I have just buried the family dog.  Well, I’m pretty sure she thought she was my dog even though strictly speaking she belonged to David, one of my sons.  Cleo, for that was her name, used to follow me everywhere.  If I went for a shower, she waited on the landing.  If I worked at my computer, she lay nearby waiting for me to do something more interesting. If I gardened, she accompanied me waiting for me to dig up stones (she preferred stones to balls).  Every morning we went for a walk together across the fields near here and she would wait at every stile and gate for a treat. 

She didn’t only own me, the front door belonged to her too.  Anyone who entered the house via the front door, i.e. most people, received a noisy welcome.  The various postmen we have had over the years were understandably wary of her – but that was because they triggered noisy barking by pushing stuff through the letterbox on the front door; her door.

Cleo had been with us just one month short of seven years.  She was a rescue dog of uncertain age, probably about seven when she came.  7 + 7 = 14, a reasonable age for a dog.  She had never been ill when, suddenly, last week she stopped eating.  For a couple of days, morning walks continued with no apparent loss of enthusiasm but, after four days of not eating, I took her to the vet. She always became a quivering wreck at the vets, making it hard to listen to her heart beat or get a sensible pulse reading.  Anyway, after listening with a stethoscope for a long time, the vet said ‘This dog has a lot of issues’.  Apparently, Cleo had an enlarged heart and liver, a serious heart murmur and probably a blockage somewhere explaining why she had stopped eating.  Cleo stayed in hospital that night on a drip to see if she would perk up and the next day came home for one last weekend.  My sons came home from London to say their goodbyes.  Cleo was pleased to see them but by now displays of enthusiasm were muted and she was no longer interested in any walks.   

So, Monday came and, feeling that I shouldn’t have the power to do this, I phoned the vet to arrange for Cleo to be put down; in other words, killed.  The vet said she’d be with me in 10 minutes (I was a coward and didn’t tell Cleo).  When I let the vet and her accomplice in through the front door, Cleo didn’t bark.   Within a few minutes the deed was done and Cleo sank down lifeless on her favourite cushion.  Digging the grave at the bottom of the garden was hard work after weeks of dry weather.  It needed a pickaxe.  If neighbours had seen me slaving away I felt sure they’d have suspected that I had murdered my wife!

By coincidence (I assume it was a coincidence), the very next day The Times published the following in Poet’s Corner:

Four-Feet by Rudyard Kipling

I have done what most men do,

And pushed it out of my mind;

But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,

Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through –

Wherever my road inclined –

Four-Feet said, ‘I’m coming with you!’

And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round –

Which I shall never find –

Somewhere that does not carry the sound

Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

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