The Last Pack Member
Tails of the Unexpected – The Pack Legacy Handover
Dad and Dora Dog Summer 2012
In 2013, Dora Dog was diagnosed with mammary cancer, she had an enormous tumour that had gone from being a small nobble on her belly to becoming the size of a large apple almost overnight. She was taken to the vets and a date was booked for surgery very quickly. That happened in August of that year. They managed to cut the tumour away, and said that they thought they had got it all, but you could never be sure.
That year was a strange year; we hadn’t long been at the new house, having only arrived in October the previous year, so we were still all settling in. Then it was Dad, Dora and me only.
At that time l was an outdoor dog, l was used to living outdoors and enjoyed it, but really wanted to live indoors if possible and Dad was working on this. He said that as l was getting older, he wanted to try and get Dora and me to settle our age old differences and try to live together as a pair of friends rather than two embittered enemies! I was willing, which l knew was a really good start because it had been me that sparked the war between us all those years ago. But Dora’s memory was like mine long, and she also was really bonded to Dad and didn’t want to have to share him with me!
The problem is l loved Dad just as much as Dora and l wanted so very much to be inside with them all, but could understand why she was still cautious with me. The fight between us, although it happened when we were both around two years of age was a bad one. We were still puppies in many respects, and it was me trying to push my opinions about who was in charge where we were, and she wasn’t having any of it. But that story is not for today.
Dora survived the first operation relatively well, although it aged her drastically, she had been a young ten year old up until that time, full of life and bounce, but afterwards well, she looked old, and at her own concession, she said she felt it.
After Dora’s surgery Dad was committed to getting me inside the house, and so had to try and figure out where l could begin the transition. He knew it was going to be tricky because Dora considered herself very much the top dog in residence and l would have to be second … which l guess is where the problems could arise. I can be quite opinionated at best of times, and whilst l was willing to let bygones be bygones, if she pushed me a little too far l might snap. Dad was worried about this especially since she was in recovery and was still poorly.
The Black Room
Dad had a small anteroom that was situated beside the doorway and the porch and so he decided that that is where l should start my transitioning. I have to openly admit to saying l actually hated that room with a passion. Okay, sure it was a step up from being in the outside kennel shed, at least it was brick and mortar in comparison to wood and concrete, but for goodness sake it was black!!
When we first moved into that house, that room had been covered from head to foot in Angling Times sheets, and as Dad wasn’t a fisherman in any sense of the words – he couldn’t stand how it looked, but the walls behind the paper were really in a poor condition, so he had to spend hours and hours filling, and once finished thought “Well what colour do l paint this, as it is such a mess, that white will not really be an improvement?”
Considering the rest of the house was already painted by him in a variety of vibrancy’, why he didn’t choose to paint that room in yellow like the hallway is quite beyond even my K9 mind! But he chose black, black! Why black??
The room, was a decent size, and had a window, albeit quite high up so that l couldn’t look out, but hey it was at least inside the house in Dora’s domain. There was no door, so Dad put up a baby gate, and so l could see into the porch and see all the comings and goings. I could hear the movements in the house, and for the time being l was content, well sort of, l mean the room was black!
Over the first few weeks of the move inside, and readjusting to being indoors, was a trying time. I had never figured into my dreams of being indoors just how much of the outside l would miss, or the freedom of movement. The ability to smell the world around me, or feel the soft whisperings of the wind against my face, or the soft wind kisses on my fur. But when l was let out into the garden or enjoying walks with Dad, l reminded myself that he was working on getting Dora and l together again.
Rather pleasing and surprising was that when Dad was out or asleep, Dora would come and visit me, lay down outside the baby gate and we would talk of things, of before, of the pack as it had once been, and of life. Dad never knew the extent of our chats, but l think he guessed it might happen, Dora would not have been able to block out my scent, and it would have been in the house just like hers.
It was during these little chats we had that she first starting discussing her end of days, she said she knew that her time was shorter, and was unsure how long she may have left. She said that we needed to reconcile our differences, but we had to let Dad know that we would be ok. She said she would work on him.
Outside of these chats l had to try and find some peace with the black room, and in all honesty this was NOT an easy task! For starters, l didn’t like my hard basket bed, and even though Dad had put in blankets and pillows, l missed my old bed, my straws and hays and old rugs, but Dad said that as l was coming indoors, l needed fresh and besides they were old and smelled.
I am never totally sure why 2 leggeds are so disapproving of doggy smells, they are after all what makes us.. us. So, l had to have new bedding, and l didn’t much care for it, so many a time decided to shred it up to at least try and resemble the bedding l used to have, which kind of aggravated Dad.
