A family of dogs

There have not always been dogs in my life, but there have always been dogs in my heart. All of them, except the setters, who were family and Echo, who was a gift, were rescue dogs. And all of them have known how to smile.

The first was a dog I never even knew. His name was Paddy and his life ended before mine began. My mother wrote his story once and sent it off to her publisher. It was returned with a note saying that it was a beautiful tale… it had made the office smile and weep in turn… but it was ‘too far fetched’ to be suitable for publication.

It told of a stray dog who had wandered into the lives of my grandparents when they were a newly married couple. They had bought a neat little house in which to set up home and, in spite of the onset of war, they soon became a family.  My mother was born, Grandad was sent to fight in Burma and Paddy moved in to take over the care of the family.

In spite of the hazards of war, the world was, in many ways, safer and simpler. Paddy would take the basket to the shops and bring home the necessities. He would watch over my mother and, in later years, collect her from school. During the war years, he made it his business to make sure she was taken safely to the air-raid shelter when the sirens sounded and stayed by her side until the all-clear. Even so far north of London, this was not an empty precaution… in March, 1941, an incendiary bomb fell on the house and the scars, like the shelters, still remained into my own childhood.

There were dogs around when I was born… my great grandparents had a house full of Irish setters. Rory was a great, gorgeous creature always ready to laugh and play. Bonnie, his sister, was a pretty, delicate fairy of a girl, while Meg, their mother, already touched with  grey around the muzzle, mothered us all impartially.

My own first dog was Kim, a German shepherd. Kim was not really ‘mine’ as I was tiny at the time, and we did not have him for long. My mother was devastated when he was killed by the number 77 bus. After that, and with married quarters, it was not until after I started school that Sandy came into my life. By this time, we were living with my grandparents. Sandy was a collie/labrador cross who became my friend on the day my grandfather picked me up from school with the soft little puppy in his arms. Sandy did not have an easy time, and had to be nursed through months of illness, but he lived to a ripe old age.

My first real experience of grief was when Rory died. I had lost my great-grandmother, but had been too young at the time to be aware of more than the grown-ups reaction to her passing, though I remember the scene vividly. She was someone I barely knew, but Rory was my friend. I will never forget great-grandad coming to tell us in person, his handsome old face streaked with tears. Meg went soon afterwards and Bonnie did not survive them for long… I don’t think they knew how to live without each other and, at the time, I felt equally lost without  their presence.

There were no more dogs for a good many years, not until I was thirteen and came home to an offhand comment from my mother. “There’s a fur on your bed…” Thinking it was a new ‘fun-fur’ coat that was all the rage, I dumped my school bags and ran upstairs… and found the German shepherd pup we named Sheba. I cuddled her all night… and we deflea’ed the pair of us next morning.

We moved to an isolated property where Sheba was joined by Cindy, a lurcher. By this time, Sheba was a huge, menacing creature, who stood almost as tall as me on her hind legs.  She would attack the fence to warn any passers-by to stay away… and yet would let my two-year-old brother drag her in my the tail. Cindy was found bound, starved and discarded… my mother put her in the pushchair with my little brother and brought her home. We did not think she could survive the wounds and starvation, but Sheba lifted her and made her eat. The two were inseparable until tragedy struck. Sheba was shot by boys playing with a pellet gun. The pellet lodged in her brain and her fits were dangerous. The vet said we had no choice.

There was no chance to have a dog for a good many years after that as I married and left home. There were occasional cats, Fred, the guinea pig, the odd bird… but no dogs. My mother always had dogs, my boss in France had a dog, Bilbo, who filled the gap until he was kidnapped, and my mother-in-law had a poodle who changed my opinion of the breed for the better. But it was not until my sons were in their teens that I was able to share a home with dogs again.

Molly, rescued from the most appalling circumstances, and Echo, my laughing girl…a gift of love given in grief… joined us after the death of my partner. Their presence healed my heart and their loss broke it. I never thought I would have another dog.

