Monday, 2 February 2015

Goodbye Sparky

Last week we said goodbye to one of our family members. Our gorgeous dog-boy, Sparky, was 18 years and 10 months old.

I've had this awesome guy since I was about 12 years old.

Dave and I had been on a fun trip to a craft shop in Letham.  It was the first time we had had time together in ages - and even then I was due to be at work in the afternoon. We'd taken the new car for a spin, stretching her legs on the country roads.  It was a really sunny day - the first properly sunny one we've had for ages and our moods were light.

We got what we needed and then headed back for lunch, me eager to sort my hair and so on before having to face the general public.

We pulled into the cul-de-sac and parked the car, Dave going in first while I pulled in one of the wheelie bins from outside.

As I put it in its place, I noted the rubbish that had gotten out of the bag, and went to go inside to moan to Dave about making sure he tied the bags properly, to be met at the top of the stairs with a very panicked husband, with a  very worried look on his face.

'He's hurt himself. It's his legs! Oh no...oh no!'

I ran up the stairs and into the kitchen, to see my boy wobbling about on very wobble pins.  He flopped over, panting as he landed in a patch of sunlight, which on any normal day would be great - he loved nothing more than sitting in the sun.

I lay down on the floor beside him and just gave him the hugest hug - I knew what this meant and it wasn't good.

I don't know if any of you have ever had a dog live as long as 19 years old, but lets just say from about the age of 12 onwards, you are trying to prepare yourself for the worst.

I'd been through it so many times before in my head; I'd left on many a holiday holding him extra close in case he wasn't there when I came back.  I'd poked him so many times when he was sleeping extra-peacefully, convinced that this time this was 'it'.  I'd completely prepared for the fact that my old doggy couldn't last forever - I'd been preparing for years.

I just wasn't prepared for it to happen so suddenly.

The truth is, I'd been regretfully researching things like when is the right time to call an end to an older dog's life.  Although Sparky had been very physically fit and well, his mental state wasn't as good as it had been, and even though he still had mainly decent days, I was so aware of his recent decline mentally.  It was going to be a very tough call to make. And I was preparing to make it.  Just not yet.

As I cradled my boy on the floor, he just lay down.  He cuddled in, while I wept on his soft, white fur and ran my fingers across his big silky ears for which we both knew would be one of the last times.

I urged Dave to phone the vet, and we arranged to go down there and then.  We couldn't wait - we didn't know how much, if any, pain he was in and we couldn't bear making him wait longer than he had to.  Bundling him up, we took him into the car and drove to the surgery, where a kind lady led us to the table.

We placed him down, where he wobbled about, slumping to the side and wobbling back up again.  We put him on the floor and he fell over, wobbled up and tottered a bit before falling over again.

'We can do treatment, or we can do surgery if you like...'

But how could we?  How could we put our lovely elderly and confused dog through arduous treatment for old age?  He was so old. Worst of all - there was no real way of comforting him through any treatment.  We could just in no way put him through that.

That's when we made the decision properly.  The vet shaved his paw (Sparky hated vets and would NEVER in a million years have even sat on the table, let alone let her do that to him!  That's how I knew it was the right thing to do) and gave him a sedative.  She left the room so as not to stress him out and Dave and I sat with him, cuddling him in until he fell asleep.  That's the last he knew before the vet came back to administer the final injection.

It's the oddest sensation, being in control of whether a person stops something's life or not.  Knowing I could have shouted 'stop' at any time and my boy would still have been here.   Knowing that the pink fluid in the syringe was the difference between heart beating and heart stopping.  And that in less than a minute, my boy was gone.  Just like that.

God, I miss him.

I miss him, I hurt for him, I ache in my heart for him.

'Stay as long as you like,' she said.

We stayed about 5 minutes.

There's nothing more to be done with a body whose soul has departed.

I touched his ears one more time, so aware that I would never feel anything like that again.  The ridge of his skull.  I inhaled his fur, touched his smells-like-popcorn feet and ruffled the scruff of his neck.