Also, being inside l forgot to tell myself that l would have to regulate my toilet movements, when you are outside you can wee and poop when you want to, and are not governed by time restrictions, so this too had to sort itself out’ before Dad would let me into the house on the carpets. So, yes the settling in time, was indeed quite an eye opener for me and everyone else l think.
Dora’s visits became more frequent especially when Dad was asleep, and we enjoyed each other’s company many a time reliving our yesterdays. I couldn’t help but note that as much as she wished for happier times, that her sense of gloominess was constantly increasing. That she was so much slower. She was of course still in recovery, the tumour had been very large and her scar was enormous. So perhaps it was understandable that she should at times feel quite morbid. I had at that time never seen a vet for anything serious, although there was talk of me being spayed, as it was Dora’s lack of this procedure that had caused her tumour to begin.
I know Dad was mortified to discover this, and so l knew it would not be long before l underwent a similar operation, but in regards to ever being really ill, l had no comparison so as hard as l tried to empathise with Dora, admittedly it was harder. But l could sense her distress at potentially not seeing Dad forever, and so that l could sympathise with!
She and l would often discuss our tactics for Dad, in getting him to see we were okay together, and when Mummy was down, we were able to go out on joint walks, and there was never any animosity between us which was a good sign. But could we ever get the chance to live under the same roof in the same room together?
As a question looking for an answer that was never really addressed… for in December of that same year Dora took ill again, and the tumour had returned sadly in the same scar tissue of the old wound which was still not properly healed. This was a demoralising and crashing blow for Dad who had thought that maybe Dora would recover. She was operated on again in January of 2014, and this time her recovery was even slower than the first time around, despite how healthy she had been after the first surgery.
The vets told Dad that it was touch and go with her now and that it was down to her psychological state as to whether she wanted to get well or not. If there is one thing l can honestly say paw upon heart, is that despite her obvious pain and discomfort, Dora was not a dog that wanted to die, not yet. She was a fighter, she had always been so full of life, but now life was working against her and l was saddened to see this happening to her.
By this time, Mummy had been with Dad for just over six months, and this meant that she could help Dad walk us both at the same time, which was something that couldn’t be done properly before.
Dad was already ill, and didn’t always have the strength to walk both of us. Dora was a large Wolfhound cross and almost built like a lion, whilst l was my size, so the practicalities of walking both of us on separate leads at the same time were quite slim, especially as he was at times bent over double with his own pain. It was a worrying time indeed, for at one point l remember thinking that l might lose Dad, and he might lose Dora. So many a time Mummy was walking both of us separately, and it was during these times that she and l bonded closely.
By March 2014 both Dad and Dora were ill at the same time. Mummy could only visit at the weekends because she lived miles and miles away and had to work, and l was constantly in a state of panic and my stress was high. Would Dora die? Would Dad die? What would happen to me? After all the years of wanting to live with Dad as much as l had wanted to, would l suddenly lose him and have to live with Mummy?
I knew l could, because Mummy was just pawsome, but l worried so very much every time l saw Dad at times because he looked as ill as Dora!
Dora was still visiting me at night, now more frequently and speaking to me and telling me what l had to watch out for and that l had to what ever happened look after Dad! That l was lucky that we now had Mummy in our lives as she was good for Dad and for me. As much as Dora loved Mummy she was also a little jealous and envious of the time she spent with Dad. So Dora was hanging on for as long as she could to make sure that Dad was settled and Mummy was right for him and that l had my instructions. She was now convinced that it would not be long before she was with the rest of the pack in the great dog park.
It was during one of our nightly chats that she first brought up the subject of the pack legacy…
… of how each dog had to pass on the responsibility of the protective ownership of their master to the next dog along, and now that she was nearing her final days, she wished for me to take on board the responsibility …
I was horrified, and tried to tell her that things would be fine, that she need not worry; that she would recover and that the four of us would be a family and everything would be fine. Mummy, Dad, and the two of us, and things would be great. But she had entered a very dark state of mind, and insisted that she would not see the end of the year, which caused me a great deal of worry. How would Dad react to her passing? They were like an old married couple, they were so very bonded, and so very close, Dad would be lost without her.
When Mummy visited, she was working with Dora and l and would let us out together in the house and supervised, in case any hostilities or in truth jealousies broke out, for Dora was incredibly protective of Dad, some might even stretch it to possessive and maybe even obsessive about him. Since the passing of Lucy in 2009 who had been Dora’s close companion, and the passing of Misty who had been my surrogate Mother also the same year, l guess we both felt the losses of our friends deeply, but because Dora was already an indoor dog she bonded very quickly with Dad.
