Our dogs are, quite possibly, the best things in our lives. It’s entirely possible that Mr P loves the dogs more than he loves me. When we first met, Mr P already had two – Basil, a Jack Russell-Manchester Terrier cross, and Mr Kasta, a German Shepherd-Border Terrier cross, both rescue dogs.
I took to Kasta immediately – everyone did, he had something about him. He had a way of looking at you that just made you melt, and I don’t think anyone ever looked at him without saying ‘Aw!’. Basil, on the other hand, was another kettle of (dog)fish entirely. He’s wilful, demanding, and unbelievably noisy. We never really go anywhere without the dogs; they come to the pub, we take them on holiday, even when we go out for meals they often come with us! Basil and Kasta would travel in the back of Mr P’s estate car, safely behind the dog-guard. What wasn’t safe was our ears. Basil would bark frenziedly and whine practically the entire time, reaching notes that Mariah Carey would envy, and that were substantially more nerve-jangling than nails on a blackboard or the thought of chewing silver foil. Every now and then he’d shut up for a minute but would be set off again by the sound of the indicators. After a while, the racket he made set Kasta off and they’d both start howling. Also, he had the rather annoying habit of trying to hump poor Mr Kasta every time they got into the car. It would be fair to say that I didn’t love Basil straightaway. However, over a period of time, I did come to love Bazzer (aka Little Shit), and can’t imagine life without him somehow. He wormed his annoying way into my affections, and is absolutely adorable in his own funny little way.
Mr Kasta was already elderly when I entered the scene and in January, we had to make the decision to let him go. He’d become frail; even just six months earlier he’d seemed pretty fit, regularly walking several miles with us but he’d begun dragging his back feet and started to struggle with stiles, with Mr P having to lift him to get him over them. He also developed dementia. Never a particularly affectionate dog, he started coming to us for attention, and seeming to seek reassurance that he was in the right place. He’d wander aimlessly from room to room, not sitting still, and standing staring into a corner. In the end, he started to fall over on even very short walks and was obviously in pain. We called the vet out and aged 17 he died, very quietly, in Mr P’s arms.
We talked about getting another dog and even half-heartedly looked on-line at some rescue centre websites but weren’t quite ready. There’s always that guilt when you lose an animal you’ve loved; you feel as if it’s wrong to replace them. But that’s not really what you’re doing, is it? The greatest compliment you can pay to them, to anyone you’ve loved and lost, is to say “I loved you so much, it was wonderful, and I want to experience that again”. Around the end of March we started looking a bit more seriously for another dog. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, though Mr P was absolutely set against a ‘pure breed’ of dog, and I preferred a female since I’ve been outnumbered for so long! We thought a small to medium sized dog would suit us, and probably something around 5 years old. After much to-ing and fro-ing, we spotted a likely looking candidate at a rescue centre in Yorkshire (a two hour round trip), were inspected and approved, and made several trips there for ‘meet and greets’ but were disheartened by what seemed like a never-ending process. It was always ‘oh, maybe one more meet and greet, just to be sure’. Well, if you’ve ever had dogs, you’ll know that you can’t be sure of anything til you get them home, especially when there’s already a dog in residence. Basil had met the other dog twice and they seemed fine together so we were getting pretty fed up. The final straw came when we’d travelled up for another meet and greet, only to be told on arrival that we couldn’t go in because they’d got an outbreak of kennel cough. Of course, we understood but were pretty annoyed we’d wasted two hours in the car! On the way home, we decided it was time to look elsewhere.
Back home, strangely enough we both spotted the same dog on the Ark’s website. Echo was described as a large, nine-year old labrador-collie cross who loved water and playing with her ball. Plus, she had the most ridiculous ears I’ve ever seen. She wasn’t what we were looking for. I called the Ark immediately.
Turned out Echo had only just been brought in and needed to be assessed before anyone could see her but they’d call me back in a week. Hmm, yeah right! But they did! On the Sunday, we drove over there with Basil in tow for a meet and greet and, within a couple of hours, we were on our way home with Echo in the back of the car. She and Basil had hit it off straight away and it was love at first sight for me and Mr P. Well, when I say she and Basil got on, they pretty much ignored each other which we reckoned was a pretty good start! Basil was amazing really, and seemed to accept Echo with absolutely no problem at all. As I said, you can’t tell until you get them home! Now, several weeks later, they actually play together and steal food out of each other’s bowls.
As for Echo herself, she’s an absolute joy. She’s more poodle-collie cross than labrador, with a very poodle-like curly coat and those silly ears which seem quite collie-ish. She’s completely adorable and has collie traits. She rounds Basil up when he’s piffling about on a walk, and does an out-run before dropping to wait for you to throw a ball for her. She’s commandeered the armchair, and likes to lean on you for fuss, which she can’t seem to have too much of. She does love water but won’t swim in it, preferring to just splash about in the shallows.
She’s a terrible food thief and can whip your dinner off your plate right under your nose like a super-hairy stealth ninja. On a walk this week, I stopped off for a sausage bap and a latte. I got almost to the bench when Echo pulled the old ‘I’m ravelled up in my lead’ routine, nearly tripping me up, and knocking the bap right out of my hand onto the floor, from where she scoffed it within a nano-second, much to the amusement of the other walkers and cyclists. She’s pretty much forced her way into our affections – you can’t help but love her, much like Mr Kasta. We can’t imagine being without her.