This is the post I didn’t want to write. If you’re here hoping to read about my latest crafting endeavour, I’m sorry to disappoint. Next time. I need to write this one first. This is a long one and I’m writing it for me. If you want to skip on, that’s fine.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you’ll have seen photos of Blue the Deerhound. She was the hound that loved to be part of all the photo shoots. When I say all, I’m not exaggerating. As soon as she saw my camera coming out of its case, she would stick to my hip, to avoid missing out. Her relationship with my camera started young. A few weeks after she joined us, I found her, one morning, cuddled up in her basket with it. Fortunately still in its case, as I know I’d left it on the table the night before. I should have known at that moment that no photo, I subsequently took, would ever be complete without her hairy, long snout sneaking into the frame.
I don’t know why she loved having her photo taken so much. I don’t see how she ever connected it to the end product. I can only think that she loved this particular form of attention. Maybe saw it as her duty.
She was the brightest deerhound I have ever met. As a puppy, she could open doors by their handles in next to no time, that had baffled the children at a young age. We had to change the catches. She watched and learned. With her brightness came a very trainable dog over time, something that deerhounds are not known for on the whole. You’ll notice their absence in the obedience rings at Crufts. Once is fun. Twice is because they love you. Three times…hmm…unlikely. Let’s not even talk about the tunnels. Not. Going. To. Happen.
I’m rushing ahead. I need to start at the beginning. Blue joined our household on a temporary basis. She was on time-out with us. We hoped to return her to her home, but it just wasn’t to be. She wasn’t the easiest pup. She soon gained the nickname of Honey Badger. A creature renowned for turning around in its own skin to bite you. She destroyed my car keys, bank card, new crochet needle and nibbled all the cabbages, among other things, within the first week. She ate the walls. Chewed through all the harnesses and leads we had. She’d jump out from under tables and attack my legs. Destroyed shoes and clothes in less time than you would think possible. She was anxious and numerous
things, in this big, wide world, scared her.
But she had won 2 out of 6 of the household’s hearts within the first minute of being carried in the door. I’ll admit I wasn’t among them. Nor was my older, faithful hound, who hid for the first couple of weeks. I kid you not. It did, fortunately, all change.
As time went by
Right from the beginning, Blue fell in love with my husband and became his undisputed dog. As she settled down, and only ate the walls occasionally, she won us all over. One by one.
Even my old deerhound, Gwin, who became her very best friend and valued mentor. Exactly what the young pup needed. I think it even lengthened Gwin’s life too. When unsure what to do in a new situation, Blue would look unfailingly to Gwin for guidance, and all would be well. As Gwin grew older, she would lean against Blue as they ate, for support. Blue would take it. On the sofa, Blue would rest her head on Gwin’s bad hip, keeping it warm. On walks they were inseparable. Walking shoulder to shoulder. Sniffing the same spot. If Gwin fell behind, Blue would wait like a rock for her to catch up. Her loyalty knew no bounds once it was entrusted to someone.
As time passed, Blue matured into a beautiful dog who was a joy to have around and bring along on our adventures. She still had hangups. Small yappy dogs and people with dreadlocks would send her into defensive mode. I have no idea why. She was over boistrous when she met other dogs, but calmed down within minutes. Only a few dogs could put up with her greetings and, boy, did she love to play with them.
She loved routine and having things just so. The lavender hedge I planted was unbelievably in the wrong place, so she systematically dug it up for me, soon after I finished digging it in. Part of me wonders what she knew. I didn’t replant it.
She loved to drink rainwater from tubs around the garden.
She loved being outside. Often joining us when we gardened, pruned trees or simply grabbed a few moments to enjoy a cup of tea in the fresh air.
She hated being towelled dry. All towels were the work of the devil and were to be avoided at all costs.
She would join me outside before dawn, when we would watch the bats coming in to roost. I’d say “bats” and she’d look up.
She would jump into the open car boot, even if it was full of logs. Balancing with determination that would not be often associated with a long limbed canine.
She loved to pick a stick out of the log basket to chew, in the evening. Always waiting for permission.
She adored the children and they loved her right back. Each of them had a special, unique relationship with her. The young master shared her love of sticks and they enjoyed adventures in the garden together. The number of times I would look out to see her running beside him while he rode his bike, is something I will wrap up and treasure forever.
