Yesterday we said goodbye to our gorgeous boy, Bertie. Surrounded by his loved ones, at home on his favourite bed and blanket he entered his final rest.
We found Bertie at The Dogs Trust in Evesham. He was sitting in his pen, looking absolutely miserable, surrounded by crazy barking dogs. Our eyes met.
“Get me out of here,” he said. “I can’t bear it.”
So I did and he came to live with us in Rugby.
His previous life was a mystery as he had been picked up wandering the mean streets of Birmingham sans collar, sans microchip. Hence nothing was known of his past but Things 1 and 2 and I formed our own theory; based on his preferences for old men, buses, biscuits (terrible teeth), sofas, and on his loving gentle nature we think that he was owned and thoroughly spoilt by an elderly gentleman. Maybe this gentleman had to go into hospital or maybe Bertie just wandered off one day. We will never know. But I like to think that Bertie has now found his previous owner and is snuggling with him on a celestial sofa eating the sugary biscuits that he was denied under our ownership.
Also mysterious was Bertie’s heritage. To describe him as a cross breed does not sufficiently convey the complexity of his physical make up. Stumpy Queen Anne terrier legs, the bushy tail of a red setter, german shepherd colouring, long corgi body and thick thick hair which has covered our house, car, clothes, food for the past four years. He was our ‘stretch mongrel’.
Bertie treated our attempts to get him to fetch a ball or play with the contempt of a proper old dog but he did learn to walk on the lead and developed strong views about where he wanted to cross the road or which direction we should go. He would dig his feet in and refuse to budge if we went the ‘wrong’ way. He would raise a paw with an almost audible sigh if food was in sight. Until he got too wobbly on his pins. In the early days he evidenced a strong foraging instinct and we had to lift the bin each night.
It took Bertie a few months to realise that this was his forever home and to settle. He became the most loyal, loving, devoted old boy and would shadow me around the house. He never did get the hang of stairs and would hang around the hall crying if I was upstairs for any length of time during the day. He was my constant companion during the long period of illness. His bed was next to my favourite sofa and his snoring and warm body helped to relax me when things were hard. Bertie turned sleeping into an art form.
He adored the Things and they loved him back. In fact it was hard not to love Bertie and this past few days many people have turned up to bid farewell to him. He was always polite and gentle, presenting his big head and velvety ears for a scratch. I never knew him to growl or snap at anyone, animal or human. Bonnie wasn’t always very nice to him, quicker and sharper she used to steal things from under his nose and hide his bone in the garden but he never held it against her.
Over time Bertie got wobbly on his little legs and used to tumble. He slept more and enjoyed his walks less. He had accidents and was sorry. He was virtually deaf and quite blind. All of this was fine and we saw it as the inevitable aging process. He just needed loving care. Then the anxiety began. Once noted for his calm disposition he began to show signs of distress. For long periods in the evening he couldn’t settle and would stagger around from room to room, bed to bed, asking to be let out and back in again over and over, panting and clearly looking for something or someone. He ceased to recognise the Things and myself as special, as his pack. He greeted us in the same way he would greet a stranger, politely but with no recognition. I couldn’t calm him down or settle him, in fact stroking him seemed to upset him more. The vet confirmed that he had dementia and was deteriorating rapidly. She said that, like in humans, doggy dementia often takes the sufferer back to his younger self. He may have been looking for his previous owner and home. He was bewildered and lost. It was a no-brainer.
It’s only one day and I miss his sturdy, long body and little legs and big head bumping into things, his nails scratching the floor as he pads around. Bonnie and I keep looking at each other glumly. There is a big Bertie-shaped hole in our lives. We gave him a great four years, he had lovely walks, beach holidays, endless cuddles, good food, stability and security. He was adored.
Rest in Peace, lovely Bertie. Enjoy your sofa and your biscuits and your cuddles. I bet you can run as fast as a spaniel now. We love you. We miss you.