In 2005, we retired to the seaside.
My grand-daughter, Chloë, had begged for a dog since she was old enough to realise that it wasn’t really Sandy, the cat, who talked to her on the phone and I had promised that “when we move to the seaside….”, so then, all I had to do was appeal to Julian’s better nature.
Julian never had pets when he was a child and had had one or two bad experiences with dogs. He somehow believed that if a dog barked at you, it was shouting its hatred and would attack any time, so it wasn’t exactly easy to persuade him to go to the Dogs’ Trust to have a look, though he did realise that having a dog might be a good thing.
We visited the rescue centre and walked along the row of cages. In each were one or two dogs and all were barking. They were obviously saying, “take me, take me” but Julian believed they were saying “I hate you!”. Suddenly we were standing before a cage containing two dogs, one of whom ran into the back and the other, which sat and smiled at Julian, saying, “I love you with all my heart, please take me home.” We did – a couple of days later, after checks to make sure we would be good adoptive parents and our garden would keep Rosie safe.
That first day we took Rosie on her new lead out of the centre and opened the rear passenger door of the car. In she jumped and I sat alongside her while Julian got into the driver’s seat. Immediately, Rosie joined him by going through the gap, over the gear shift and hand-brake and onto his lap. From the photos you can see that she was not a small dog and, anyway, it’s against the law to drive with a dog on your lap, or it should be if it isn’t! So, I pulled her into the back and held onto her very tightly. She decided that she wanted to sit where I was so perched herself on my lap. All Rosie’s twenty five pounds were focused in her two front feet and onto my left thigh for much of the remaining twenty or so minutes it took to drive home.
We adopted Rosie just before Guy Fawkes night. I was a bit apprehensive because I knew that dogs were not any more keen on the noise of fireworks than I was/am and, what I was reading on the internet about dogs on Firework night made me even more worried! There were tales of dogs leaping through closed windows and disappearing into the distance and I had visions of Rosie smashing through the double glazing in the lounge and taking off for parts unknown. We did what we could to keep her calm we turned on loud music, sang, pulled the curtains shut, and tried to make more noise than the firworks but to no avail. Rosie went to her newly purchased wicker bed and tore it apart while I kept picking up the bits so she wouldn’t swallow them and get them stuck in her throat. The fireworks petered out around one am and so did we.
In he following February Rosie proved that she didn’t need the noise of fireworks to cause damage to wicker! I had emptied a waste paper basket and left it on the stairs to take up later. At some point in the afternoon I went upstairs and found Rosie, surrounded by the remnants of said waste basket. After that I hid, or at least made it difficult to get at, anything that she might think was available for the same treatment.
Rosie was the sweetest-natured dog. She loved all her humans, including Chloë who came to visit several times, but she loved Julian most of all. She wanted to be near him at all times and would follow him around the house. Only if Julian were out, would I get that same treatment (and I was the one that fed her!) She loved playing with her toys, of which she had many. She would chase and fetch but didn’t really have the concept of giving back. Daily, she and I would go upstairs where there was a lot of running room and I would throw one of her toys from the across the bedroom and down the corridor while she sat on the bed and watched, then she would leap down and race to get the toy and bring it back – to the bed. Fifteen minutes of play usually led to an hour or two of nap-time which was good as I was tired out!
BUT, Rosie could not get on with other dogs. We had been told that there was no problem. We should have taken more notice when we took her for a short walk at the centre before taking her home. As we arrived back we had to go across a yard where a helper was putting another dog through its paces and Rosie, seeing the dog, went crazy, pulling on her lead and barking. Being dog-virgins, we thought it was a one-off and that she had something against that dog. Nope! Every other dog in the world was an enemy. Walking on the prom above Viking Bay or on the beach was a nightmare; Joss Bay was quite good if we got there when no other dogs were around but immediately another dog turned up, Rosie became a menace. I still shudder when I remember the day, two or three days after we got Rosie, when Chloë and I went to the shops and I left Chloë, who was only a skinny kid of eleven, holding on to Rosie’s lead while I stepped inside the bakery to buy some cakes. It is with relief that I can look back and praise god that not one dog walked past on our side of the road – or the other – because Rosie was that bad about other dogs. Another time, some years later, I was walking her down a quiet street and I had, for a moment or two, stopped my careful lookout for other dogs and I suddenly found myself face-down on the pavement and Rosie, across the road, trying to attack a pair of dogs who were being walked by another woman. Luckily, the woman had the presence of mind to grab Rosie’s lead and hold her away from her dogs while I picked myself up from the road and went across to grab Rosie. There was no harm done, thankfully, except to my nerve. I seldom walked her again, I’m sorry to say.
We did try to solve the problem, mind you. A dog trainer came to our house, chatted, played with Rosie, then took her out to his van where, in one of two cages, there was a rottweiler. He put Rosie into the other cage and there was no problem! He – and we took her for a nice walk to some nearby fields and she showed us what a good girl she was, walking very nicely – for the trainer. Later that day, Julian took Rosie for a walk, came across a little dog and Rosie went crazy!
Then, we went to a ‘dog psychologist’ whose practice was somewhere in the country outside Canterbury. We spent an hour or so with him and he did the same trick, putting Rosie near another dog who was separated, this time by a fence. Her only reaction was interest. Home we went, full of enthusiasm, only to find no change. The psychologist suggested a change in diet, a change in the way we held the lead, a special harness type lead etc etc but, in the end nothing worked and we had a dog who would not or could not be trusted to be near other dogs. We had some nightmare Christmases when we took Rosie to my mother-in-law’s house for a visit. Damien, Julian’s younger brother, also brought his (well-behaved) dog, Jet. The first year wasn’t too bad and I hoped that Jet had a calming influence on Rosie but, as Christmas followed Christmas, it was evident that Rosie would never get better and in the end we either stayed home at Christmas or kept Rosie closed up in another room when Jet was there.
Despite these problems we all loved Rosie and were happy that she was part of our family.
Last winter Rosie got a runny nose, just from one nostril. Our wonderful vet thought she must have sniffed a small particle of something up her nose and that she would sneeze it out. When that didn’t happen, she gave Rosie antibiotics in case it was some sort of infection. Then we tried several courses of antihistimines in case it was some sort of allergy. Before the spring came, Rosie had become run down, not eating or drinking much and spending almost every minute lying on her bed. Every once in a while she would look at me with sadness in her eyes. She must have known that she would not be getting better. I didn’t believe that. But, then she started struggling to breathe through her nose and I knew it was time. Our vet and her nurse came to the house. I sat with her while they gave her an injection and she fell asleep. Julian couldn’t bring himself to come say goodbye.
I miss her every day and can’t begin to think about getting another dog – because it won’t be Rosie.