Youngest mistress had a special touch with Blue, which I think we all slightly envied. Instantly calm. Most evenings, the silly hound would lie totally relaxed over her lap, out for the count. A great furry blanket. Going especially heavy to stop her going to bed.
Older young mistress defended her from the beginning. Blue rewarded her by chewing her trainers and being the biggest, softest, loyalist comfort and distraction during her mistress’s most challenging year. For this, as a mother, I will always be whole heartedly and eternally grateful to our sweet hound.
She loved waking up the children in the morning with a cold, wet nose in their faces. Burying her long snout even deeper down under their duvets if they tried to wriggle away and hide. Snorting if denied a response. Then, mission accomplished, she’d head down the corridor to join us. Curling up on our bed, while we enjoyed our morning coffee.
As sure as eggs are eggs, the moment my husband started to dress, she’d jump up and fall into line by his side, ready to accompany him on their morning walk. Eyes fixed forward. Unwaivering. For devilment, I would try my hardest to distract her. Only ever achieving the briefest of looks from the corner of her eye. Head never moving.
They had so many wonderful walking adventures together. She would have followed him to the end of the world, and probably further. She kept him moving forward when life threw a curveball a few years back. She had a very special love for her master and him for her.
Recently she had taken to walking the two teens down to the gate, each morning, as they headed off to school. Without fail, she would watch them disappear and then, head down, head back home to take up duties on the sofa until breakfast time.
When Gwin died, Blue was my buddy. I honestly think we became a support group for each other. Both slightly lost. I made sure she didn’t eat on her own. She made sure I never ate a whole muffin. She pulled me through with her deep brown eyes that, like all her breed, can focus further and look straight into your soul.
Apart from her photography duties, she showed little interest in my crafting. Except one time, when I laid out fabric and patted it flat on the table ready for cutting. She saw this as a firm command to jump up on to it, which she managed in one effortless leap. A big dog on a table is not something you see every day. Otherwise, she did remove all the pins from my pincushion once and lay them neatly to one side. No harm done, but from then on, I made sure my pincushion was always put away.
I was the only person who she allowed to brush her. She trusted me. Anyone trying would find her uncooperative. Even her beloved master. She saw it as my job, and mine alone. Sometimes she would shake herself in front of me, as a reminder that it was time for a brush. Quite clever. She had connected that everyone would coo over her when she shook after being brushed. She would fluff up like the fluffiest pompom imaginable which made her quite a sight. Thus all the cooing. So shaking translated to “brush me” and that was my job.
She loved to run, which sadly was the start of her downfall. I won’t repeat the description of her accident that saw her heading to the vets. She was recovering. Starting to move her leg. We visited her on the Saturday and I was confident that we would be bringing her home on the Monday. In my head, I began rearranging our home to make it easier for her.
Sitting in the car on the way home, after that visit, I smiled for the first time for ages. I could still feel where she had slightly nibbled my fingers as she’d enthusiastically eaten the chopped up sausages I’d brought her. I was only too glad to see her enthusiastic and eating more. She had been surrounded by us all in her kennel. She gave me that look where her eyes became a perfect almond shape and she was deep down happy. A look I had seen so many times as I cut up a roast in the kitchen, with her beside me, anticipating a few off cuts, or sitting in the back of the car. Really happy. We left that evening in high spirits.
By the Sunday, she had developed pneumonia and died the following day. It was that quick. In a split second all our hearts were snapped in two. Snapped again and again and again.
If only we could roll it back to that Saturday and play it out differently this time. If only wishes were fishes.
Time will help to ease the pain and I would rather remember her as the loving, loyal, clever bean that she became. Shaking herself to demand a brush. Lapping water noisily from her bowl. Being a loyal, furry companion to my family. A dog that trained us, as much as we trained her.
What a journey she took. From anxious pup to happy adult. I’m glad we were able to tag along with her through her life, seeing her grow into such a sweet hound. I’m going to miss her. She left too soon and the house feels empty. We’re left with wonderful memories and a slightly gnawed wall, which none of us have the heart to repair. Maybe before we sell. Oh, and of course, all her photos. Thanks to her love of my camera, we also have so many fantastic photos to remember our special hound.