End of an Era
|16-04-1998 to 12-02-2013|
Yesterday evening, around about feeding time, I noticed that Machrihanish, the SausageDog was in some distress. He was having a lot of difficulty standing, his back legs really not wanting to work. Eventually he made it outside and had his tea, but there was no way he was going to get back inside without being carried.
He was unable to move at all come dog-outs and bedtime. I carried him out to the grass, but he didn't seem to want to do anything. Usually he sleeps outside in the kennel with all the other dogs, but I brought him in to the warm so he could sleep by the fire.
He woke me pretty much every hour, on the hour. Not yelping in pain so much as quietly moaning - not really wanting to make a fuss. He could only lie on his side, and couldn't get up to turn around. I did my best to make him comfortable each time.
This morning, I took him to see Claire, our vet. She confirmed what I'd suspected - he'd lost the use of his back legs completely, along with most of the sensation at his back end. We could spend a lot of time and money on expensive examinations to try and find out why, or we could accept that his time had come. It was a desperately sad decision, but in the end not difficult. He slipped away peacefully, munching on a handful of biscuits.
A year ago, Mac was still coming for walks, albeit following on at his own slow pace a long way behind. He developed a heart murmur when he was about seven, and has been a bit of a poddler ever since. Recently, the arthritis had started to get him in the front legs, much like it did Mort. He was still happy enough to potter around the caravan, and I built a ramp so he could get in - stairs were something that defeated him long ago. I'd been steeling myself to the inevitable, and swearing I wouldn't delay making the decision for my own selfish reasons, like I did with Chiswick and Mort. In the end, the nature of Mac's condition made it much easier (which is not to say in any way easy). Dachshunds are notorious for back problems, and he was a very large Dachshund - almost twenty kilos and not really all that fat. Mort and Chiswick both degenerated slowly, always leaving the forlorn hope that they might get better. I knew with Mac that this would never be the case.
Mac came to us from an old schoolfriend of my mother, Caroline Woodall, back in the spring of 1998. Caroline was universally known as Dassie Dubb, and the Dachshunds she bred were all Dassiewood Dogs. Mac's official name was Dassiewood Easter Day, as that was when he was born. We couldn't make the journey all the way down to Oxfordshire to pick him up, so a friend of Dassie's, who was going to the Kelso Dog Show, brought him with her, and we travelled down from Edinburgh for the collection.
Whilst at the show, and before Dassie's friend had arrived, we bought a collapsible wire cage which we were assured by the salesman was the right size for a standard Dachshund. These cages are brilliant for house-training puppies, but when we first saw Mac we realised we were going to need a bigger one. By the time he'd finished growing, he was just over nineteen kilos, all muscle with not an ounce of fat on him (keeping up with two terriers will do that to you).
Throughout his life, Mac's size was a subject of comment and amazement. Often people would rudely accuse him of being some kind of cross-breed, despite the fact that he has a pedigree as long as your arm. He just shrugged it off as one of those things, and got on with enjoying life.
It was my father who first called him the puddlehound, and the name was very apt. Mac loved water, though he was rubbish at swimming. Anything shallow enough for him to keep his back legs on the bottom was fair game, though, which given his size meant he could cross surprisingly deep streams. He preferred muddy puddles, of course. He was long-haired, which meant that his undercarriage picked up muck and sticks and anything else it came into contact with. You could always tell where he'd been lying after coming back from a stroll, as there would be a Dachshund-shaped pile of very fine silt where his fur had dried out and broken the mud down.
With his thick coat, the Dachshund really didn't like the heat of summer. He relished the cold though, and particularly liked the snow. Unfortunately it liked him rather too much as well, sticking to his fur and forming great balls under his oxters. He'd still carry on until he couldn't move his legs at all, then wait patiently for someone to break off big chunks until he could start all over again. Later, he'd lie in front of the boiler in the kitchen, a large puddle of water oozing out around him onto the tiles as he thawed out.
Mac was one of the original three DevilDogs, as immortalised in logo form by Stuart MacBride. We were still living in Roslin, the Horse Doctor and I, when we got him, and I was trying to make a living as a writer of Science Fiction and comics. My study was a lean-to on the end of the house, with its one window looking out onto the main street. The wall was about three feet thick, as many old buildings around there are, and the dogs liked to sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by as I was typing. This was easy enough with Chiswick and Mort, who could both leap up onto the chair and then the window. Mac had to be lifted, but at least once he was there he was a source of warmth for the others. Typing away at my keyboard I'd often find people staring in the window, pointing at the dogs and occasionally knocking on the glass. I don't think they ever saw me, lurking there in the shadows.
I have to go and dig a large hole now, somewhere close to where I buried Chiswick and Mort. I have a personal rule that I don't drink alcohol when I'm on my own. But tonight I think I'll break it and raise a dram to Machrihanish the SausageDog. A constant companion for almost fifteen years. I miss him already.