I have always been a dog lover ever since my father rescued a German Shepherd cross from a man who had her tied up in an outside lavatory and the only water she had was from the old toilet bowl. He cut the rope loose, picked her up to the protests of the owner and put her in the cab of his bin lorry. When she arrived home, she was all skin and bone and had to be tied to the old-fashioned mangle to stop her running away. She was quite wild, had never had regular food and would try to bite the person feeding her in an attempt to get to the bowl. This went on for a week or more, then she settled down realising nobody was going to harm her, and was allowed into the house. We called her Nell and she had an old armchair in the kitchen where she slept. She was a good dog and never stole anything except butter – forget margarine, that could be put in front of her and she would ignore it, but if there was ‘real’ butter around she would make a thief of herself. She was a member of the family for 12 years until losing the use of her back legs we sadly had to have her put to sleep. My parents were so upset that they didn´t have a pet for years until one day a cat wandered in, made herself at home and stayed for the next 16 odd years. This was Tiddles, my parents used to take her on holiday with them and walk her on a lead when she was away from home as they didn’t want her getting lost.
When I married, we acquired our first dog, Fagin a Basset Hound. He came from friends who were in the army and had been posted to Hong Kong. He was my baby I adored him and taught him how to drink from the tap in the Marketplace in Newbury. He was a terrible thief, hence the name and as OH raced motorbikes in those days I was forever having to provide racers with breakfast as Fagin would wander around the paddock and eat anything that was left unattended. When my first daughter was born I was worried he would be jealous but the midwife said to let him get close to her and he would realise she was no threat. He did and I could happily take them both for a walk, leave her in her pram outside of the village shop and just say to him watch the baby. He was a very placid dog but would not let anybody near the pram, although he would not bite, everyone who heard him bay and saw this 40kg of muscle would steer clear.
When he died, it made me quite ill, as he was my first baby. I couldn´t face having another dog and it was around 3 years later, in the middle of winter and OH was putting new central heating in our house. He had just put a hacksaw through the water pipes when I said I could go no longer without an animal and needed a dog NOW! We climbed into the car and went to Battersea dog’s home, arriving five minutes after it closed. Despite me pleading with the staff and telling them how far we had travelled, (we lived between Oxford and Newbury at the time) they would not relent and shut the door on us. We went the following day and chose a dog only to be told he had not been in the required seven days so we returned yet again to find he had been claimed.
I am a great believer that things happen for a reason and quite disheartened we wandered around the kennels and spotted probably the scruffiest dog there, while all the other dogs were jumping up at the kennel doors saying “choose me”, this one was hiding at the back of the cage hardly able to move. So naturally, we chose him. He smelt awful, we could touch our fingers around his waist. When we arrived home, my mother-in-law thought we were mad, she said he would have one happy week before he was pushing the daisies up. He had never had regular feeding and I spent hours sitting on the floor feeding him piece by piece to get him used to dog food. He would happily eat a discarded burger should we be walking in town but right from the word go he was an angel.
To keep him company whilst we were at work we got Tuffy, a Border(line) Collie from the then Canine Defence now Dogs Trust. She was 6 months old and we were her fifth home, the excuse being she was too boisterous. Anyone who knows Border Collies will know how active they can be and she was only a baby, so she joined us and along with Rags, we were a happy family for 14 years. She loved her toys, which she got each Christmas keeping them in pristine condition, I foolishly thought that because of this she may take to having a puppy so one year I went with my daughter and we chose a Shih Tzu, Pong. Tuffy was not impressed and while Rags played with Pong, she would ignore him.
When Rags and Tuffy died within a short time of each other, Pong was on his own for a while. We used to visit Dogs Trust at weekends and I would call into Tesco, buy a large pack of value mince and a box of Bonio and wander around the kennels giving the inmates a handful of treats. We arrived one day to be greeted by an adorable Westie; she was 14 years old and had belonged to an old lady. When the owner had to go to a retirement home the family did not want to know about the dog and discarded her like a piece of rubbish, so Tricky ended up in the rescue centre. Needless to say, she came home with us, where she spent four happy years. While she could wander around the house okay her back legs were not too good so rather than her miss out on walks I would carry around in a Mothercare baby sling. Wherever we went we were stopped by people who asked to take her photo as she looked so cute. Everyone thought she was a puppy when in fact she was a very old lady.
