In 1997 Hong Kong was being returned to China and the Pet Passport scheme with microchipping was started, so that the Governor and his staff could bring back their dogs without the dreaded six months’ quarantine. It became available to the public in late 2000. We too could have a dog now, and take it abroad every summer on our holidays. We had wanted a dog for years.

Harry sit bHarry the Dog was in a small dog rescue home at Reigate in November. We went to get a labrador with a brown nose but it had been taken earlier that afternoon, and he, a liver-and-white springer spaniel whelp, was left. He was dumped with them some weeks earlier by a military family from Scotland and even now was only five months old. He bounded up and licked Janet furiously, “Please have me.”  Samuel and Laura liked him too so we took him home with us.

Harry not bite

He was a bit loopy and full of energy. We quickly loved him and he reciprocated – proving it by chewing my favourite tie and several socks. Walking him was like flying a kite, until he was let off his lead when he would run and run yet keep an eye on us ready to be called back. Janet and Laura took him to obedience classes but he failed. He once ate Samuel’s put-aside dinner and half a pound of butter. If you sat down he was determined to lick your face all over – or legs, feet, whatever, any skin. A loopy dog full of love.  He would never bite anyone, even if you grabbed his lower jaw, pulled his tail and turned him upside-down!

05aug clive&dog2

He would claim an object as a trophy and run past us over and over, growling and tossing it, getting us to wrest it from him before winning it back again and repeating the show.

He had to be walked every morning by Janet and in the evening we would both take him out, his tail held high or, if he were running, circling fast.

Walking the dog was an onerous yet pleasant task – having to walk out in heavy rain and mud, needing to hose him down before bringing him into the house; night-walking him even after eleven at night when we had been out and he needed his run in the woods (wearing a collar with twenty flashing red LEDs so we could spot him) he always had his walks. We have memories of walking him in Fetcham as heavy snow fell through orange street lighting at night, marveling at the outlandish Christmas lights some people have, or sliding on pavements of ice with doggo straining to pull and get a grip, or with a gale shoving us all around and clattering thousands of crisp brown leaves along the road. Times you wouldn’t go out, unless you had to walk the dog.

 

Harry passpt p1

We obtained a passport for Harry the Dog so that we could take him abroad.  Harry passpt p2For the next six years of his life he went with us on the car ferry to our house in Brittany every Easter and summer. He slept in the car boot unattended for twenty four hours as per Brittany Ferries regulations, before they thought of having kennels on the ferry.

 He just adapted to the routine – amazing!

He was a brilliant companion for Samuel and Laura, especially playing at chase on our big French lawn.

An excellent entertainer, one autumn he played in a field of cabbages, leaping as if he had springs on his feet for five whole minutes, full of the joys of freedom and unlimited energy, with green sheds of leaves flying around his flapping ears whilst we stood beside the field crying with laughter.

Harry camping a

We went camping for weeks on end in southern France and northern Spain and as part of the family he came with us, although he had to live in the car boot. He loved swimming and leaped into any open water wherever he could for a quick dip. He was taken to the seaside, to lakes and river beaches in Spain and to streams and rivers in the Pyrenees. He could run or walk for hours without tiring.

One evening we sneaked him with us into a restaurant in Amarante, Portugal, hiding him under the table which had just been vacated by a couple who’d nibbled a pile of spare ribs. As we waited we slipped a rib to doggo who silently scoffed it and licked his lips. Nice place, isn’t it? – another rib for Harry. It was a busy night and – another rib – whilst the waiter scooted round attending to other people – another – doggo swiftly and silently munched his way through the whole plateful – another – until the waiter finally came to clear up and – quick, last one! – thinking aloud “Oh, that’s odd.” Under the table, a dog full to bustin’.

Doggo enjoying a cup of tea

Doggo enjoying a cup of tea

Samuel and Laura realised that Harry the Hound would do anything for food, which was how they taught him tricks like putting food down and telling him to wait – he would even drool – then when told to “Go on!” watching him pounce on it and devour it instantly. He played hide and seek for food every morning with me, before I went to work. He would woof to be given a cup of tea now and again.

