Are you married? Did people bring you gifts to celebrate your joining and wish you well together in your married life? Of course they did.
On a Saturday in September just over 12 years ago my new wife and I, after a busy morning, church service, full reception with dinner and speeches retired to our room for an hour or so before the evening guests began arriving. Unlike the stereotypical expectations of your guests as you depart to your room we were knackered. We were glad to just kick off our shoes and flop on the bed for 90 mins.
It is tradition of course for couples to exchange gifts too. I had bought diamond earrings for wifey and gave them to her early so she could wear them for the ceremony. My gift was still pending and with the moment of the day had been forgotten about. As we lay on the bed I glanced across at the TV in the room. Sat on top of it was a silver looking item wrapped in cellophane. It wasn’t very clear what it was. “What’s that?” I asked. “That’s your present” she replied. She asked me what I thought it was. I told her it looked like a dogs dinner bowl. “It is” she smiled. I think I just had a quizzical and confused look on my face because she went on to ask me why she would buy me such a thing. “Because you’ve bought me a dog?” I asked hesitantly.
Her smile said it all.
Those of you who are regular readers will now realise that we already had two dogs. This was number 3 and gave us the full set of Labradors; yellow, chocolate and now black.
The following day we set off on our honeymoon. We stayed in the UK and the two dogs came with us. We drove to the kennels on the way to Kielder (where I had proposed) and I was introduced to a little black ball who would be ready for collection after our honeymoon.
We spent the next few weeks touring Scotland and had many laughs trying to come up with a name. Wifey’s dog was named Boddington and she was keen to continue the alcohol theme and name him Murphy. This wasn’t very appealing to me but couldn’t come up with an alternative I liked. We eventually ended up on the Isle of Arran. When I was 11 this was the island where me, my brothers and mum wore my dad down and he gave in to us having our first dog. We picked him up from Glasgow on the way home and being from Scotland he was a Westie. We named him Corrie after a village on Arran.
During our visit Wifey and I visited Brodick Castle. In the visitor centre was a wall covered in photos of people’s dogs and their names. I browsed the various photos and found myself drawn to one of a handsome black Lab called Moss. “Look” I said. “I like that name. It stands for
what do you think?”
It stuck. Moss was collected a week or so later and joined us in the village with the other two. He had his photo taken and joined the “puppy portrait”
We are lucky to live surrounded by fields and hills. Perfect dog country. On our walks up the hills it quickly became apparent that Moss was a bunny chaser. On letting him loose he would run tirelessly up the hill and round and down and back up again. Whilst we covered the short 500m to the top of the first climb Moss had done a mile or two at full tilt.
Moss was to be different. My yellow Lab was soft as putty with people and was fine with our pack of dogs but any other dog was a threat. He could be nasty yet always lost! Moss was enrolled at a local dog club and was to be socialised properly. This bit worked. He was always tolerant of other dogs. He did struggle with heel though. Around a square in a training class he was good. Walking him up the road he was a puller and strong on the lead. He seemed, in his little head to associate walking to heel with four marker posts and a class of dogs and nowhere else.
It wasn’t long before children were on their way. Each and every single one of them has been knocked over by an enthusiastic dog, a wagging tail and had chocolate pinched from their hands. That said all three dogs were climbed on, pulled, pushed, prodded and sat on by the kids without one grumble of complaint. Typical Labs.
Moss did very well in the club and I eventually started doing classes with the eldest (the only one at that time) in a backpack carrier. He progressed onto agility and the strongest bond I’ve ever had with a dog began to be forged. He loved it. We gained two qualifications and he and I were asked to be support crew for the display team. Support crew was the way into the team. I helped set up and assisted with props. At the end of the display Moss was allowed to do the jumps, tunnels and then went on to the fire work including jumps and a high beam.
Moss took it in his stride and the following year he would progress onto the team. Sadly he never made it. Later that year he was suffering pain and a visit to the vet showed hip displacia. His agility career was over. The vet operated and removed the femoral head from one of his legs. Basically the ball bit that makes up the ball and socket joint in the hip. With no connection I thought he would just fall over but the vet reassured me that his strong muscles would serve him well. They did and within a few weeks he was out walking again. A few weeks after that he was running around bunny hunting again but no more agility work.
Moss has been a faithful companion over the years. I love walking and taking a pair of binoculars or my camera with me. Moss was the perfect buddy. We went everywhere and walked 1000’s of miles together. I never walked anywhere alone. He was my Pal. When all the family were away there was always somebody at home pleased to see me when I came in from work.