There was nothing more I could do.  I wished I could feel, smell and touch all of this forever, but I couldn't. And we walked out of the room, collar in hand, paying by card, shocked looks on our faces.

We got outside and held each other in the afternoon sunlight, getting into the car and driving back home, back to our empty house with it's dog bowls and lead and white hair all over the sofa.


I passed the bins outside.  They can wait.

I didn't look in the mirror - no need.

We just got in and started to tidy away the things.  Preparing to tell the kids that the dog who stole their pancakes that morning died today.

Pancakes - when he was a pup we used to go to a coffee shop where the owner, a friend, made him his own special pancake.

The bowl which we'd filled for the longest of times now sits in the dish rack waiting to go, well, away.  I don't know where away is, but I'm going to have to find it.

We threw out his dogfood, well, because Sparky was so old and had seen through so many other dogs whose owners used to give us their old dog food after their dog had passed and it had always felt so wrong feeding him it.  It felt like giving it to someone else was like admitting he'd died, so, in the bin it went.

We told the kids when they got home.  Tom was gutted.  He's fine today, but he's working through it.  Ethan hasn't quite grasped it, or he has and is deflecting really well.  Either way, he'll get through it too.  I'm just so glad they got to know him, even if it was in his docile latter years as opposed to the crazy, fun, manic years, which they would have totally loved. But hey.

I went back to work this morning. Had a wee weep in the car before I got there, processing the scenes from the day before, grateful that I hadn't had any nightmares in the night about it (pregnancy dreams are so vivid). I parked my car in the street where I lived as a student and remembered all the walks we used to take around there, his feud with Dave the cat, the way he used to jump up on the little walls and generally be a pain in the ass on the lead.

Then I got to work and folk kept saying how sorry they were, how they knew how it felt, how great he was, how lucky I'd been to share such a massive part of my life with him.

All true.

19 years is like two lifetimes away for me.

I was a teenager, taking him to the park with my friends for an afternoon of throwing the toy, trying my best to tire him out.  Using the tug rope to twirl him around, trying to exhaust him, which was always impossible.  He'd get fed up and sit on the hill, while you called for him over and over.  He'd sit in the sun, grinning, fluttering his feathery tail at you, cheekily.

He played Toto on the stage in our local amateur theatre company's production of The  Wizard of Oz, making friends with all the kids at rehearsals.

We rode on the bus together - him on my knee, nosily watching out of the window, ears right up, watching absolutely everything.

He'd watch television, barking at dogs and cats he saw on programmes and listened intently to the world outside the windows of our house, jumping up onto the backs of furniture so he could get a glimpse.

I was a young lady, coming home from a late shift, sometimes int he middle of the night after working all day.  He'd greet me, wagging, as I shushed him, slipping on his lead for a midnight donder.  We'd come home and cosy up together in bed, him laying his head in the crook of my knees.

He'd sit beside me in my bedroom, as I sang along to my cds, picking up his toy and nosing it into my lap, so I'd throw it again, and again, and again, abesnt-mindedly, before playfully chucking him on the bed, covering him with the duvet and playing the game where he'd bite through the covers at my hands, furiously wagging his tail.

I was a girlfriend, bringing my boyfriend home for the first time that night overnight.  Sparky initially couldn't get over the fact that Dave slept beside me, but later on would sleep only between his legs at night. Sparky adopted Dave and Dave adopted him.

Sparky dressed up as Superdog for our house halloween party, joining in with balloon popping and pogo-ing antics.

He lived in our student flat, cuddled up with us under our communal living room duvets in the winter, and snuggled up to snooze beside our flatmates.

We moved house together a further once, twice, thrice, four times, five times.

He made friends with local dogs - the small white westie who lived out back, the long-haired retriever at the park, the staffie who marched around the beach.  He made enemies with the other Jack Russell who lived across the hall.  He went to dog training classes 10 years after he had graduated from dog training classes.

