A most wanted dog

So pongy unwanted dog became that most wanted Dills. He stopped growling and barking, occasionally he'd appear to be growling at you and then you'd realise that was actually his smile, I'd never had a dog who smiled in that way before. He was sent to the groomers to get rid of his pong, and came out thinking he was Johnny Depp. The strut as he walked the riverbank said it all "I'm Dylan, I'm handsome, I'm wanted, and I know it."

He always appeared to be on a slightly different planet to everyone else, hence his name - not Dylan as in Bob, but Dylan as in his rather more spaced-out alter ego, Dylan the Rabbit, from The Magic Roundabout. He was incredibly sweet natured, and generally moved in a happy haze of goodwill to all, but he had a hard edge from his life on the street as any dog who tried to beat up Alfie (twice Dylan's size) would soon learn. 

We had a couple of very happy years together, and then one Saturday, after a lovely holiday in Mid-Wales with the two dogs, I woke up to a nasty shock. Dylan was unable to walk, he was walking in a sort of drunk fashion and was constantly falling over. The vet diagnosed Vestibular Syndrome, and it was through a lot of work on the vet's part, and the help of a good friend that he recovered. Although ever after his head was slightly cocked to the right (which did look very cute, and he knew it), and walking became ever slower.

He could move though when he wanted to. About a year after the first bout of Vestibular Syndrome, I went out on a date. I was meeting a guy, who also owned a Springer Spaniel, near Aldeburgh. The day started well, the three dogs got on well together and we started on a long walk on the beach towards Aldeburgh, with Dills part-walking, part-being-carried. As we turned back from Aldeburgh towards where we'd left the cars, I put Dills down, and he pottered after us. Chap and I started to talk about history (something I love talking about, and don't usually have much of a chance to indulge), so we were nattering quite happily. I stopped and looked back up the beach, and Small Dog had vanished. There was no sign of him anywhere.

I was distraught. I thought he'd been sucked into the sea and had drowned. Chap's well meaning comment (being a bit of an expert being ex-Royal Navy) that if he had drowned his body should have been thrown back onto the beach just made me howl. So, chap headed up the beach in one direction, I in another, no sign of D. Finally I got back to the car to find a load of messages on my mobile, which I'd left there. Small dog had been arrested while attempting to enter a pub in Aldeburgh, a bar maid had taken him under her wing, but had to take a party of schoolchildren to Framlingham, so Small D was now on his way to Framlingham. Bar maid (bless her) duly delivered him back to me. Dills was most unimpressed that I was so relieved to see him, he was sat in the back of a Chelsea Tractor looking like the Queen, and evidently felt that this was the way a dog of his distinction should travel.

The two dogs were lovely together. Neither Alfie nor Dills was top dog, they each had their own roles. Dills was always the first dog to greet me when I came home (he will be buried in the front garden near the door where he waited for me); and he was always the dog that made sure that dinners were served up on time. Alfie would calmly wait while Dills got on with making sure the chef did her job properly (if D had been human I'm sure he would have been a fearsome food critic).

D would follow me if I left the room, or would stick his head round the door to check that I was still there. The last year, he has been increasingly senile, and that's been difficult, if slightly comical sometimes. But one thing he's never forgotten, however confused he might have been, and that is that Alfie and I were his family. The look of joy when he saw me or Alfie was unmistakeable.

Since just before Christmas his health has not been so good, and I thought that it was possible that he was getting towards the end of the road. The pound that originally re-homed him would have put his age at about 14, but I suspect that he was at least a year if not older than that. The vet and I tried as hard as we could to "mend" him, but it was no good, and earlier today I had to make the decision that I didn't want to make. And it was horrible. Before he passed away, we went for a walk on the riverbank, and saw and did the things he loved.

I know nothing of his background before he came to me. I think that at one point he may have had an owner who loved him, who was a fisherman, as when I first had him he would mug fishermen for their sandwiches. I hope he had some happiness earlier in his life to compensate for what happened in the middle. And I feel so sorry that the time he had with me was marred by ill health. But I have so many happy memories of him, even if they make me cry thinking about them now. A cocky little dog with a real love of life, streetwise and very loving, so different from the dog I thought I knew.

I'm missing him as I'm typing this, wishing that quizzical little head would pop round the corner demanding a cuddle; but despite the sadness that I am now feeling I am so glad that I happened to be home that wet cold day in December, when a small grumpy dog named Dennis became a loving eccentric little hound named Dills.


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