And then, unexpectedly, there was Ani…

Ani is the latest, and perhaps she will be the last, to bring the gifts of love, companionship and simple joy into my home. She was acquired from a rescue to be an assistance dog for my son, following Paddy’s lead. But my son recovered far better than we could ever have hoped and Ani stayed with me.

I have learned so much from loving and living with dogs. Their presence has filled my days with laughter and an example of joyful living in this moment. Watching some of them recover from the most appalling treatment has taught me how to accept and how to forgive. I learned from them how to grieve and how to live with happy memories instead of the weight of loss. And, perhaps most importantly, I have learned that the love that wants nothing for itself can heal almost anything.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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115 Responses to A family of dogs

  1. Ritu says:

    Oh, I am absolutely loving this post ! Pets are just amazing at teaching us so much, and I know dogs have a special way of becoming a part of lives… My pops had a special dog, Rex, when he was young, back in Kenya, and he still has a photo of him in his wallet!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful tribute to all your canine friends. Dogs are wonderful. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. davidprosser says:

    What happened to Cindy after Sheba Sue? You’ve had a great selection of extended families during your time and it seems they have one thing in common, they all respond to love.
    xxx Unlimited Hugs xxx

    Like

  4. KL Caley says:

    I was a bit tearful reading through this post, Sue. My family have always had dogs and they have all had totally unique personalities and been special in there own way. We have also mostly had rescue dogs and they still hold a special place in our hearts. My mother spent much of this winter poorly so in her “downtime” she spent her time knitting woollen blankets for the dog beds at dogs trust, determined to do her little bit in return for all the love dogs have brought us in our lifetime. KL<3

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  5. jenanita01 says:

    Sometimes I feel the need to have another four legged friend, but your post made see the truth behind my desire. I don’t want a new friend, just one that I have already loved and lost!

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      We do miss them… but there are lots of dogs and cats in rescues needing new friends when their own are gone 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think that’s the essence of the companionship between humans and animals. It shouldn’t be, I want this so I’m going to buy it and own it, it’s, this creature is in distress through the fault of human beings ,and I have the means to alleviate it. The creature will love me forever, and I will offer the same.

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        • Sue Vincent says:

          I think that is the problem with the way we define love across the board. It should be no more than ‘I love’… a gift given freely with neither need nor deisre for return, but we almost always seem to hang some kind of reciprocal ‘price tag’ on it.

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          • One of my daughters keeps talking about getting a dog and she’s decided which breed she wants. At least she say’s she’d only adopt one from a shelter. I don’t understand the wanting a particular breed thing, as it means you’re encouraging the persistence of the dog breeders who dump unwanted puppies at the SPA…

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            • Sue Vincent says:

              I can sort of understand it. Dogs, for me, have to be the right shape to be ‘proper’ dogs… setters and German Shepherds have a lot to do with it… but I wouldn’t hold out for a specific breed. I’d see what the rescue has listed. Some of the bigger rescues, like Many Tears, have pretty much every size, shape, breed and cross.

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              • If it’s size that matters, I suppose you just have to measure the dog in the cage to see if he/she will fit 🙂 She is holding out for a daft breed bred purely as a lap dog. What I like about sight hounds is that they look like the dogs in ancient manuscripts. They are old as the hills. Not that many of the registered breeds aren’t completely overbred like Wolfhounds that have any number of genetic diseases and die before you’ve hardly got to know them. She’s very unlikely to find a fancy breed in a refuge. I hope she’ll just adopt the one that looks at her and says, you’re my human.

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              • Sue Vincent says:

                Actually, there are many of the fancy breeds in rescues (I couldn’t resist a look at Many Tears’ website where we found Ani). They have pretty much everything…and I need a farmhouse and loads of land to give them all a home…
                The best dogs are the crossbreeds these days…fewer genetic probems, loads of intelligence and as beautifula as any fancy breed. having said that…I would love another setter. Ani is half setter,half Toller…and close enough for me.

