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Farewell to a faithful friend

Name: noel carroll, from co wicklow

Animal: ebi, a collie/labrador cross-bred dog

Background: at 18 years of age, ebi was close to the end of her life

Ebi featured in this column back in 2008, after a remarkable incident that summed up the dog's intelligence and sensitivity.

She lived, with Noel, on the coast near Mizen Head in West Cork. One November night, back in 2000, Noel was woken at 5am by Ebi barking frantically. He got up to see what was going on, and she led him down to the edge of the cliff, looking out to sea, where she continued to bark loudly at the water. Noel saw blue flashing lights and a convoy of vehicles.

It was the local Marine Rescue Service, who told him that a distress signal had been picked up from a fishing boat in the Mizen Head area but the vessel could not be located. Noel told them about Ebi barking at a particular spot but it was far from where they thought the boat was located. Marine searches continued unsuccessfully.

It was not until a full day later that a life-raft was found floating on the surface still attached by a painter to the sunken vessel, the Irish fishing boat, the St Gervase. It was at the exact location where Ebi had been looking. Four men had lost their lives. Whatever Ebi heard remains unknown, but it was clear that she raised the alarm because she somehow sensed the danger.


The incident created a strong bond between Noel and his dog, giving him a deep, long-lasting respect for his canine companion. Whenever Noel spoke, Ebi would cock her head to one side, listening to every word.

One of her favourite pastimes was chasing birds; if Noel ever said "Ebi, where are the magpies?", she'd get excited, barking, and looking around to find the birds that she loved to run after.

As Ebi grew older, she began to suffer from common ailments that affect elderly dogs. She could not have had a more dedicated owner than Noel, and she received the best possible treatment.

At the age of 13, she developed diabetes, requiring insulin injections twice daily. She then developed a complication of diabetes: cataracts, that caused her to go blind.

Many people would just accept this as part of the process of old age, but Noel was determined to help his dog. He paid for complex surgery to have the cataracts removed, giving Ebi her sight back. She eventually had to have one of her eyes removed, because of painful complications, but she lived a full, active life with one good, fully functional eye.

The years passed, and Ebi continued to thrive, enjoying regular walks with Noel. At the age of 18, around four months ago, a large tumour developed on the inside of her left hind leg. I discussed the problem with Noel. Ebi was now very elderly: would it be kinder to consider euthanasia at this stage? Noel wouldn't hear of it. An operation to remove the tumour was carried out; the wound healed well, and Ebi returned to full health.


Sadly, there's no escaping the effects of advancing age. A month ago, Ebi developed her final problem: her kidneys stopped working. She began to drink huge amounts of water, and she lost interest in food and exercise. She just wanted to lie around, and she lost weight.

If she'd been a human, dialysis and a kidney transplant might have been available, but for a dog, treatment is limited. She was given everything possible to help her, and at first, she rallied. She started to eat well, and her enthusiasm for exercise returned. But the respite was only temporary.

Last weekend, Noel decided that enough was enough. Ebi came to see me for her last visit. I took a photo of her in the carpark: when Noel asked her about the magpies, her ears pricked up, and she barked, for one last time.

If we hadn't carried out euthanasia, she would have died in discomfort a few days later: it was a blessing for her to slip away peacefully.

She's a dog who will never be forgotten -- by Noel, by myself, and perhaps now, by many Herald readers.