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Tag Archives: Alfie

Life Turns on a Sixpence

My Beautiful EricIt’s been two weeks and two days since I lost my beloved Eric. I miss him terribly and my little house seems suddenly too big without him shambling around or barking insanely at the postman or knocking my slippers off my feet as he follows me, too closely, up the stairs.

It isn’t only my grief, of course. As if the tears of my family weren’t enough, I didn’t realise how much he meant to everybody until I discovered that my niece, Medusa, had secreted his collar, lead and muzzle in her school bag. Her consternation when I asked for them back a few days later was so sad to see. We agreed that I could have the lead but she could keep the collar and the muzzle. The muzzle was a recent addition to Eric’s life. I bought it as his condition worsened and his behaviour became more unpredictable. I hated it as much as he did but it was necessary when he was around the kids, lest he snapped at them. I found it strange that Medusa would want to keep it, but she did, and now her teddy bear wears it with the collar. Not sure how Ted feels about that.

Having a dog that was known as a character in the village means I’ve cried publicly several times as I’ve explained to concerned locals where Eric has gone. And so has my sister, St Francis. We are a right bunch of softies in my family.

But every sad ending brings a new beginning.

Loving Homes Dog Rescue, the charity that placed Eric with us, let me know that a female Doberman cross was in urgent need of a new home and I was sorely tempted. She was a truly lovely looking dog but, like many rescue dogs, she had her issues and after coping with Eric’s deterioration, I was exhausted. I needed a gentler housemate. (We are making it up to them by possibly fostering a little six-month-old that was stolen from her owner by muggers who apparently wanted her as a bait dog.) So I browsed various rescue sites on the internet, without any real idea of taking on another dog so soon, until I happened across Great Dane Care and that was that.

I like big dogs. I like all dogs (well, nearly all) but I really like big dogs and I’ve had Danes before so I stopped on the Great Dane Care site and had a look around. As luck would have it, the half-starved and mistreated Alfie was at the top of the page. St F and I made enquiries and exactly one week ago Alfie took up residence in my house. No longer is my home echoing and empty. It’s filled with the snoring, farting and grunting of its newest occupant. I still see Eric everywhere but it is a calm feeling as if some remnant of Eric’s spirit has given his approval – but then that’s the rescue dog prayer, isn’t it? ‘When I go, let another experience the love and care that you gave me …’

Any of you who read my earlier post Int Life Brilliant? will know that I’ve had an Alfie in my life before. We don’t duplicate names, St F and I. It wouldn’t be fair to our Alfie’s memory and it wouldn’t be fair to this chap so St F and I spent that first day watching our new friend to work out what his name could be. A chance remark  from St F about the dog’s very mobile and expressive eyebrows led to me joking about Roger Moore (An actor famous for his being able to raise one or both eyebrows). There was a pause, St F and I looked at each other – ‘Roger,’ she said. ‘I like that.’ And so Alfie the Dane became Roger the Dane. He’s also known as Roger Dodger, Roger the Lodger, Droopy and Slobadan. The last refers to his drooling like a leaky tap, especially at mealtimes.

Starved, beaten, with scars that are quite likely to come from cigarette burns, Roger is a surprisingly trusting soul. Well-mannered, gentle and calm and I am more than a little in love with him already. Thank god for the people who work so hard in rescue centres like Loving Homes Dog Rescue and Great Dane Care, They don’t make any money and they witness the awfulness of man’s inhumanity daily. I am truly glad that people like St F and I are trusted to care for some of their precious creatures.

Roger's first day

Roger’s first day

Look at those ribs!

Look at those ribs!

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Family Life

 

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Two Dry Days In A Row

Yes people, we have had two days without rain! A weekend of aridity after Friday’s wickedly mischievous wind pushed tiles off St F’s roof and sent them hurtling to a soft landing in the ankle-deep mud where her garden used to be. Neighbour’s fences relocated to parts unknown and satellite dishes that once looked to the sky for input were left dangling and swaying on broken stems. The woods are unsafe to enter as possibly fifty trees have tipped into unstable poses, some leaning against their friends, some prone in the leaf litter. The rain-blasted fields could absorb no more water and shrugged the run-off down to the river which rose up and swallowed the road – again. Electricity came and went but still, St F and I managed to turn out a special Valentine’s meal for Medusa and Semtex and their significant others who had come to stay. They had to stay. The village was cut off from the outside world.