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              • I used to want an Irish Setter, and I remember them being big, calm dogs, extremely intelligent, and the longest livers of all dog breeds. The ones I see here are much slighter than I remember, neurotic and unpredictable. They seem to have developed the inevitable genetic problems and their life expectancy has dropped. It’s heart-breaking. We tend to see a lot of hunting dogs and the popular breeds like labradors and the fashion fads, like French bull terriers and Huskies. They are often rejects from breeders or pets bought to go with the wallpaper and turns out they don’t fit in after all.

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  6. This is a wonderful post Sue. Dogs have played a large part in my life too, and we have already decided that after Maggie, we won’t have another. Kizzy was a GSD found tied to the gate of a breeder’s farm. They believed she’d had pups, and been discarded after weaning. She was a nervous wreck, and I like to think had 5 good years with me before I lost her to mammary cancer in 1990. She was 10. I love dogs, no matter size or breed, and they seem to love me. Even some owners comment along the lines of ‘She seems to like you’ or ‘She’s not usually good with strangers’.

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  7. ksbeth says:

    aw, this is beautiful, sue. i wrote about dogs today as well )

    Like

  8. fransiweinstein says:

    I love this story Sue, maybe it is my favourite of all. I too have been blessed to share my life with animals — dogs and cats — and know first hand what peace and joy they bring; and all they teach us. How lucky are we who have loved and been loved by our four-legged family members.

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  9. memadtwo says:

    Ani has touched us all. (K)

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  10. Pingback: A family of dogs – The Militant Negro™

  11. A beautiful post Sue. Our beloved canine friends teach us so much about unconditional love. 🌼

    Like

  12. Jennie says:

    Wonderful, WONDERFUL story, Sue! I must say that the story your mother wrote that didn’t get published WILL make an outstanding children’s book. Really. I can tell just by what you wrote. I know this stuff. So, I urge you, explore you, to consider writing that and finding a publisher / agent. Tell the story through the voice of the dog. Keep me posted!

    Like

  13. Darlene says:

    What a wonderful post. I loved reading about the dogs in your life. We had dogs on the farm growing up but they weren’t allowed in the house. The first one I remember was Paddy. (a nice coincidence) When my son was little we had a cockapoo named Andre who lived to be 12. There were no more dogs after Andre died 35 years ago but we had cats. Then we moved to Spain and I missed my kids and grandkids and hubby was bored. So he convinced me to get Dot, a rescue dog, 18 months ago.We just love her to bits. Can´t imagine life without her.

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  14. Mary Smith says:

    I was not goign to read blog posts today but I couldn’t resist this one.

    Like

  15. Lovely post Sue.. always up for a dog story and you brought so many for us today.. Have pressed for later.. thanks XXX

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  16. Deborah Jay says:

    Such a lovely post, you made me well up, you’ve had so much love and so much loss, that’s the hardest part of sharing our lives with our pets.
    I’ve been fortunate to have 4 dogs (2 Golden Retrievers, a Tibetan Terrier and a Jack Russell), all of whom have lived into their teens, though my last loss has broken my heart and I’m sadly not in a practical position to have another one just now, though I keep looking at the rescue websites. One day I will have another…

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  17. This post made me so teary, Sue. I’ve grown up with dogs my whole life and losing them is so hard. I find peace in knowing that their lives with me were filled with love and fun, the best I could give in return for the unconditional love they gave. Beautiful post. ❤

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  18. noelleg44 says:

    What a beautiful story of love and dogs! And of course, there is Ani, the hopefully not last in a long line of dogs you hold in your heart. But I hope she has a looooong life. She is special.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      She is indeed one of a kind… and I hope she lives a very long and excited life. (She’s fair bouncing tonight because there is a hint of snow…). I’d love to have a companion for her, but the landlords alow one dog….

      Like

  19. Beautiful post, Sue. Lots of love in thee stories. Bless you and Ani.

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  20. Pingback: A family of dogs | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  21. Loved this post.So many dogs, so much love! Sue,you’ve helped me to remember the three dogs who lived/loved with us. We now have a share of my daughter’s dog (they have lived in what was our holiday apartment attached to the house) She, Marli,is a cross between a Beadle and a Cavalier King Charles and leads us a merry dance, … and I love it. Thank you for the memories.x

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I almost had a cavalier King Charles once… we dogsat for a neighbour who tried to give us the poor dog afterwards…. but a more destructive creature you could not find and so scared of everything that she became aggressive. I’d have taken her and given her a bit of security if I’d not had two very small boys at the time.