Pong was the last dog we had before moving to Tenerife and we had him 18 years. I still talk to him every day as I had him cremated and his ashes are in a tiny urn by the side of my bed. While we had the dogs and as the family were growing we had a budgie, Wally, a couple of hamsters, Posy and Posy Sybil, and two guinea pigs Mickey and Malcolm.
My daughters both married and had their own pets, Benjie who was rescued, Bob who was bought as a kitten and Martin who was found on a busy roundabout and would have been killed if my eldest daughter had not stopped the car and taken him home. He was very ill and they spent a fortune at the vets but when he died, they knew that the last 18 months of his life had been happy.
We encouraged the children to love animals from being babies and as soon as they were old enough they were riding, which also meant my daughters had to learn. I don´t like horses but OH decided to learn to ride when we moved here so he could take the children out and has now been riding for 6 years not bad for an oldie and he loves it.
When we finally moved to Tenerife, we agreed we would have no more pets as we were always out and felt a dog would stop us from doing what we were enjoying. It did not mean we didn´t have animals around the house. I used to look after Millie a Persian cat for my next-door neighbour while she was at work. When my neighbour returned to the UK we kept Millie until her blood tests came through clear and she could return to her owner. While she was with us she needed a haircut and Apollo will confirm what a handful she was – but afterwards Millie wanted the world to see just how beautiful she looked
We also used to take Elvis for a walk, when we went out with friends. He belonged to Simon a Tenerife entertainer and was the most gorgeous looking Cocker Spaniel. He would insist on dancing in his drinking bowl rather than having a drink. He also loved to play with shoes, and was excellent at doing the washing up !! Poor old Elvis died at the age of 2 years, very sad.
One day my friend Carole said we would go to K9 and walk the dogs. Despite my protests, I gave in, knowing full well I would not be able to walk a dog and then walk away. So it was that we came to have Caña (or Tina as K9 had named her). She had been abandoned by the basuras in Los Cristianos with another white caniche, Chris, who was believed to be her son. Caña, our little half-pint, was in a small room at the kennels and we almost missed her, it was by chance that I went to hang a lead up and saw her hiding in the corner. The way she looked so timid reminded me of Rags and I knew immediately she was the one for us. She was around 9 years old and in a sorry state when we first got her. However, training only took about two weeks before she had us eating out of her hand! She has now put on weight and is at least in my opinion the most beautiful girl in Tenerife.
And so to the last little tail. We heard about Martina before Christmas and asked if her owner could hold on to her until we returned from the UK. I cannot go into all the details but Martina lived on a finca for about 8 years and was not used to being indoors. Her owner loved her but because of circumstances had to leave her behind. When we got back to Tenerife, we were in contact but things were difficult and getting worse by the day. Finally, she managed to smuggle Marti away from the people who had taken her and we met her in a car park and picked up the little dog. She was dirty and needed a haircut but was a happy little soul and settled down immediately.
That was last Friday, we have since been to the vet had her chipped, all her tests done and she has had her jabs. She has heart-worm and treatment will start on Monday. I am hoping this will work; we are opting for the longer treatment rather than the immediate kill or cure as she is so tiny, I would rather take things slowly, as it is such a shock to the system. She is eating like a horse and loves her new mums cooking as you can see. Cleaning out the bowl I cook their dinner in.
From not wanting any animals we are now a family, with two old ladies to look after and it has made us complete again. People say we are good taking on older dogs, in fact it is quite selfish, they are no trouble, have passed the chewing stage, don´t pee all over the house and bring so much pleasure, the love and devotion they give is reward enough.