Friday, 5 May 2017

Farewell, Archie

Archie: 2000 - 2017

This morning, I took Archie for his final walk (actually two of them), he had his final breakfast, he made his last visit to Mam and Dad's house, and then he took his final ride in the car on his fluffy blanket.
Do I get a treat for sitting so nicely?
Archie has been in fragile health for many years - he had a really bad back as the result of an attack by a much bigger dog a few years ago, and the injury constantly threatened the feeling in all four legs.  He also had a failing liver and a heart murmur, and the latter was slowly but surely getting worse and meant he was losing power in his back legs.  Throughout all this, he was he usual chirpy and stoic self and always looked well considering how many health problems he had.  He loved his food (particularly biscuits and tuna) and he loved his walks, right up until the end.
I love it here, lots of sniffs to sniff, lots of people to admire me.  Now, how about a biscuit?
Yesterday evening, I took him to the field (one of his favourite sniffing spots) and although initially keen to be there, he lost interest after a few minutes and it was then that I thought 'I think he's starting to fade.'  He was poorly overnight and I got up at half one and stayed up with him, sitting on the floor next to him while he snored away under a blanket without a care in the world.  I just couldn't bear to go upstairs and leave him on what I knew was his last night with me.
It's late, why are you still up?

While I was sitting with him, I thought about where I would take him for his final walk, and eventually decided that he'd like it to be at the beach as in his younger days he loved being there chasing stones, eating seaweed (and then throwing it back up in the boot on the way home) and digging a hole right at your feet if you stood still for longer than thirty seconds.  He was astonishingly good at running into the shallows after a stone and would come back with the right one, even if he'd never seen it before it was thrown.  I don't know how he did it, I can only assume that enough of my scent remained, even when immersed in the sea.  So this morning, I took him for a walk to the headland as it was as close to the beach as I could get him (too far for him to walk/be carried onto the sand and there's plenty of sniffs to be had in the long grass) and he had a marvellous time.  He got straight up off his bed when I asked if he'd like to go for a walk, his ears were fantastic and he wandered round for about twenty-five minutes, even haring off down one of the paths towards the beach.  (Old dogs are a lot like toddlers: they can move faster than you think when they want!)
Just the ticket: one final photo shoot.  Remember our agreement about payment upfront?

Aren't I handsome?

On the way home, I stopped at the top of the road (his most favourite sniffing spot) so he could have one last sniff and say goodbye to all the sniffs he has known and loved. He came back and promptly gobbled up a piece of chicken sausage, and then more sausage along with some chicken.  He was so perky and like his usual self that I began to wonder if I'd been mistaken, but deep down I knew it was a last hurrah and that it was time to say goodbye.  We went to see our favourite vet (and our favourite two receptionists) and he ate nigh on an entire packet of treats while waiting.  It was important that I let him go while he was still happy and still having more good days than bad: I didn't want to hang onto him because I couldn't bear to let him go, I wanted him to still have some quality of life and to walk into the vets', not be rushed in and carried in a blanket.  Me and Mam stayed with him the whole time and he wasn't frightened: I know I made the right decision for him, at the right time for him.

Archie, we met in August 2001 when I visited a small local animal sanctuary with Dad and Charlie, and the moment I saw you in the cage, I knew you were the dog for me and I was the owner for you.  You pressed your side against the mesh so I could stroke you and then you put your paw through one of the gaps and dragged my hand towards your armpit and chest, where you particularly liked to be stroked.  You did that many times over the years and I never failed to remember that moment in the rescue centre.
Fuss me

Thirty minutes after pulling up, and after a little walk round the woods with Charlie (to make sure you got on), we put you in the car and headed for home.  You sang all the way home and wandered round the back of the car, and I wondered if you were starting as you meant to go on.  In fact, you sang in the car for many, many years as you knew that going in the car meant going somewhere exciting.  I can't say I appreciated it all the time, but it was part of what made you you.
Comfier than it looks, honest!

More sun, fantastic!

People have wondered why I decided to call you Archie The Wonder Dog, and that's an easy one to answer: you were wonderful.  And also, because you used to lie on a favourite bed in such a way that you reminded me of Superman:

You were always obedient and keen to please (except when you nearly killed yourself chewing through the casing on the plug for the fridge-freezer while it was plugged in and switched on and it's only because you managed to pull it from the wall before you got right through the casing that I had you until today.  And the time you chewed my car tax renewal notice and the post master humiliated Mam when she handed it over.) and you only got lost once, when you followed the wrong person in the dark.  You'd been living here for about three months and you ran all the way home and waited for me at the gate, wandering out to greet me with an envious nonchalance as I gasped for breath, having also run all the way home after another walker said they'd seen a white dog sprinting up the cut.
Can we get going yet, I've got sniffs to find!
You were the whitest dog I have ever known and you kept your lovely white coat right to the end - no yellowing or grizzled muzzle for you and you deserved the nickname the local bairns gave you of 'Daz Dog': other dog owners would stop to ask how I kept you so clean, but it was all down to you and the fact that you tiptoed round deep puddles rather than running through them.  Not that you were afraid of getting dirty, just that you were afraid of water (which made bath time very stressful, even when you were being washed outside with a bucket of tepid soapy water and a flannel) and I always wondered if something had happened to you as a puppy.  You were in that rescue centre twice: once as a puppy and then again eighteen months later when your first family took you back.  I could never understand how or why they did that, but I'm glad they did because it meant I got to look after the best rescue dog who ever lived, and for that I will always be grateful.
I'm so white, I shine!
Archie, you have been my constant companion for nigh on sixteen years and I don't know what I'm going to do without you.  The house feels odd and I keep looking to see where you are and if you're okay.  I know you are, though, because you're with Dad, Charlie and Alfie, probably running around on the search for food.  You'll have to be quick, though, to beat Charlie to it!
I love tuna!
You loved a walk and you loved a biscuit (or three) and any combination of those made you happy.  You loved to walk on the beach, in the woods, on the moors or just round our local area and you were so obedient that you could be off the lead as soon as we left the roads behind.  You never ran off after something (apart from the odd half-hearted chase of a rabbit when you felt you owed your terrier ancestry to give it a go) and would always come back at the pip of the whistle.  Of course, you weren't always quite so obedient when it came to food and once nibbled a snout-sized hole in the bottom of the spare food bag (which lived under the settee in the conservatory at that point) and ate about a fortnight's worth of food in a few days!

You loved to play find the treat, and I would hide them round the house so you could find and eat them.  You greeted every visitor with the expectation of treats (and weren't afraid to put your nose in their bags to check for provisions) and you once even climbed on a park bench next to a friend who always gave you a treat and ate all the treats out of his coat pocket!  However, you were so charming that you got away with it, and he even got the treats out of his other pocket for you.
There's someone coming and he's definitely bringing biscuits - I requested them!

You were excellent at finding things the food fairy had left for you - an entire packet of biscuits, cheese, burgers, chips, a jam doughnut (although to be fair, that was momentarily left on the ground (in a box) by a boy playing hide and seek with his friends, not by the food fairy, but you weren't to know that and you certainly ate it with impressive speed - the boy couldn't believe how fast you were and how little you chewed it) and the only time you didn't come back when called was when you had your nose in a bag of food or you were searching for the final crumb from a piece of cake.  You always gave yourself away, though, because you'd come back licking your lips and looking very pleased with your find.  You also would spend hours standing at the fence between us and a previous set of neighbours when they had a barbecue because you knew that at some point a substantial piece of chicken would be passed to you.  In fact, they used to cook one specially for you so you didn't miss out!
Any moment now...
You had a lovely curly tail, which was incredibly hard to photograph, and the most expressive ears (and eyes) of any dog I've met: your ear action was good until the end.

Have you taken enough photos yet?

I think the lilac complements my ear action - what do you think?
The wind is playing havoc with my ears!
You loved a sunny spot, either inside or out:
Wall, I do love you.
and would lie on the front grass bathing in the sun and keeping watch for anything happening on the street.
Nothing to report as yet.
I'm afraid I can't look at you for much longer, I need to keep an eye on the street!

You also loved the snow, and would run gleefully through it, not at all fazed by the cold under your paws.
I love snow!!!
You also loved your sleep and would cover yourself completely in a blanket so that you couldn't be seen.  More than once I couldn't find you in the house, only to discover that you were under the heap of blankets and beds.  You much preferred to be under a bed than on it, and I'd often find you perfectly covered by a blanket...and laid on the cold kitchen floor.
I didn't like being in the kitchen by myself

 The sound of gentle snores emanating from a blanket has been the soundtrack to the last sixteen years (well, that and the sound of you whingeing for another biscuit), and the house is silent now it's stopped.  Like a clock that's stopped ticking and which leaves an echoing silence in its stead.

I will miss you, Archie, in more ways than I can say.  I could fill hours with stories of how wonderful you were: kind, gentle, sympathetic, amusing. However, none of them would convey how much I love you or, indeed, how much I know you loved me.

Farewell, Archie, you were adored by many, and you are missed.

Keeping your eyes open and your head up is very hard when you're in a sunny spot.
This is the life!

What's that, Mini Archie
What's that, little one?

My other ear?  I don't know what you mean!

How can you resist this face?   You can't?  Great, I'll have a biscuit, please!

Are you sure pink's my colour?


Goodbye, Archie, and thank you.

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