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  22. I had some dogless years, but whenever it was possible, there have always been dog or dogs … and usually cats and occasionally ferrets and parrots and once, a small South American wildcat. But the dogs fill a space in the heart that nothing else has ever filled. I’m not sure how Garry lived without them. He adores them and they adore him. They drive him crazy and he lives to be driven crazy. They keep him alive, so even though they put a strain on the finances and a stress on us in other ways … they are life-giving, life affirming and passionate.

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  23. Widdershins says:

    What a great dog tale … ‘de-fleaing’ both of you. Hehe … and this is perfect, ‘…the love that wants nothing for itself .’ … except for maybe some cheese, now and then, and maybe a bit of chicken, here and there. 😀

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      We both needed it 🙂 But making her feel safe was more important than flea powder that first night.
      I thnk they allow us to give them love and cheese… it is part of the way they teach us 😉

      Like

  24. Eliza Waters says:

    You’ve had many loves, Sue. ❤ I really can't imagine life without dogs in it. They truly give all and ask little. Perennially cheerful, they have taught so much about presence and dignity.

    Like

  25. dgkaye says:

    What a beautiful history of furry friends Sue. Echo looked somewhat like Ani? ❤

    Like

  26. You have certainly had some wonderful 4-legged companions, Sue. Very lovely for you. I didn’t grow up with dogs and we don’t have one know but I have managed to acquire two delightful cats.

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  27. willowdot21 says:

    Wonderful post, dogs are such glorious animals the world would be a lesser place without them 💜💜

    Like

  28. Oh my golly gosh, we’re great aren’t we and it’s so wonderful to read of a two legged thing that appreciates it. You have had a lot to put up with and I’m so glad there was one of us to help you through. You have me and my person weeping buckets here. One day, when I have lots of time, and have figured out all this hash back and pingback stuff, I’m going to start my own weekly challenge, for humans to record what they have learnt from their animals that week. Thank you for writing such a lovely blog about us. Love Ben xx

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  29. Fabulous heartwarming post.

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  30. Beautiful story and pictures of your friends! Dogs just make a home a home in my opinion. I cannot imagine life without them. I am so glad I passed that love to my daughter as your mom did. I You might enjoy reading my post First Love about the friends who have touched my life.
    ( https://catherinematthewsimages.com/2018/02/03/first-love/ )

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  31. jjspina says:

    Dogs are women’s and men’s best friend. Dog spelled backwards is God for a reason. I believe they were put here to keep us sane and help us deal with all the craziness of everyday life. I had three dogs in my lifetime and one cat and many fish and two parakeets. We may one day get another dog once we stop traveling. I hate to leave a pet in a kennel. They don’t understand being left behind. It’s so sad to see.
    I wrote a story about one of my dogs for young children which will be coming out tomorrow. She was a little bit of dog but had a big heart and kept me sane during a difficult time in my life. I miss her still today. She was a great listener and helpe me deal with problems without saying a word. HA! Thanks for sharing your lovely post and dogs. Bless them all – so precious. Hugs xx

    Like

  32. Home&Family911 says:

    Just lost my own little love of 10 years, so I really appreciated this.

    Like

  33. brookejcutler says:

    Oh my goodness, Sue. This is just the most delightful thing; you write so beautiful and with such heart. I don’t have a dog, but I know the unconditional love they bring. And boy do I know that smile. xx 🙂

    Like

  34. You write very beautifully about your dogs! Loved reading your story with dogs 🙂

    Like

  35. the blogger says:

    omg! that;s so lovely ♥♥

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  36. My heart has a flood of emotions reading this post. Thank you… thanks so much! Dogs come to our lives and rescue us. Beautiful!

    Like

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