But. But. Saturday dawned bright and dry with blue sky. It was still a little windy but I could go outside and remain upright so that was a bonus. St F and I celebrated by taking the dogs out for a run.

Eric has a girlfriend, a black spaniel called Madge. And he loves her. As they’re both rescue dogs, they’ve both had ‘the snip’ so it’s fairly certain that their’s is a simple and pure relationship. Eric is a very Alpha male so his interaction with other males is all about dominance but with bitches he’s better behaved – sort of. He’s got a strong prey drive. All he wants to do is chase things. Deer, pheasants, bicycles, joggers – and Madge. This is a good thing because Madge lives in a flat in a nearby town where she doesn’t get to run free (because she’s a sod to catch) so, when she comes to stay with us, she has a lot of pent-up energy. And she runs faster than Eric who will tire long before she does. And she’s a feisty little creature who will give Eric what for if he annoys her too much. Perfect.

There is one drawback to this happy image of two furry, black smudges haring around on a hilltop and that’s Eric neglecting to watch where he’s going. So intent is he on catching up with the smaller, speedier Madge, he fails to notice the vulnerable humans in his path i.e St F and me. Twice now he has bundled into me and then trampled my body into the ground. I don’t know if I should blame Eric or Madge or maybe the unseen shade of Alfie the original Doberman cannonball. (Int Life Brilliant?) Is he laughing in the shadows of the hedgerow and whispering to Madge, ‘Go closer to the people. Lead Eric towards his family. At full speed. Snigger, snigger?’ Is it his revenge for the flashing reindeer antlers that Medusa forced him to wear one Christmas?

Meantime, Ernie the collie, oblivious to ghostly dogs and high-speed canine romance stares at St F from a short distance away.

‘Throw the ball,’ his expression says. ‘Throw the ball. Please throw the ball.’

Flat out exhausted

Flat out exhausted

Back home after chewing up the kindling, and ensuring that I have to grub around the carpet for splinters of wood to light the fire, the lovers retire for the evening. Note that Eric is no gentleman. He gets the bed. Madge gets the floor. However, he’s so whacked from his outdoor exertions that he won’t stir – not even if I walked through the room banging cymbals together – and he won’t know when I call little Madge up on the sofa. Ha ha ha, serves him right.

That was the first dry day.

Sunday was warmer, sunnier and almost windless. I went alone to the hill with spaniel and Doby. The grass in the field had sprung back to vertical after the hammering wind and rain had flattened it. Deep, shimmering blue arched over the landscape and reflected itself in the sea encircling the headland. The dogs chased up rise and down dip and I found a boulder to sit on where I could watch a buzzard circling below the quiet clouds. After a while, Eric tired of the chase, leaving Madge to pursue an annoyed and vocal pheasant who had a safe head start, he came to stand by me.

Quiet communion. Woman and hound sharing a small moment of peace. Then it was my turn to chase Madge around the field. Seems she didn’t want to go back on her lead.

Has Madge gone home? Oh. I could have caught her, you know. If I'd reallt wanted t...zzzzz

Has Madge gone home? Oh. I could have caught her, you know. If I’d really wanted t…zzzzz

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Int Life Brilliant?

Alfie aka Alfredo, Affers, Alfus Dumbledore, Alfonso and Oi!

Alfie aka Alfredo, Affers, Alfus Dumbledore, Alfonso and Oi!

My mother always said she didn’t like Dobermanns because she couldn’t read the expressions on their faces. Not having known a Dobermann up close and personal, I accepted her reasoning and thought it wasn’t a breed I wanted to get to know. Fast forward to me as a woman in her mid-thirties being thrown around a wintry North Sea on a sand dredger. Coming off watch, I call home.

‘Guess what?’ asks my sister, St Francis.

‘What?’

‘We’ve got a new dog! It’s a rescue dog and it’s a Dobermann. We’ve called him Alfie.’

‘You’ve got a WHAT?’

