Friday, November 30, 2012
Fat Dog’s Last Walk
Minnie’s book, “Walks with a Fat Dog”, went out of print in April 2012. Minnie outlived her book by just eight months.
All the Kaartman dogs have been the Best Kind: indeterminate Faithfuls just as totally descended from wolves as any snooty pedigreed woossies with bad hips and pink bows in their just-as-smelly powdered hair. The Official Birthday for all our dogs is July 5th. On July 5th this year Minnie turned 15. That’s supposed to be 105 in Dog Years, a helluvan age when blindness and deafness are just so very excusable, and manageable too.
Minnie came into our lives by mistake. Annie, her predecessor, chewed up some organo-phosphates left by a callous farmer to thwart his jackals, and died in agony in the vet’s arms in Vredendal, up the West Coast. Days after the Kaartmans returned home fighting tears a friend phoned. A friend of the friend had a dog, a brakkie that had stopped the traffic on the N2 near the airport. Fleeing in terror through squealing tyres from several overweight traffic cops, the brak had jumped eagerly into the opened door of the friend’s friend’s car.
She was filthy and shaggy with dreadlocks, but the vet said that she was in good shape, a well-kept dog, probably just lost or stolen, a properly spayed bitch who had had at least one litter of pups. He cleaned her up and got her hair cut, and the friend’s friend called her ‘Sophie’ and set about finding a home for her because they already had five pooches of their own.
We renamed her Minnie because she was so like Annie that we kept using that name, and ‘Minnie’ seemed closer to ‘Annie’ than ‘Sophie’. Besides, she didn’t look much like Meryl Streep. She was the soppiest dog we’ve ever known, with a most fetching habit of snuggling her head up against you if you picked her up.
Minnie had wondrously soft fur; we later discovered that, if not a thoroughbred, she was so like a breed called a “wheaten soft-haired Irish terrier” that she had to have lots of that amongst her varieties. She was wheaten coloured, soft-haired and, if truth be told, not the brightest spark as doggies go, but she was incredibly faithful and loving and a brilliant walker, too. She was never really fat, but her soft fur grew very rapidly and if not groomed every three to four weeks she blew up into a furry ball. We couldn’t call our book “Walks with a Fat Wife”, could we? – and Minnie didn’t mind being the patsy.
Her white and wheaten coat would get pretty smelly and descend into that grubby-pyjamas look that tends to turn visitors into stand-offs, but whenever she’d been groomed everyone loved her. She was a helluva flirt, chasing the boy-dogs whenever she saw them, but toys like tennis balls were quite beyond her understanding.
The sadness that goes with your beloved pets’ short lives is a cliché, I guess, but you can’t avoid it. Unconditional love, forgiveness, hope, affection are tough things to lose. This morning when Minnie came into the kitchen I knew it was Time. Her legs just wouldn’t work properly; she’d messed herself; she couldn’t see me or hear me. She wagged her tail when I touched her, but she howled in pain when we tried to clean her.
“You’ll know when it’s time,” the radio vet had said. “Always remember this – you can do a kindness for your pet that you can’t do for your human loved ones. And your beloved pet will never hold it against you, either.”
Kaartman, November 30 2012