On Friday my house mate, who I've shared my life with for the last 12 years, died suddenly and unexpectedly. He was getting older, and had started acting a little oddly occasionally, but appeared to be pain-free; I thought he was becoming a little senile, though he seemed to be his usual happy self. However he was taken ill on Thursday, and rushed in for medical help early on Friday, where a large mass was discovered. Prostate cancer had rapidly spread through his pelvis, and into his bones and his lungs; and he died. I miss him very much.

His name was Alfie, and he was a (very nearly) 12 year old English Springer Spaniel, who looked and acted a lot younger. Friends have been very kind, and haven't acted as though he was "just a dog" because he wasn't "just a dog". In the time we've lived together he's been my family. I don't have any close family, and Alfie became my family.

He was born on May 20th 2004 in Hempsted, Essex (the reputed birthplace of Dick Turpin). On that day I was clearing my father's house, who had recently died. It was a horrible grey day, the sky seemed to be weeping. The fact that something so wonderful had arrived in my world on the same day that it felt as though the world was ending was something I found remarkably cheering and have tried to cling on to over the last few days. His Mum was rushed into the vets when one of the pups tried to make a quick entrance into the world and got stuck. Although I could never know for sure, I always had a feeling that this was probably Alfie who rushed headlong into everything.

He was the most joyous of dogs. He approached every day expecting it to be wonderful, and that there was going to be something exciting about it. He was such a happy dog. Wickedly intelligent and hilariously funny. Who else but Alfie would leap on a bald-headed man convinced he was a beach-ball? Retrieve a flip-flop from the beach only to find that it's a flat fish? Defrost bread and meat from the freezer and make himself a sandwich? Steal a chicken from the oven, and use the oven door as a handy drop-down spaniel-height table? And then there was the cockerel impersonation.....and the eel resuscitation....and the great parachutist retrieval.

He made me laugh so much, which is probably why I'm crying so much now. He was weird and funny and loving. He was a bit of a loner, and very much a one-woman dog, and I think that's one of the reasons I loved him so much.

Little Dills who died last year was a very different dog. He'd had a very tough life, but he was small and sweet and cute, and wanted to be everyone's friend; and everyone loved Dills. Not everyone felt the same about Alfie, he could be a bit more reserved, and he didn't want to be friends with everybody; he'd rather keep his distance till he knew you better. And I loved him for that shyness, he might appear to be an extrovert dog, but he was a shy-boy underneath, and I guess I recognised me in him; and I loved him for it, and was very protective of him. I expected everyone to like Dills, but I wanted everyone to see in Alfie what I saw in him. A loving, loyal, intelligent, happy guy, who made my world a better place just by being in it.

When life was tough he was always there: "Life's great. Let's throw a frisbee". A lot of my life revolved around him. He and I travelled miles in the car together. In my old Mini he would sit in the back, when stationary he'd stick his muzzle over the driver's seat and nestle into my shoulder until we got moving again. I always bought two meals at takeaways on the way home from holidays - something for me and something for the dog. We walked up and down mountains, covered miles of beaches, and swam in lakes in the middle of nowhere. There's hardly anywhere I've been over the last 12 years that he hasn't been too.

I loved him so much, and sometimes, when life was really tough, I don't think I would have got through it if it hadn't been for him. Whatever life threw at me, he was there, and he thought that I was the centre of the world, even when it felt that most of the rest of it thought I was rubbish.

I always hoped that he'd die peacefully at a great age, passing away in the night beside my bed; but in my heart I knew that a dog who had made such a dramatic entrance into the world, and who could manage to get bitten by an adder in January (yes, I know that should be impossible) wasn't going to go like that. And in the end he embraced death as he'd embraced life, he barrelled straight into it and sent it flying.

Sleep well my darling infuriating dog. You drove me nuts, you occasionally made me cross, but I could never be angry with you for long. I admired your intelligence, adored your funniness and loved you more than I can say. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

Alfie "The Foz" Spaniel - 20/5/2004 - 6/5/2016


Aardvarkface said…
What a beautiful tribute. Im so sorry you've lost him. I know it is so painful. And they are never "just a dog"!
Margaret Jones said…
Thanks Sandra. He was such a wonderful guy. A true "heart" dog.
Jennydog said…
To lose someone you love dearly is hard beyond belief, Your heart comes near to breaking, and no-one knows your grief. You had a wonderful dog, and loved him to the end, You lost two precious things that day, Your dog and your best friend. So sorry to hear of your loss. No dog is 'Just a dog' they are family members. You did the kindest, bravest thing you could - you let him go.
McKinty said…
That is gorgeous Margaret. To people like us they could never be 'just a dog'. xxx
Margaret Jones said…
Thanks Jenny. You've expressed it really well. I know I did the right thing for him, but I do miss him. I know one day I'll laugh again at my memories of him, but just now it's tough.
Margaret Jones said…
Thanks Barbara (and McK and Blossom) xxx

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