My Pet: Little lost pup helps our hearts heal
The thing is, we never wanted a second dog. After a lifetime of loving the waifs and strays who washed up at our door, we were very content with our beautiful six-year-old, Flinders.
A big country dog in truth, some fortuitous mix of cocker and shep genes had gifted her a shiny chocolate coat and very green eyes, where oceans lay. She had adjusted well to the confines of city life, commandeering our navy leather couch as her preferred bed, with barely a protest from us, suckers that we are for doggie foibles.
After dark each day, we took her to our local park, where she ran to her heart's content. She loved nothing more than to sprint after any available missile - she could pluck a ball from mid-air with balletic skill and a very satisfying thunk.
Late one evening last year, we stumbled across a small and terrified little scrap, alerted by almost hysterical cries. He was circling crazily, his heart-stopping cries communicating his terror.
We walked around in search of a distressed owner and, being St Patrick's Day, the park was full of revellers. So, we took him home and somehow, we knew: our family had just gained a new member, and before he was tucked up that night in Flinders' disdained dog bed, we had named him Paddy, in honour of the day.
Nobody came for him.
Flinders struggled at first. Especially since the interloper, a tatty brown pup, laid low by hunger and exhaustion, was to emerge after a replenishing sleep a very cheery and exuberant fellow. What an overnight transformation it was! His matted brown coat was rich red in the morning light. In the darkness and warmth he had unfurled like a flower, a profusion of fun and hair - our own little lion king.
Oh, he settled in! There was no question, in his mind at least, that he had found his "forever home". Flinders he tormented with his constant ebullience, his playful snaps, the way he raced her out the door every time. But Paddy wins everyone over in the end.
For three weeks now, Flinders has been gone, her reassuring shape missing from the couch, those green eyes closed forever. What Paddy makes of her absence we can only guess. No way to tell him that cancer came suddenly and we had to let her go. He looks sometimes at her empty seat but his chocolate button eyes are as inscrutable as night. He sniffs around the sods atop her grave or moves aside the posies our grandchildren have placed there. But then on, he scampers to new delights, kicking up heels and autumn leaves.
If you are reading this and you lost or jettisoned a lovely little pup on St Patrick's Day, please don't come for him now. He is busy mending broken hearts.
Finest hour: Overnight transformations
Likes: Being centre stage
Dislikes: Being alone
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