Friday 24 June was, for me, like a bad blues song. I woke up that morning and found that we'd left the EU... and then my dog died. I'm not going to write about the EU. Enough of that s***. I am going to write about the dog.
We first met Bella in 2007. The previous November, we had a house fire and we were living in rented accommodation while things were fixed (a tip: "smoke damage" doesn't just mean a bit of cleaning, it's like nothing you ever saw). We wanted there to be something nice for the children to look forward to when we moved back in, so we decided to get a dog. We bought Bella, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, as a puppy. She was born on 14 February 2007 - Valentine's Day - and was the sweetest, loveliest thing you ever saw. From that first sight of her - too small to climb the steps of the house, we had to make a ramp out of bricks for her - to the last, resting under a blanket at the vet's, she was a darling.
Yes, she could be annoying. She loved to lie in the front window and bark at other passing dogs (we live on a popular dog walking route so this could be a pain). She was practiced at nicking food, and defended her space on the sofa relentlessly. She had a habit of guarding things in general. But she was simply so friendly when visitors appeared, or we met anyone out (not other dogs...)
Who are you?
Aren't I handsome?
Wouldn't it be an honour for you to stroke me?
Don't walk past! Look at me!
She was in many ways simply shameless, an utter lapdog, prone to overeating, not over fond of walks.
She was also a good dog, patient with our autistic daughter who is fearful of animals but would stroke Bella's head and coo at her.
We loved her.
On Monday, she was off her food (unusual). A couple of days later, with no improvement, we took her to the vet. Scans showed an obstruction in her stomach: this turned out to a tea towel she'd eaten, but after it was removed she declined further. The vet now thinks that there was a problem with her stomach which was making her eat stuff she shouldn't, and may have caused the overeating. Drugs might have helped but we were told they probably wouldn't, and there was a risk because of the surgery.
Rather than let this go on we decided to call a halt. She was lying flat when I saw her, breathing with difficulty and rasping and barely able to lift her head - but she did, and she recognised us, and I held her and stroked her and I held her as the vet gave her more anaesthetic to end things, and that noisy breathing stopped and she relaxed and became still.
She was a true friend, loving and loyal. She leaves a great hole in our lives, a big dent in the back of the sofa - and an awful quietness when all those other dogs go past her front window, as though they owned the place.
Rest in peace and rise in glory, little dog.
Bella, 14 February 2007 - 24 June 2016. You are missed. pic.twitter.com/CjRotvX6xd— (((David))) (@Bluebookballoon) June 24, 2016