have been very fortunate for I have had three dogs share my life and each one of them at one time or another has been my best friend.

First of all, I was given a little Yorkshire Terrier for my fourteenth birthday present
and I called that little scrap, who only weighed the same as a bag of sugar, Psyche.
That's a Greek word and it means "spirit" or "soul" or "breath".
She was great friend and all the time I was at school, she waited for me
to come in each evening so that we could go for a walk or play with her ball.
All the time I was studying for exams, Psyche was always there and ready for fun
whenever I had had quite enough of books for THAT day!
For all her size , she could be quite a fierce little dog
and had been known to chase a large Labrador for its life when it DARED
to set paw on our boat! She only ever liked two men - my father and John!

I grew up and married and left home but Psyche stayed with my parents
for she was getting old and going blind. It wouldn't have been fair to expect her
to get used to a new home. Although she couldn't see, she still played with her ball.
I threw it....and she listened for where it fell, then ran and fetched it.

One day Psyche just didn't wake up in the morning. It was when my parents
were visiting us and we buried Psyche in our garden. It was sad but she
had enjoyed life right up to the end.

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Psyche
1955-1966

I didn't have a dog for quite a few years for my daughters were small
and took nearly all of my attention. Then, when my elder daughter was fourteen
we decided as a family that we should have a dog again. We held a family conference
about it and decided that we didn't want a dog with a long pedigree but we would go
to the local Dogs' Home and buy one of the unwanted dogs there. So that she
would be a real, shared, family dog, we all decided to pay a quarter of the cost.
It was suggested that our younger daughter could pay less as her pocket money
(allowance) was less - but she would have none of it for she wanted her full share!

And that is how Ebony came into my life - can you guess what colour she was?
That's right, black, but with a white "T" on her chest. T for Tolson!
She and her mother and three brothers and sisters had been dumped.
Ebony was about the size of a Fox Terrier but slim and with long legs -
she could run fast! She was a real hairum scarum little dog -
just right for a family and she went everywhere with us and was never left behind
on a family holidays. So she ran for miles along beaches, fell into rock pools,
climbed hills and thoroughly enjoyed being in boats and occasionally falling
out of them. She once did just that....swam over to our elder daughter
who was in a kayak....and tried to get in with her. No room!
When we persuaded her to swim over to the rest of us in the dinghy,
and we hauled her in, you can guess the first thing she did, that's right,
she shook herself, and we all ended up as wet as she was!

Then, the girls grew up and left home and we moved out to the village where we live
now and Ebony grew older and began to have all sorts of things going wrong with her.
Her heart was giving her real breathing difficulties, she was getting cysts in her eyes
and she didn't seem to be able to eat properly. That second winter we never seemed
to be away from the vet's surgery - we were even there on Christmas Eve and
New Year's Day. Our younger daughter was home from university and we didn't do
much else those holidays but nurse old Ebony, take her for an occasional, very slow,
walk and see that she had her newest sort of pill or medication at the right time.

By the middle of January she was worse and on a day when the main road was
blocked with snow and John couldn't get in to work, we managed to drive
the three miles in the other direction to the vet's so that he could operate on Ebony
to find out why she couldn't eat and wasn't getting better.
We went home - I don't think John and I spoke on the way - and we waited.
Then the phone rang and it was the vet to say that Ebony was still on the operating
table and that he had found that she had a huge tumour blocking the entrance
to her stomach. It wasn't cancer but the tumour could not be removed
and would mean that Ebony would eventually starve to death. The vet was
asking for our permission to give her one more injection so that she would not wake up
from the operation. And we had to give that permission for our faithful old friend
so that she could die peacefully.

Ebony.jpg
Ebony
1976-1987

The house was very quiet for the rest of that day. I took Ebony's bed and washed
and dried it and then John stored it up in the loft with her bowls and her lead.
There is a painting of Ebony which hangs in our hall and I thought about taking it
down, but I didn't , I just didn't look at it whenever I passed.

The next day, the road was open and John went back to work
and the house was even quieter and there was no dog to take for a walk.
Yes, I was upset, for, when you think about it, I had spent more time with Ebony,
for the eleven years we had her, than with any of the rest of the family!
They were all so busy with school and work but Ebony and I were the ones
who stayed at home and kept things running there.

John found the house quiet too, for even when she was sick, Ebony always greeted him
when he got home. So we talked, and decided that we should give a home
to another unwanted dog and so three days later, on the Saturday, we went back
to the same Dogs' Home and found that, with the snow, no-one had been going to see
the dogs, far less buy one! There were 20 eight week old female puppies alone.
Then there were the male puppies and the ones who were 6 weeks old, 7 weeks old,
9 weeks old.

But, right at the back of the pen was a black and white pup who sat and gazed at us
so intently. Now, how did that little pup get out of the pen first through all the melee
of puppies and make straight for John when the gate was opened?

Of course we chose her, even if we were breaking all the rules:
we didn't know what her parents were like,
she had BIG feet - and that usually meant that she would grow enormous,
and there was much too much white on her EVER to keep her clean!

And that is how Dileas came to be part of our family - her name is Gaelic and
it means "faithful". The easiest way to pronounce it is to say "Gee - lass"!
The strange thing was that once we had her home , John and I found we could talk
about old Ebony again and it was almost as though she was back with us too.
Her bed came back down from the loft and Dileas went straight into it
and curled up in a corner. It was much too large for her - but she grew into it!

Ebony's paw prints were still in the frozen snow and Dileas's were MUCH bigger.

But she never did grow enormous, in spite of the size of her paws.
She is a small smooth coated Border Collie. Well, 98% Border Collie. We aren't
too sure about the other 2%! She is very intelligent.
And every year when the first snow falls, she goes wild with excitement
as though she is remembering the day we brought her home and she helped us forget
the sadness of losing Ebony and helped us to remember the happy times we had.

Our younger daughter made a special trip home from the university to meet Dileas and insisted on buying her share of this new dog too.
"She's not Ebony," she said, "But I think she'll do!"
(Everyone who has ever owned a dog will understand that for all dogs are so wonderfully different.)

That was twelve and a half years ago................

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Dileas
1986-2001

ęcopyright Elizabeth Tolson 1999

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