I remember very clearly in 2009 that Dad had tried very hard to get us both back together again, but Dora wasn’t having any of it … she had still not forgiven me for our fight in 2005, and told me there and then that she did not trust me. Dad loved me, in fact he always loved all of the pack and showed no real favouritism – not really, but to onlookers because of the living arrangements it probably did look like he favorited Dora.
But he was always outside cuddling me so l knew he loved me.
Dora and l were about as different as tripe and bones, we each had very distinctive personalities, our own likes and dislikes, our own interests. She was an indoorsy type of dog and l was an outdoorsy type. I loved walking, and walking, and Dora liked exploring, well l did too. But Dora loved to explore by herself, whereas l liked to explore with Dad. Our biggest common factor was Dad, and when Mummy came into the equation, Dora became closer to Dad, whilst l got closer to Mummy. Finally l guess l found someone l could relate to, because Mummy is a real outsider type of 2 legged gal!
Now some of the things that Dora loved l hated.. For instance she loved water and puddles and getting wet and l hated it, she crossed her front paws when she lay down, and mine were side by side, she had a specific look in her eyes that said a lot emotionally, whilst l looked at 2 leggeds with more curiosity, she would always sit beside Dad adoringly, whilst l sat apart and aloof, she was very gentle and l was more of a ruffian. She was a neat sleeper, l was untidy, she was calmer and l was unruly. She was a clean eater and l was messy, she was smooth and charming and l was loud and boisterous!
This and these were soon to change … oh and how!
On her final night, she came to visit me and spoke softly to me in a very Motherly tone, and told me that her time was near, and asked if l was ready to take on board the pack legacy and the pact of dogs?
I confirmed l was ready for the legacy, but the pact l was unfamiliar with, she simply said l would know at the time. She told me that she didn’t want to leave Dad ever, and made me promise that l would help her stay at least for a while longer in any way shape or form that l was able to accommodate? I promised her l would and with that she went to bed.
I really didn’t know what she meant with that last request, not at all.
The 24th March 2014 was a beautiful sunny day, l remember it like it was yesterday, it was just so peaceful. Dora asked Dad if she could go out into the garden and enjoy the sunshine, as he let her out, she gave me a knowing look, and simply whispered … “Soon little one”, a name l had not heard for years, but was my name briefly when l was a puppy!
Dad was concerned about Dora, whilst she was looking okay, he remarked that he thought she was acting strangely to Mummy on the phone when she rang, but that she was out enjoying the sun, and that the warmth of early spring would do her some good, that she looked peaceful.
When she walked back in the house, she again looked at me and l could see a deep sorrow in her eyes, and l thought how very sad she looked, but she whispered, “Remember our promise.”
It was only a short while later that l heard the most agonising moan from Dad who was in the front of the house “Dora!! No, no, no!!” I knew that it had started …
The strangest thing started happening to me, l could hear Dora inside my head saying the same things over and over again, legacy, promise, pact, remember the promise. I started frantically trying to get out from my room, l had to be with Dad who l could hear crying, l had to be with Dora. The last time l had heard Dad like that was when he was being attacked by the big furry thing! l remember with clarity that neither the pack or l could get by his side to help him on that occasion either.
It was awful, there was no Mummy, and l couldn’t see anything, just hear the most dreadful panic stricken sobs from Dad who was so close yet so far. I could hear Dad speaking to someone, and he was asking for them to send an ambulance, that Dora was dying, that they had to get there as quick as they could!
Still l scrambled to get over the baby gate, frantic to get in there and help somehow, so l did what all K9’s do, l started to howl, and whimper and make noise to get his attention, l was saying “Dad, Dad, let me out, l am here, l can help, l must see to Dora!” Instead when l next saw him, he was running, he went out through the door and was trying to get hold of his neighbour to see if they could take Dora to the vets but it had to be quick!
The neighbours couldn’t help, and when Dad came in next he saw me, and said “Scrappy, Dora is dying we are losing her!” I said “Dad let me out!” And all he said was “Not yet, not yet Scrappy, please be quiet!”
My Dad aged in that time, he aged terribly that day, l saw him age in front of my eyes. Eventually a little time later he came and let me out, and l quickly ran to see Dora at the same time that one of the neighbours returned home, and he went to them and asked for help, so he didn’t see Dora and me together.
When l saw her, she looked terrible; she whispered to me “It’s now little one, the time for the handover is now, but remember our promise please, Dad is not ready to be without us both!”
