Wednesday, 20 November 2013

All dogs go to heaven

This week my mum’s old dog died. In his prime, he was a handsome Show Champion with the world at his paws. But lately he hadn’t been too steady on those paws, and while his golden heart and his spirit were still strong, Merkel could no longer stand long enough to get himself to the garden when he needed to. Drugs were no longer keeping his aches and pains from arthritis at bay and it was time to let him go.

Merkel was my eldest daughter’s favourite dog. She has a large printout of a photo of her proudly walking him (recall whistle around her neck) on her bedroom door. Telling her he had been put to sleep broke my heart a little – and the news naturally made her bury her head in her pillow too. She is sad that his is gone – but accepting that he had got older and weaker, and that sometimes the kinder thing is to say goodbye before a loved pet suffers.

Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware, Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
The Power of the Dog - Kipling
Behind him, however, he leaves a legacy. As well as children, grandchildren and great, great grandchildren (!) across the countryside he will always be the first dog my daughter loved. Although as a Hungarian Vizsla, Merkel was medium to large build, he was very gentle and biddable. When he curled up in front of the fire he took his blankie with him, and sucked either that or his toe. He always had a soft toy with him too – which he displayed proudly to anyone he could. He thoroughly enjoyed playing with the puppies born in his house – and offered whelping bitches respite as their offspring tested out their teeth on his ears. He was always pleased to see two-legged guests too and let my children walk, lead and play with him, sitting, fetching and returning as they commanded.

It is often said that alongside health benefits, such as reducing allergies and stress and increasing time spent outdoors, pets offer children the opportunity to learn about responsibility and nurturing – and ultimately about loss too. These lessons are life skills that will prove invaluable as they grow older. But Merkel taught my girls so much more than that. He taught them to be generous with both enthusiasm and love – and for that alone, he will always be cherished.

Rest in peace you fine old man.


  1. Oh Vanessa - this made me feel quite weepy! He sounds a lovely dog. Maybe you should adopt one of his offspring's offspring...! I agree - I think dogs add something special to family life (along with a bit of dirt, mess and general untidiness!) But I wouldn't be without mine now.

    1. Yes, he was a fine old thing! At least now he has a little bit of cyberspace to himself. I'm still recovering from the loss of my pointer (a mere 7 years ago), which is one of the (many) reasons I've not gone down the dog route...yet!! Thanks for commenting.