Friday 18 October 2019

'I didn’t tell anyone, that was my own private grief' - Singer Linda Martin on losing her 'little character'

Singer, actress and TV presenter Linda Martin in 2014, with her dogs, Scruff, Bubba, Rambo and, in her arms, Chilli Willi
Singer, actress and TV presenter Linda Martin in 2014, with her dogs, Scruff, Bubba, Rambo and, in her arms, Chilli Willi
Jedward, john and Edward with Linda Martin and Chilly Willy in 2010. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

It’s well-known that former Eurovision winner Linda Martin is a dog lover. She famously helped actress Twink to find her beloved dog Teddy Bear in 2014 when he was taken from her Knocklyn home through her contacts in animal organisations.

The singer, who currently has 11 rescue dogs, will be attending the first ever pet remembrance ceremony to take place in Ireland next month.

The ceremony, which was organised by Amanda Large who lost her shih tzu Toby in 2017, will take place in the Unitarian Church in Dublin on June 23 at 3pm.

Linda told that she's had to bid goodbye to many dogs over the years, but the loss of one dog in particular, Chilly Willy, affected her badly.

“Four years ago my chihuahua died. He was one of those little characters that stuck to me like a plaster, he went everywhere with me, to pantos, and everyone knew him, and he went about four years ago. I don’t think I’ve been so affected by the passing of a dog.”

“It was very sudden, he developed a cough that developed into something else.”

“I didn’t tell anyone, that was my own private grief. When I started appearing places and he wasn’t coming with me, people started to realise, but they knew I wasn’t talking about it. I wasn’t able to at that point.”

Pet owners often feel foolish for grieving, Linda explains, but it’s not easy to get over the loss of a pet.

“There’s a special place in people’s hearts for animals, and sometimes they feel foolish when they grieve, but it’s a grieving process and they don’t always get over it.”

A ceremony to mark the loss of a pet is important for owners, Amanda says.

"When a person dies, you get sympathy, empathy, you get support. But when an animal dies, for the most part, it’s just a dog, people don’t see it in the same light. People don’t understand that you form these very strong attachments with an animal.”

“[Toby] was my shadow, he went everywhere with me, he slept with me, and he was with me ten years. He was 17 when he died," she said.

Amanda loved Toby so much that she called her son Thomas Toby after him.

"I figured Toby would be gone before my son. But unfortunately my son died from sudden infant death syndrome when he was three months old; he died on March 22, 2010, you can’t describe the loss of a child, the total despair, you’re in a place of darkness.”

“Everyone said Toby was not going to like the baby, it’s not a good combo, but it was the opposite. If anyone went to touch my handbag he’d growl, or if anyone picked up the baby, he would stand on guard.”

“To be honest, having Toby helped me [through the grief process]. I had to walk him, I had to feed him. When I was sad he knew I was sad and when I was playful he knew I was playful. It was incredible how empathic this dog was.”

It was Linda Martin who first introduced Toby and Amanda.

“I really wanted a shih tzu and I was working with Linda Martin on different projects. He needed a home, and I said ‘yes, absolutely, I’ll take him’.”

“He was very, very different to what I expected. I was expecting a cute shih tzu that you see in photos; he was flithy and growling and snarling, and I was thinking ‘oh my God, this isn’t what I expected’.” 

“I got into the car and he really wasn’t warming to me, and I got a breakfast roll with sausage and bacon, and as soon as the breakfast roll was gone he was growling and snarling at me again. So I bought some more treats.”

“He was very, very protective and untrusting. He got sick the next day, he was really weak, he needed to be syringe-fed and I nursed him back to health. During that week I gave him his medication and babied him and looked after him, and after that then he bonded with me.”

Reverend Bridget Spain, minister at the Unitarian Church, said the ceremony later this month will be for the bereaved pet owners.

"This is not for the animals. It's for the bereaved pet owners."

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