He patiently adapted to life with babies - no mean feat for a dog advancing in age, who has been nothing but the centre of everyone's attention. He simply saw it as a way of getting more food at mealtimes! Always the optimist!  Thomas would follow Sparky in his baby walker and Sparky would try it on with Tom, carefully placing his toy on the tray of the walker, hoping Tom would throw it for him.  At night, when I was relaxing in the bath after another long day, he would make sure we never forgot him - jumping up with his two paws on the side of the bath, waiting for me to give him a scratch on his head.  And when I reciprocated (because how could you not with that cheeky wee face?), he'd take it as a sign that it was time to play, and bring his toy to the edge of the bath, rolling it in and dropping it right in the water!

He knew how to make us pay attention.

Every guest had their bag rifled through, as we joked about our 'security dog', as he cheekily pushed his ball into visitors bags in the hope that they would throw it for him.  Sometimes he was just sniffing for snacks.  Once we had to pull him out of a lady's bag in the street, apologising profusely.  He was so damn cute that she opened her bag right up and let him have it.  His award-winning waggy tail won him lots of admirers.

Often people crossed the street just to talk to him.  He had a way of spying someone in the distance, a wee old lady, a child, a tall man, and would actually fold himself in half wagging his tail so hard, trying to get them to speak to him.

He loved the beach.

Man, he loved the beach!

In the summer we'd take him down for whole days, not getting any peace, as when he wasn't running back and forward with his toy, he was furiously digging a hole to bury it, covering everything with sand, including his own huge, pink tongue. toys toys.

The Kong was a massive favourite - the eternal favourite.  He ruined so many squeaky toys, balls and footballs that the Kong was certainly right up there for holding it's own.  Then his red bone that squeaked at the end (but not for long), his Indestructaball (the only ball he couldn't burst and thus dug at ferociously.  So much so, we had to regulate his time with it!) and any soft toy he was allowed to cosy into and lick to death.

He loved the colour yellow.  He would pick up yellow balls he found at the park, steal yellow socks and make a beeline for yellow footballs at the park, which often led to us having to grab him before he ruined yet another game of football!  He favoured his large yellow rubber ball and once brought home the most disgusting old yellow children's toy which he licked lovingly while constantly guarding it.  The time I tried to throw it out, he went back into the bin to retrieve it.

He had the best sniffer I have ever seen on a dog.  We used to play games where we'd shut him out of the room, and hide his toy somewhere crazy, counting how long it took for him to find it.  And he always did!  He always knew when there were doggy treats in the house too - he could never leave them if he knew they were there.  Often, we'd get up in the middle of the night to find him lying in front of the kitchen cupboard, grumbling and moaning and wagging because he couldn't resist whatever he knew we had for him.

Oh, my boy.  My lovely, lovely boy.

We get his ashes back sometime this week.  We'll be taking them to the beach to scatter - there is no better place that I can think of.

He was always his happiest causing chaos at the beach.

Will there be another dog?  This is a question many people have asked me, albeit a bit too soon.  I suppose I'd be lying if I said I hadn't already considered it.

Of course there will be another dog.  There might even be another couple of dogs.

There will never, ever, ever in my whole life be another Sparky.

How lucky was I?

"If there are no dogs in Heaven when I die, then I want to go where they went"


  1. Th love on his face in that last picture! He was such a happy boy. Well done for giving him such a lovely life and I'm so sorry he couldn't stay with you forever x

  2. People do ask the silliest things, don't they? We lost our last pet, and haven't had the heart for years - it may come, it may not. I think people just want you not to be sad - which, again, is silly, when you've only just lost someone you loved dearly.

    May his memory always bring a smile.

  3. Thanks ladies. It's still so painful! He was the greatest wee guy and never 'just a dog' to us. He really was a huge part of our family. So much so, Ethan still counts him in our line-up. We are very much looking forward to getting a new doggy friend (or two!) when we get our new house, but in the meantime, the house is incredibly empty. I think I miss him the most when Dave has to work nights and it's just me alone in our bed. Sometimes I think I can feel his wee head resting on my leg, but it's always just a dream. I fear this might happen for a while yet.


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