I expressed my horror. My niece, Medusa was a very small person back then and my nephew, Semtex was a baby. How could my sister bring one of those dogs into her home? Her children’s home? My disapproval lasted the three weeks of my trip away. It lasted right up until St F and her children’s father arrived to pick me up at the station.

‘Come and meet Alfie,’ they chorused, leading me to the back of the car.

They threw open the boot and a huge dark shape launched itself toward me. Slobbering tongue, ginger eyebrows, big, floppy ears – I was sold in less than fifteen seconds.

Despite his being beaten and severely traumatised in the first two years of his life, St F was able to teach Alfie how to play and she calmed many of his neurotic tendencies. He caused numberless problems but aggression wasn’t ever an issue with him. He was one of the universe’s gentlemen. Affectionate, patient, polite, he was all of that and much, much more.

He stole chocolate cake. He allowed Medusa to put flashing reindeer antlers on him at Christmas. He regularly and spectacularly knocked people off their feet by running full tilt at them and forgetting to stop or swerve at the last minute. And once, my sister found that she didn’t have change for the parking meter so she ran across to the nearest shop. On returning to her car she found an angry mob surrounding it. Coming closer she saw above them that Alfie had got half way out of the partly open sunroof before getting stuck. Except for his frantic barking, he resembled a tank commander. Much tutting and shaking of heads followed as St F tried to explain that she hadn’t abandoned her dog, she’d just gone for change. No one was listening though. It’s one thing to work up the courage to smash a car window and drag an overheated doggie to safety but, it’s quite another to have one tunneling through the roof to get out. Crisis averted, the crowd dispersed leaving St F unwedge her dog on her own.

I learned to love Dobermanns. And the fantastic people who jumped out in front of us and said how they’d had one and they were the best dogs ever. The enthusiasm that Doby owners show when meeting another Doby is mind-boggling. One summer’s day, down by the beach, a young German was sitting on a wall eating an ice-cream. On our approach, he leapt up and told St F and me that he had a Dobermann at home and could he please give Alfie the rest of his ice-cream. You can guess what Alfie’s answer was.

Of course he got his ice-cream. He earned it. By being the nicest dog you could ever meet (unless you’re a waterfowl …) and by being the dog that taught us to love Dobermanns. And by being the dog that finally taught me that’s OK to love something. I did love him. I still do and always will.

A year or so after I moved away up North, Alfie went to live with friends of ours. A large family with lots of bustle to keep Alfie occupied and with someone special who could spend time with him. St F, Medusa and Semtex were able to see the dog regularly and they saw how attached he became to his new guardian,Tony. Then Tony and his family moved some miles away and our only sightings of Alfie since then have been the photos that Tony and his wife have shown us.

Very kindly, Alfie’s family kept us in the loop about his adventures and misdeeds. Very kindly they told us about Alfie’s last adventure on New Year’s Eve. Fourteen is a good age for a Doby and even heroes have to go sometime. Cuddled up in the arms of the man he loved most in the world, Alfie drifted away from us all and breathed his last. I cannot think of a more beautiful way to bid goodbye to a loved one but also, it must have been intensely painful. My heart goes out to Alfie’s family but I envy them the years they had with him. I envy their being there at the end but not in a jealous way. I am truly glad that he went with them because they gave him what he most needed – time, care and lots and lots of love. Also, I’m glad I didn’t have to dig that hole! With that in mind, I hope Eric is immortal!

If Alfie were ever to have a headstone, or memorial, then my version would say ‘Int Life Brilliant?’ because, just like ‘Brilliant’ in The Fast Show, Alfie loved life. Let off his lead on the beach he would tear around in circles, knocking people over at every turn, and his facial expression (his apparently unreadable facial expression)  would read, ‘Int sand brilliant?’ Lead him to the sea and his face said, ‘Int water brilliant? And er, cold. Can I go back now?’

Take him out into the fields and you could see him thinking, ‘Int grass brilliant?’

Maybe, somewhere out there, Alfie is tearing around an open space and thinking to himself, ‘Int death brilliant?’

I do hope so.

I Wuv Oo Too

I Wuv Oo Too

Int Running Brilliant?

Int Running Brilliant?

Int Grass Brilliant

Int Alfie Brilliant?

Int Alfie Brilliant?

 

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Family Life, Uncategorized

 

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