It would have been a hot August day in 2004 when I first set my eyes on Rascal. Dog Rescue Centres are designed to break your heart aren’t they? All those sad eyes looking up at you with heightened expectation that you might just pick them. Tails wag, LOTS of excited barking and some howling. Rascal shared her pen with another larger dog. She came over to the window and immediately licked my finger, then trotted to the back of her pen and came back for another lick and a sniff. I was smitten.
She was pure white with a wonky brown pattern on her face – too leggy to be a Jack Russell but not leggy enough to be a Parsons Jack Russell (of course she WAS a Parsons Jack Russell in my story, as they were pedigree). And the most adorable ears – one stood proud to attention whilst the other flopped down on her face.
I enquired as to what her background & history was – how she came to be penned up with those other dogs. I was told that she was found wandering the streets of Brighton – without a lead or a collar. My mind went into overdrive. ‘Had she come from somewhere exotic like Dublin?’ I thought. Maybe she was abandoned by a traveller from up North? I never did know exactly where she came from, I just knew that I wanted her. They said that she was going for a trial visit with a family but suggested phoning the following Monday to see how she got on. Luckily for me (and for Rascal I suppose), they decided against an adoption. So, I was again driven over for an introductory meeting and a little ‘walk’ round the local park. It was more of a trek than a walk – in and out of bushes, tangling herself round a tree within minutes and wet muddy feet (a bit like her Dad) by the time we returned. Anyway, the RSPCA came round and checked me out and I was given a lift to Shoreham to sign her over. She was beside herself with excitement on the car journey home – jumping around on the back seat, sniffing the air from the window.
Dogs learn quickly to fit in with your lifestyle – the first couple of months I was nervous about leaving her alone for longer than three hours but soon realised that all she really did was sleep and get a bit excited when I came home – she didn’t even need a toilet break (dogs are much better at controlling their bladder than people).
She never listened to a word I said, not a command or a sit or a stay. And she never did. She was a bit like an ADHD child. She loved chasing squirrels (but not catching any of them), going on buses and trains where she would excitedly jump on and off the seat for the entire journey, sleeping on my bed or my pillow or my face, licking my head for hours and hours, going for very long walks, digging holes, picking up crabs from the beach, the Coronation Street theme tune (until they changed in circa 2007) and Dog Borstal, and posing for photos where she looked unbelievably cute (I never took enough photos). She saw me through University patiently looking at me whilst I typed out yet another Law essay and endlessly revised for exams. But there was nothing better than finishing that off and giving her a cuddle on the sofa.
Walk times involved avoiding and discarded food items (chicken bones, chips, burgers) and avoiding big dogs – like all terriers she was too big for her boots and had no fear about barking at the biggest Rottweiller) – she adored people – would plop herself down on any lap – very sociable – she was adopted by the Prince Arthur pub where she would climb ONTO the bar for a look around.
Rascal had the most sensitive of stomachs – as she got older she had to be placed on a Prescription diet (Hills ZD – I can still smell it now) – but that did not stop her from eating four cheese straws (which she nicked from my bag) and a whole tub of fish food (and the plastic tub) which she nicked from the fish. Where possible, we went everywhere together – to the pub, to University, in other peoples cars, to Cornwall, to that naked weekend in Bournemouth.
As with all of us, the older she got the wearier she became. I noticed a change about 18 months previously to her death. To be blunt, she pissed on the carpet. She had never done that before but it became a more regular ‘habit’. Frustrated I took her to the vet who did lots of tests but drew a blank – it may be an age thing he said. She became grumpier and whilst watching Mad Men in April of 2014, she did ‘the other thing’ – I was disgusted, what can you say to such behaviour? She clearly knew that she had done something wrong. The Vet diagnosed Doggy Alzheimers.
Her face became greyer, her senses became duller, she no longer jumped up for a cuddle. she could no longer jump on the bed without the assistance of a large pouffe – I think she was probably in too much pain, how could I know?
A year ago on Thursday, I was woken by a dull thud as she fell off my bed. I thought she had just been a bit daft but perhaps had injured her back. The vet gave her some pain relief and asked me to monitor things for the next 24 hours or so. Those 24 hours felt like 48. I didn’t get a wink of sleep and she didn’t appear to be getting any better. Fast forward to Tuesday the 20th and I may the painful decision to end her suffering. One of the most difficult days of my life in actuality. The hours seemed never ending temporarily interrupted by the awful chime of the local church bells which counted down the hours for me. The end was peaceful, if a bit clinical but was allowed to stay with her for as long as I needed to – and she pissed on my leg at her passing, which was a ‘nice’ final gift.
Is she waiting ‘over the Rainbow Bridge’? Dunno really – it would be perfect if she was (but I guess she’d be joined by twenty fish, a hamster, four other dogs and a budgie) but I don’t think she’d like the attention diverted from her at all (also a bit like her Dad).
I think one should remember the fun times rather than the painful ones – so, briefly, that’s Rascal.
I played this at the following weeks Almanac and it broke me, finished me off. I’ve always really loved it and ensured that it was on the Christmas Almanac CD 2015 in tribute
Break your heart don’t they?