I’ve just cleared out the utility room again. It’s that sort of job I hate doing but eventually the hordes of shoes, scarves, coats and every other random item that needs somewhere to be stuffed rather than tidied starts to creep out into the kitchen. Tonight was the night. I was feeling brave.
After a time I found the floor, I found the worktop, opened the cupboard and then found the tin of dog food. It stopped me in my tracks as I can’t remember the last time our dog ate tinned dog food but then it’s been a while since I have felt him by my feet as I type.
Dexter was a rescue dog. A black lab who looked like a girl with his too short legs. He had hip problems, was sometimes crossed eyed and when my hubbie first picked him in the rescue centre was petrified of everyone and everything. My hubbie spent their first week together just being in the house and waiting, and hoping, that Dexter would see something in him that he could learn to trust. This worked as Dexter came to love hubbie more than anyone and trusted him implicitly. When I first met hubbie and Dexter, Dexter couldn’t be in the same room as me or anyone he didn’t know. He would take himself off upstairs and be as far away from me as possible. I understood. He’d been hurt and he had to trust me. One day we found ourselves in the same room and he came over to me. He nuzzled me, allowed me to stroke him and then promptly knocked me over and started to nibble my nose. As I wondered whether this was a good idea hubbie said ‘he only does that to me so I think he really likes you’.
He was dappy and daft but he loved water. I remember the time we took him for a walk and at the end of the lane was a canal. Dexter bounded towards the canal and before hubbie and I could shout ‘Dexter! NOOOOOOOOOO……..!’ He’d jumped in and was merrily swimming. Only after a few minutes had he suddenly thought ‘erm, how do I get out?’ It was a 2 foot sheer drop that he couldn’t climb so hubbie had to lean over and drag him out. No mean feat for a large wet dog is a heavy beast.
He loved the children. He was sat on, sang to, cuddled and occasionally, had bits of dressing up costumes put on him. He never minded and would only take himself off upstairs when he’d really had enough. Henry had been found asleep on Dexter cuddling up to him, so we put a blanket on him and left him.
So it comes as a huge sadness when old age creeps up on your loyal friend. When you realise he can no longer jump quite as high, hold as many tennis balls and likes to sleep more and more. He still had the most enormous bark which was never backed up by aggression as he was far too timid. He was a fabulous guard dog just assuming no one actually got through the front door. His decline, at first, was gradual. A couple of accidents here, a slight limp there but eventually the inevitable conversations of ‘Do you think it’s time?’ had us making the decision and then unmaking it just as quickly. He would sleep in my workroom and we saw him less and less. I knew he was there as he would look up snort at me and then go straight back to sleep.
The day he went was one of the saddest days of my life. Our loyal friend had been a marvellous dog and to take him to the vets to say goodbye was truly heart-breaking. Hubbie went while I had the children but I felt I should have been with Dexter and also hubbie who always joked that Dexter was his ‘first son’.
So as I walk back into the kitchen and sit down to write this the house has never been so clean, well in terms of dog hairs anyway. I now have those floors I can roll on and not get so stressed when the baby drops a toy and I am happy for friends to come over as I know that they won’t leave coated in dog hairs. I have to clean up the food spills of the children now as Dexter isn’t here to hoover them up. I can walk across the kitchen without tripping over a sleeping, snoring black lab and I can get to the front door without being barged out of the way.
All this though are the things I complained about the most with Dexter but now are the things I miss. In the words of Henry who, possibly, adored him the most ‘I don’t want him dead [Mummy] I just want him back…