Gradually the quality of Moss’s whole skeleton began to show. Arthritis took a firm hold on his back legs and eventually his front. Mobility got worse but he was happy and loved to sit on the front lawn in the sun watching the children play.
About 4 years ago he started a course of metacam. This was to be for the rest of his life. It helped to deal with minor pain he was getting. After 12 months the vet gave me an alternative medicine. It did the same job but was in a bigger bottle and cheaper. Moss went downhill rapidly. His back legs lost all control and if he couldn’t be bothered to try to stand he would drag his bum along the floor. I saw his time approaching and talked to the girls about decisions and doing the right thing for Moss.
At that time we were having a new kitchen. The house was in chaos and I had been talking to the workmen about Moss whom he had won over on the first day. We all knew it was just a matter of time. Over a period of 3 days of madness I missed Moss’s medication. On the third morning I was in the bedroom and saw the work van pulling on the drive. The front door was open and Moss started barking to greet them. I went downstairs to meet the workers. “What have you done to the dog” he asked. I looked down the garden. Moss was on all four paws and albeit wobbly, walking down the garden. “He’s been touched by the hand of God” said the chap with a grin. From an inevitable visit to the vet Moss defied reason and got back on his feet. Even now the vet cannot really explain it. She says the meds are identical. Her only explanation was a trapped nerve that was suddenly no longer trapped.
Moss stayed off all medication from that point on. He lost sensation in his back paws and legs so there was no pain to deal with. Sadly the nerves that control that section of his body also control bladder and bowel function. Whilst control of his bladder remained tight his other end began to give. We are fortunate to have wooden floors which made clean up easy. Mostly he got out in time but as time went on he would know he wanted to go but by the time we got the door open he’d dropped it in the house on the way to the door. He simply couldn’t feel it.
It sounds awful and in some ways it was but I couldn’t get rid of him just because he was a nuisance. He was part of the family. For the last 9 months or so that has been our existence. Getting up in the nighttime sort him out and clean up. When people came to the door it often released his bowel. There’s nothing like inviting someone in and then apologising whilst you clean up the mess from the geriatric and incontinent dog! All our friends and family just accepted that he was old and couldn’t help it.
Despite the raw hand life had dealt him Moss was always chirpy and happy. Riddled with arthritis as he was his tail remained unaffected and would thump against the piano when lying on his bed.
As littlest (in photo above) has become more mobile Moss’s problem has become more of an issue. We haven’t had a nightmare scenario but it was only a matter of time. Up until a few days ago Moss was mostly solid but recently his bowels went loose. This just exacerbated the problem. He has gradually been losing his marbles. There were times when we couldn’t help but be cross at another mess to clean up. He always looked ashamed with an admission it was his. He just couldn’t explain how it got there. He was also going deaf and some mornings would just sleep through me coming down and making breakfast. He’d often stir and have a surprised “How long have you been there” look on his face.
I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve got up to let him out and clean up. Our house is open plan and the smell would drift upstairs. I had a good chat with him yesterday and that he needed to sort himself out or we would have to make a decision. I told him I would rather he let me know when he was ready. Last night was no different and I got up to clean up a loose mess. He seemed more distressed than normal and would not settle afterwards. Wifey and I lay in bed and pondered about how much longer this could go on for. I lay awake for three hours tormented by the situation. I fell on the only option open to me. I prayed. I asked for guidance and the wisdom to make the right decision. I fell asleep but got up to him barking another 3 times. He was ok and happy to see me but not himself.
I finally awoke at 7am and the answer was with me. It now all made sense.
At 10.30 this morning I sat on the floor in the vets. The same room I had been in with Boddington a few years ago. The vet was very understanding and supportive. She was surprised we had carried on for so long. My old boy lay on the floor and put his head in my lap. Like the true gentleman he was he trusted me completely and allowed the vet to do her stuff whilst he just took fuss from me his face moist with my tears.
I sat with him for a good 10 minutes afterward and just thought of all the fun and enjoyment he had brought me over the years. For a dog nearly 13 years old he had very little grey. A handsome chap with a wonderful shiny coat.
I’m home now and for the first time in 32 years there is no dog at home. The house feels empty. The picture below was taken this morning.
As a wedding present he was just the best but it really is true; only diamonds are forever.
Rest in piece Moss, my Pal. We will all miss you very much.