On The Death Of A Dog
Yes, if you have not yet heard, it’s Ruff. My dear, beloved Ruff is no longer with us.
For those of you who never had the privilege of knowing him, let me tell you about him. He was a poodle cross, and had thrown heavily to the poodle side. He was wholly and deeply attached to me, to the point where devotion and unconditional love borders on obsession. He was 3 years old.
He joined our family on 15th June 2011. Christchurch was still reeling from the devastating February earthquake, and there had been another major quake only 2 days before. Our house was, yet again, without power, water and sewage. I almost didn’t go and pick him up because of this, but then this was the new normal for Christchurch, and the new pup would cheer us all up.
At the time we got him I was unfit and obese. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to lose weight and Ruff got me out of the house every day. He was only a puppy and couldn’t walk far, but I would carry him to the beach inside my coat and put him down on the sand and he would gambol about. He was so small he could fit in my bike basket.
As he grew, we went further on our walks. He was very impulsive, so we were careful about roads. We have 2 six foot gates from the road, so if one got left open, hopefully the other would make sure he was safe. He was always, always, always on a lead on the roads and pavements. We were even very careful when footpaths went near the roads and put him on the lead just in case.
But when he could run free, we had great games. His favorite game was in the forest. One of us would hold Ruff and the other would go and hide. Then we would let him go and he would track our scent and find the hider behind a bush, or in a hollow of the sandunes. He adored this game, and we had to be careful on walks. If one of us had been to the beach before he had his walk he would find and follow the footprints. We always checked with family members which way they were going to walk, just in case he found and followed the footprints right off the beach. He loved to dig and chase shells and sticks and would come home wet and covered with sand.
He grew bigger, and faster, and then, in March 2012 I started running. Of course Ruff started running too. At first I was slow and couldn’t go far, but soon we were going further and then further afield. We explored the Port Hills above Christchurch, the various beaches around us, Bottle Lake Forest.
As we ran more I began to lose weight. Yes, of course diet came into that story too, but Ruff and I ran and ran. He was a running dog. He lived to run. When I started out running, and it was difficult and I didn’t want to go, Ruff would get me outside. Later as we got fitter he would encourage me to go further afield. He was as soft as they come, but when a bad dog came for me one day on the beach, he was a changed character. He put himself in front of me and kept the other dog away until its owner came.
And gradually, with Ruff, my life transformed. I changed from an obese, unfit woman, to an ultra runner. And Ruff was my companion every step of the way
Yesterday we went to the beach as we have done almost every day of his life. We walked along the top dune path. Once away from the beach entrance I let Ruff off the lead. He was sniffing along the edge of the path, checking out who had been there, and making little forays into the grass on the beach side of the path. I walked slowly on. Suddenly he wasn’t there. I looked down to the beach and 2 dogs, not Ruff, were racing along. I thought he had run down to join them and ran down onto the beach too. He wasn’t there.
Suddenly I just knew what had happened. My footprints. What if he had followed them THE WRONG WAY?
He had. He had come flying down the path between the dunes, playing his favorite find-the-Katie game, following our scent back the way we had come, and had shot out across the road. He didn’t stand a chance.
There are so many ‘what if’s’ and ‘if onlys’ flying around now. So much guilt. So much sorrow. He was like a shooting star, burning brightly across my life, transforming it and then going out in a sudden final blaze.
I miss him.
I shall leave you with Kipling’s words. They are from the poem “The Power of a Dog”. The rest of the poem is on the internet, this is just a bit of it.
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.