Jay's painting of Benno
I have put our name down with various dog rescue organisation which shelter and rehome unwanted dogs, but have heard nothing so far. I would love another labrador, maybe even two - when one dies there is at least another creature to alleviate the pain of mourning. ( I'd have to convince Beloved first) Two months on, the memory of Benno's death is still raw, I still find myself crying suddenly, when I find I've automatically performed one of those actions that revolved around his mealtimes, his walks, his trips in the car, even the filling of his water bowl. My heart aches for him. I want him back, or failing that, his predecessor, Boris, who's been dead for ten years. I walk around Valley's End on my own, all the places where he stopped to sniff, roll in dog or sheep shit and even cow dung, which only serves to drive the knife in deeper. I am sadly bereft, there is no other word for it. All his bad habits are forgotten and forgiven. There's nothing left but the memory of his sweet and affectionate nature. As well as his tail, which wagged furiously as soon as anybody clinked the lid of the bread bin. My friend Jay painted a beautiful picture of him and yesterday I took it to be framed.
"On your own, are you? Where's the dog?" There are still people around who don't know of my bereavement. Yes, bereavement; a beloved dog is as much a friend and family member as any human. "Ah, I'm sorry," they say, "are you getting another one?" I've been feeling that a quick replacement would have been disloyal to Benno, after all, there has to be a decent mourning period. It's not as if just any dog could fit his paws marks. We waited for six months before we took in Benno to fill the hole Boris had left.
But now we find ourselves approaching every dog we meet, asking their owner if we can have a quick scratch and a stroke and a cuddle and boring everybody witless with the tale of our recent loss. If I meet any seemingly unaccompanied dog, I speak to it, feed it titbits carried in my pocket and entice it to come home with me. But every time the owner appears my hopes are dashed. Of course, I would not abduct a dog, those of you who might think so, don't know a thing about me. That just won't do. Last night we went to the pub for a pint and a plate of scampi, ham and chips and this gorgeous black labrador walked in. When I stroked and petted him he licked my hand and I burst into tears there and then.
This evening I've been googling websites advertising dogs for rehoming. I've seen Benno's exact likeness, unfortunately he is in a kennel the other side of the country; besides he might already have been rehomed. Turnover in dog shelters is either very quick or not at all. Some dogs nobody wants. No doubt, they will eventually be put down. Beloved was in the bathroom, I knocked on the door and he came flying out when I told him about the Benno look-alike; he was all for setting off early in the morning to go and look at him. It would take a lot of effort to go there. And we'd have to visit the kennels at least twice, possibly three times. But Beloved's eagerness just goes to show how keen he too is.
It's 2 am now, I can't sleep for thinking of dogs. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Surely, we will soon find a replacement for our beloved best friend and companion, who left us so suddenly and unexpectedly. If we had any sense and let our heads rule our hearts, we'd forget about adopting another dog. Two decrepit old crocks, one of whom is no longer able to walk very far, would do well to remember their limitations as well as the way a dog ties you down. Heads or hearts, hearts or heads, which is the one to be applied here?
The sherry decanter is empty and I've eaten most of the remaining crackers in the pack, leaving nothing but the crumbs; it's time to have another go at sleeping. Wish me luck.