It was then that as l leaned in close to her whispering that l felt really strange, like somehow something really big had passed between us, and it scared me so much, that l yelped and ran out of the house at top speed and raced down to the bottom of the garden and sat there shaking!
Dad, hearing the yelp went flying back into the house and moments later l heard him scream “NO!! Dora No!!” I knew Dora had passed at that exact moment in time, because l heard her in my head simply saying … “Thank you little one….”
I stayed in the garden until the vets came in their van, and l sat and watched as they took her body out in a blanket, l stayed there shaking until Dad came out to me, with the wettest reddest eyes l have ever seen on a 2 legged and l sat there as he sat with me and told me that Dora had died, that she was now in the great dog park, and she would be there with all the other pack members.
I lay down with him, and as he cradled me, Dora kept on saying ‘Thank you little one, this will not be forever, just for a short time, just so you understand the importance of the legacy.”
Dad was in a right mess, and as much as l tried to assist him, l couldn’t get through to him, to tell him that it was ok, that Dora was still here with us, that she hadn’t really gone. After the vets had left and we came back in from the garden, he closed my baby gate and invited me into the house. It was overwhelming, it was so large and Dora’s scent was everywhere, l didn’t know what to do, how to react, or more importantly how to be me. I had Dora in my head saying all sorts of things, she sounded like the young Dora l used to know.
She was telling me about everything l looked at, what it was who it belonged to, where l could eat, where l should sleep, but most importantly how l was to be with Dad, who looked wretched!
It was all too much to take on board so quickly; l had to keep telling Dora to be quiet, l couldn’t cope with the enormity of it all, not now and so l went back to the black room and tried to get to grips with everything going on.
Dad came through some time later, and he had the lead in his hand and he said “Come on Scraps, let us both get some fresh air, l need to get out of here!”
I loved being with Dad, but it was a miserable walk, Dora was speaking to me and Dad was sobbing his heart out. In fact Dad went to bed early that night and l heard him sob himself to sleep. I couldn’t cope with the house, so l too went back to my bed and tried to sleep. Dora prevented that from happening for ages, she just talked and talked all night until the early hours of the morning, when finally she said she had to go and play with Lucy!
Finally l was able to settle down for the night and think how my journey from this point on was going to be so terribly different, and could l ever become as bonded with Dad as Dora suggested l would?
The one thing Dora had said before she left was that we would have to show Dad that she was still with us, that he needed proof.
The next day l awoke really groggy and tired. Dora was already bouncing up and down inside my head and saying she had an idea. So when Dad came to get me for our morning walk, she said the time to show him was here. In consideration to the previous days beautiful weather, the 25th was awful. It was raining, and l hated being wet. So l didn’t relish going out at all.
But Dad insisted and so did Dora!!
Once outside l suddenly felt very different, it was like the three of us were walking together, it was almost surreal; l thought l even saw Dora with us, but l guess it was because she was inside my head.
The rains were coming down hard, really hard and l was getting wet, not just a little bit wet but really truly wet and , and … l liked it!! The puddles beneath my paws felt great, they were so refreshing, so invigorating it was amazing. I thought, but how is this possible? I hate water!
Dora just said “Splash in the puddles Little One, let the water tickle you, enjoy the sensation!” So l did, l suddenly was like a lunatic, l started racing ahead on the lead and walking in puddles of water, splashing in them, running through them!
Dad was just astonished; he laughed and made jokey comments, asking if l was demented? But l didn’t care, the wet was good, it was great, l felt happy, happier than l had been of recent times. Dora simply said “Do as l say, and everything will be alright – trust me.”
So l did, and for the rest of that walk, l splashed and danced in the water, and the more Dad laughed the happier l felt. Admittedly when l got back home l didn’t enjoy the drying, but Dora said that over time l would not only enjoy it but come to love it. The sense of being made warm again.
After the morning walk, Dad asked me to come with him, where he showed me where my food would be from now on, where the water was, where l could sleep, what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed.
Dora told me to sit with Dad, which l answered with l don’t know how to? She said lie down, so l did, and then she said ‘Cross your paws like l used to.” It felt strange, but l did as she instructed, and Dad who was drinking a coffee just looked at me strangely.
“I never knew you did that Scrappy. Dora used to do that all the time. For that matter, l thought you hated the water and getting wet?”
Dora said, “Let me look at Dad, little One. Worry not just relax and l will sort it out.” So l just looked at Dad, and he stopped talking and just looked back at me long and hard and l felt sort of uncomfortable, and then he said “Dora, is that you?”
Then he cried.
Me and Dad Summer 2015