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. '