Thursday 29 September 2016

Man's best friends can be the worst because all dogs go to heaven

Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Cara died eight years ago and she's a great loss to us, but at the start I wasn't that gone on her. I was trying my best to give Cara away or even leave her in a basket outside an orphanage.

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I found her lying face-upright outside our house. The vet said it was a massive heart attack. She was 19 in human years, which is very old in dog years. That was very good, we were told, for a Papillon.

Like I say, I didn't like her at the start. Cara was an informer. It was my custom 20 years ago to stay out late at night after I finished a long shift in our pub. I was always thrown out in good time by my mother but I did find a place where there were late drinks served. This was a gift that I have always had, ever since I first started drinking.

It was 22 years ago today when I came back to work in our pub when all else failed. So as you can imagine this is a hugely emotional day for me in that my mother and father, who gave me the chance to start over, are both gone now. You'd need something to keep you going, and I'm thinking of getting a dog.

The trick back then was to sneak in home, nice and quietly without being noticed, but Cara had woke up the whole house. I tried to bribe her with bits of meat and even sweets. She nearly took my fingers off to get at the meat and the sweets. Cara ate them on the spot and by way of gratitude she kept on barking.

It wasn't that I stayed out late every night, just now and then, but Cara put an end to the surreptitious drinking.

She was for my good and we became great friends. The little Papillon with her floppy ears would wait up until I came home, and sometimes I would bring her for drives in the car to the beach even though she was afraid of the waves. She had human eyes and when Cara looked up at you there was an understanding there somewhere inside of her in a place that, for all our science and biology, we have yet to discover.

Cara was gutsy and kept bigger dogs out of the garden. She even scared off the red fox living up at the top of the wood. That fox was as tall as a greyhound pup and he was the early morning lord of the garden until Cara bluffed him out of it. I had to rescue her from fighting with two huge killer grey crows. Low types they are too, with no sweet song and an insatiable desire for meat.

The kids would pull and drag at Cara and catch her by the tail but never once did she lose her temper or snap. Cara was patient and caring.

The little dog with the floppy ears and the brown and white dappled coat picked up on the mood of the house and if there were problems she tried to cheer us up by jumping up on the seat next to us.

The kids were heartbroken when she died. We buried Cara under a tree in the garden. Here's one for you, if you have lost a beloved pet and it helps the kids to get over the death. We put up a plastic headstone attached to a last post. I wrote the epitaph myself. The requiem reads: "Cara you were well named." Cara is the Irish for friend.

We didn't get another dog since.

Then today, as I was walking down the town, I met a man who is nearly always in good form but this morning he was very down. "Our little dog was killed by a car. The kids are heartbroken."

We talked for a while there on the side of the street under the statue of St Patrick and the man said he was never again going to get another dog. I knew how he felt.

But by the end of the conversation he had talked himself round to getting a new dog. "For the kids' sake."

And so it was I put it to the family that we should replace Cara. There's a debate going on. I was always mad about Border Collies. I love their athleticism and their temperament above all. I'm not gone on big savage dogs descended from wolves.

Butch Browne was the first collie I knew well. We were great friends. I was his owners' butcher's boy and Butch went everywhere with me. Eric Browne, who was Butch's owner, is a natural with dogs. He got it from his dad, Berkie. It seems Berkie had a special whistle and when he tooted half the dogs in town came along with him for a walk. Dogs love Eric. One look from him and they know what they should do.

Once when another pal of mine was asked take his dog out of a restaurant, he was highly indignant which as you all probably know, is even more indignant than indignant. Said my friend to the management team, "She is better bred than half of ye, and she has better manners than the other half of ye."

Patsy Hickey, who drove the trains in England, lost his little dog this day last week and he says he's not sure if he'll get another dog due to being "so lonesome after them when they're gone". Another friend was grieving for her late dad's old dog.

I asked Eric to be on the look-out. Just to see. No decision has been made yet. He's says he'll try for a collie as well bred as Butch, whose grandmother starred on 'One Man and His Dog'.

Irish Independent

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