He loved to play “Stick” – show it to him, throw it, he ran for it, brought it back then would not give it up!

Clive, Janet and Harry Dog

Clive, Janet and Harry Dog

When Janet and I emigrated to Portugal in 2004 Harry came with us.

A year later his prostate swelled and he had to be castrated to save his life. His hormones changed, his once silky fur became woolly and his slim muscular form became tubby. We were sad there could be no little Harrys now. He had a great life, lots of woodland walks, and in the winter he slept in his basket near the wood fire in the evenings as it died out overnight. He remained alert, intelligent and active as he grew older, a good companion and always there. He would come into our bedroom and lick us Good Morning every day.

Harry Dog haircutA kind friend told us that he would need his fur cut every summer because it grew thicker now and the summer on Portugal is hot – and after a furcut Harry was very pleased with himself! He always waved his tail like a flag, up high and wagging. He joined us on our exploration of central Portugal and later on the quest to find a quinta to occupy our time.

The builders on our quinta liked him, tossed him scraps, took him to swim in the ponds and made a fuss of him; doggo liked to watch them working.

We drove the car to England every March and took him with us, visiting our families. At the start of our visit three years ago Harry, now twelve, was chased off the farm where we were staying by the farm dogs – they saw him as an old and unwelcome outsider. He was lost to us from before breakfast all day and all that night, which was frosty. Neither we nor our hosts could find him.

Harry and Roxy 2

In the middle of the next morning their neighbour came round saying they had found a dog under a thick thorn hedge.It was Harry, scared and defeated, now chilled to the bones, having had no food or water for 36 hours. We pulled him out and brought him to Laura’s house, where we warmed him and nursed him back to respond to us. Laura’s new puppy Roxy, a gold and blonde cocker spaniel, cuddled up to him, licked him and cheered him up, made him feel wanted again. After two days he could manage to get onto his feet but his tail never rose above half mast again and he ran no more.

 

After that he became an old dog. He slowed down and a year later on the ferry, I had to carry him up and down stairs. He did not want to go for a walk, he preferred to lie down rather than sit, and to stay indoors. His hearing was fading. Janet decided he might improve with a diet of a three-egg omelette for breakfast and meat or fish for tea. However over time his eyes clouded with cataracts, he started to pant more often, his heart became congested, and Janet stayed in Portugal with our doggo whilst I did the family visits alone the next year. He deteriorated, losing his sight altogether and hearing only loud noises, At least he could bark to tell us he needed to go for a wee, but that was sometimes during the night. He struggled to get to his feet, eventually needing putting onto his feet then only creeping as far as the end of the patio to wee.  He gasped for breath at times each day.

I made a short visit to England alone this year. By now his tail was weak and he slept most of the time, sensing very little except touch. His legs were so stiff that he couldn’t get up without help and even when placed onto his feet he needed holding to stop him falling backwards.

Once a month I have to drive over the mountains to check our former house. Over the last year or so Harry panted for most of that journey, it stressed him, so I would go alone and only rarely would all three of us go. This time (May) we did, because the air temperature over there is so much cooler than on the quinta which was forecast as forty degrees for three days. We planned to have Harry’s fur trimmed at the vet on the way back. With the forecast of a very hot summer and a dog already struggling to live, we made the decision, it’s time for Harry to go to sleep forever, life has no joy for him now.

The vet knew us and Harry and was very kind. With us by his side and whilst I stroked his head and said bye bye to Harry she put him to sleep. His feeble heart faded and in a few seconds he was gone. Free from his worn-out body.

He was a wonderful pet who enriched our lives so much. We paid £90 for him – what he gave us was priceless. We miss him immensely.

I think he will reincarnate as a lovely puppy for another couple, a brilliant pet for them too. One of our friends says his spirit will continue to live with us.  What do you think?

 

 

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