Thursday, 7 July 2011

Funny Things, Diaries. Memories from Thirty Years Ago.

Orphaned at thirteen, I lived with an uncle and aunt from then on. Time went by, the uncle died, followed years later by my aunt. Dennis, their son inherited everything, including any money, not a lot, that had accrued; which left Rusty, my aunts extremely unkempt poodle, sixteen years old and possessor of one greatly enlarged testicle. Dennis, who did not live with his mother suggested that I get Rusty put down. I dismissed instantly his solution to the problem and Rusty came to live with myself, my wife and the two children. Neither my wife nor children had any background concerning animals. The following is the recording taken from my diary dated the 6th of July, 1985. (The only photograph I could find of Rusty, a family gathering with Rusty in pride of place. Note how proudly Sarah and Alison pose with Rusty, their pride and joy.)


' Rusty continued to live with us, enjoying town life with its new smells and mysterious canine offerings, and in the summer of 1981 survived the move to yet another new home. His needs were few, an amble round the garden, food and sleep seemed to be the main requisites necessary for his contentment. Mid evening was punctuated without fail, by frenzied barking, continuous and unabated, a noise that could be extinguished only by taking the dog lead from the drawer and accompanying Rusty into the night. Whatever the weather the ritual was unvaried. One excited, extremely aged dog would patrol his area, his 'patch'. Slowly, stiffly he would examine every fence, every lamppost, every gate post, watering without fail so many of the aforementioned items that his bladder seemed unemptyable, his spirit unquenchable.

The 'walk' lasted around twenty minutes, the route seldom if ever varied. We would return, often cold, sometimes wet but always contented. Exercise over, Rusty would settle for the night, seldom stirring, sometimes noisily dreaming, until the next day, when the pattern would be repeated. A pattern that continued, amazingly for over four years.

Imperceptibly his eyesight deteriorated to the point where he was presumed blind, whilst his hearing loss meant he was oblivious to much of the world around him.

Many, many times I sat with that old dog, the rest of the household long since asleep, wondering whether life was still kind, still bearable, still worthwhile. His eyes became glazed, his coat rather scruffy and neglected, but still he seemingly enjoyed life, gradually becoming content to examine the garden rather than the neighbouring streets. Only in the last weeks of his life did life itself appear to become a burden.

I had already become accustomed to looking closely at this ancient creature several times a day as he lay in his basket. Often his breathing and his general posture suggested he had in fact 'passed on'. Sleep gradually became the main event of the day, taking up twenty two hours out of twenty four. His ability to walk became suspect, the occasional stagger of the rear legs suggested his nervous system was deteriorating. This, coupled with an inability to control his bladder meant that life was probably intolerable, 'eternal' sleep preferable. I agonised over taking him to be 'put down', a kindness though it undoubtedly would have been. Alone, at night, I looked into those sightless, yet seemingly trusting eyes and wept at my own inability to act in the face of his distressing plight. Instead I asked Richard, a friend, to take him to be painlessly dispatched. Though he agreed, his offer of help became unnecessary.

A week after Rusty's twentieth birthday(the 6th of July) his distress was so apparent that Paulette, whilst I was at work, called out a vet. The gentleman, no doubt correctly decided that administering a drug to put him out of his misery was the kindest thing to do. The decision that I had agonised on and avoided was thus taken out of my hands.

On this particular I was on a trip with pupils and other staff to the West Midlands Safari Park. The day went particularly badly. The bus driver became hopelessly lost; we arrived at the park late. The other staff, colleagues rather than friends had little interest in the trip or the pupils concerned. The park itself held only average interest. I arrived home tired and dispirited, to the news that Rusty's body awaited me in the garage.

He lay in his basket, a pathetic figure but at peace at last. The children howled; Paulette howled; we all howled. Still in tears I dug a grave beneath a tree in my garden. So Rusty aged twenty, well loved and never forgotten, was laid to rest on that hot summer's day. 'Well done thou good and faithful servant'.


Rusty was born on on July 6th, 1962 and died on July 14th 1982. '

16 comments:

the fly in the web said...

Horrible decision.
Been there too many times over the years.....and as my mother, 95, says
'Life is sweet, even if it's a life other people don't envy.'

Hanny said...

This inspires me to begin keeping a diary. Thanks!

Valerie said...

Making the decision was heart wrenching for me too, Ken. Saying goodbye is never easy but you ensured that Rusty had a good life.

Dumdad said...

A very moving, uplifting story about a well-loved old dog.

Moannie said...

Oh, Ken. So very sad. And I know that we are going to have to go through the same pain one day, if we out-live Milou that is.

I must congratulate you on the fullness of your diary entries; mine tended to be of the 'slept late, rained, B came round..[B]?

veri word:manlerge. any pain felt by the male of the species?

slommler said...

I know this pain well! It is an agonizing decision and I have had to make it once myself. Hated it but it was for the best! But I still miss her and it has been six years. No pet will take her place.
Hugging you
SueAnn

Suldog said...

Always such a hard thing to do, with any beloved pet/family member. I've shed the same sort of tears a few times (in my case, for wonderful feline companions.) Well-told tale, and God bless you for your compassion, both in the living of it and in the telling.

Shopgirl said...

Very sad and beautifully written. Some parts of this reminded me of the story "The Velveteen Rabbit", as I can feel Rusty was very much loved until the day he went.

CWMartin said...

The part about the nightly walk sounds a LOT like Scrappy. The end of Rusty's days sounds a lot like Scrappy's predessessor, Fred. It was a decision, mine by dint of being the only one willing to make it, and after 4 years it still tears my soul to shreds. Thank you for sharing a very difficult memory.

Galen Pearl said...

I've been there, too. It is indeed a terribly difficult decision. My dog Sadie is starting down that path of old age and increasing debilitation. I know I will face this decision with her in the next year or so. I dread it. Lovely post and a tribute to a noble soul.

Nota Bene said...

Pets are hard to say goodbye to...

daneastside said...

Hey, really nice article. RIP my fat old basset hound chumley.

ESJ said...

This became my dilemma when throughout April my dog Rosie (aged 17 and a half)gradually lost the life she had so far enjoyed, to become a bony falling over wreck that could barely manage to drink water any more.
Just recently starting to think about a new pal in our life.

Chris said...

My dear poodle, Rosie, died last October. She was born on July 7th. One of my current poodles, Mollie, was born on July 13th. The dates just rang a bell for me with your poodle. They are such great companions, it's always hard to say goodby to a friend.

Stranger in a Strange Land said...

Been there too and it is so hard! like you I greived for my dog long before she actually died!
We are kinder to animals than people in the same situation xxx

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thanks, friends. We share many experiences in life. How much we need each other in the sad times. How much we learn from these experiences, not least about ourselves.