It's been over a week since my good friend Helen Sharp said goodbye to her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Hattie was not quite 9 years old and just a year younger than my darling Ella. I haven't liked to write before now because I don't really want to admit to the fact that she's gone.
Our two dogs grew up together and gave us both some splendid adventures. They were training buddies who though not overly demonstrative with other dogs, were always extremely and very sweetly pleased to see each other.
Early on the adventures were agility based - foundation & beginner training, moving forward to competition with two very accomplished dogs who did us both very proud.
Hattie's greatest triumphs included winning into G6, being part of the Severnside Dog Agility Club small dog team at Crufts, and then again the following year in her own right for the Novice Cup finals. She also achieved all three levels of her KCGC awards when we took a winter break in our agility training. I always fancied she preferred those classes indoors and in the warm ;)
I was proud to be her groom on these adventures and many more occasions, protectively guarding her space and confidence on the startline and carrying her essential agility gear to the finish line where she enjoyed her well-deserved rewards.
We often joked that Hattie believed herself to be part collie dog, such was the amount of time she spent in the company of her second family of my dogs. Certainly we feel her loss as keenly as we would any of our precious dogs, which is why it is so hard for me to write of her passing.
Two weeks before she died she gave us all quite a big scare, ending up in the veterinary hospital and making us worry that we might lose her then. Thankfully she pulled through and gave Helen & Phil a bit more time to share with her. Though truthfully I know that all the time in the world would never have been enough with this special dog.
I recall thinking then as I shed tears for my friend, how if I'd known that goodbye was so close then I would have made more of an effort to come and visit with her at home. Perhaps with a raw chicken wing for good measure, as despite her lady-like appearance she did love the juicy gore of a good wing!
In the end, because she pulled through, I never made that trip - never brought that treat to her. I'm sorry sweet girl - had I realised that you were so close to leaving us I would have been there in a shot. You meant the world to your mum, and you brought her into my life - for that I will be forever grateful to you special girl.
To help me reconcile her loss, I have pondered over the lessons that she gave me throughout her life. Because I truly believe that each dog has something important to leave us with before they go. Here's just a handful of the messages that she left me with:
- Have a few, very good friends who you can count on. She relied on my Kai-dog like this - who would gently step between her and whoever might be bothering her. Quite some older brother :)
- Humans can be a bit slow on the reinforcement sometimes - remember Cavaliers and other small dogs much prefer a lap, so you'd better make it worth their while to run around and hurdle obstacles ;)
- AMAZING, truly amazing dogs can come in the smallest of packages.
- Save your best welcomes for those who'll appreciate them - those who take up the most room in your heart.
- When you get a puppy, you never know where you might end up. And equally, the dog that it grows into will never be around for long enough. Time is precious. Make the most of it.
Today I am grateful for the staff at Watkins & Tasker veterinary group for the wonderful service that they provided to Helen & Hattie when they needed it most. Glad to know that my little friend didn't suffer and was in such safe hands at the end of her life. Till we meet again sweetheart x