Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A Dog called John

Last week whilst out on one of our favourite dog walks, John ate some poisoned bait* that had been put down to kill animals. He was panting quite hard in the car on the way home and we thought he was just thirsty but when he was sick as we got out the car, we realised that something was very wrong. We called the vet who arrived within 20 minutes.

After 2 hours of constant treatment his temperature came back down to normal and he looked much perkier. The vet took him off the drip and said that the outlook was pretty good. John was standing up and even started looking around for the cat that was wailing in the distance.
Once the vet had left, John started to go downhill, his breathing became shallow and suddenly he stopped breathing. Tim rushed over and started to give him mouth-to-mouth and heart massage while I rang the vet in total panic. Then he started breathing again - small, shallow breaths, but breathing all the same. Tim had brought him back to life! It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen.

The vet arrived shortly and put him back on the drip. But his temperature was dropping and he didn't look well. We just watched him, willing him to be okay. Within the hour, he suddenly stopped breathing again. The vet tried to rescuscitate him but his heart had stopped.
And that was it.

Not for one moment of the whole five hour saga did I think John would die. I couldn't believe that he could - not just like that. Not here one minute, gone the next. We just sat there, horrified, stupified, torn up inside. The vet was nearly crying too.

So our John has gone. The "best dog in the world" is dead. We buried him on the side of the mountain the following day.

He was my first dog. I saw his picture on Babbington Dog Rescue website and knew he was the one to complete our little family. I spent every single day that I knew him (other than 6 days spent mid Adriatic) with him by my side.

He was the most perfect dog when he was indoors or on the boat. Cuddly, quiet and ever so slightly solemn, spending most of his time curled up with his best mate, Louis. They adored each other - to the point that they shared food from the same bowl and Louis sucked John's ears every night when they went to sleep.

As soon as you let him out the door, he'd turn into this incredible running machine - terrorising anything furry that crossed his path (except dogs, which he avoided). He loved his walks and was lucky enough to get lots of them - despite sometimes wanting to throttle him for being so crazy, it was always a joy to take John for a walk because he so obviously gained so much pleasure from it. He had also recently discovered fishing - and could never quite get to grips with where the fish had gone when he dived in, squealing.

He could also jump as high as my shoulder. I know I'm not the tallest but in relative terms, that's a bit like me jumping to the top of our mizzen mast! What a dude.

Everything was going so well; we were looking forward to such a bright, exciting summer. We were one happy little family and John's (senseless) loss has taken all our bounce away. Poor Louis has lost his best mate. He is so sad and keeps looking for him everywhere. We are doing our best to keep him perky.

Good night John John - we love you so much.

In some perverse way, we have to count ourselves lucky. Louis also displayed mild poisoning symptoms for 2 days and we suspect he may have eaten a little of John's sick (yes, foul, I know). He could so easily have been killed too - which just doesn't bear thinking about.

* This was identified by the vet from John's vomit which had meat in it which was stained bright yellow. He thought it was a banned pesticide called Kreosan which locals still use to poison animals. It is not an organophosphate (we have a poison antidote for that). This was an accidental poisoning; it was not meant to be eaten by someone's pet dog. However, it was left next to the path in a area where people walk their dogs, the mentality of which just beggars belief.

A message from Tim
If I have one valuable purpose in life, it is to protect the things I love. John was one of those things. A member of our family. Every morning I would greet him and Louis the same way. Their entwined, half-asleep little heads would lift up as I came into the room and allow me to lean down and cuddle them simultaneously with my own. That start to the day has been taken from me. I tried to protect him and he knew.

He was only six years old and we had him for his last two years. We saved him from a life of hunting and beatings and starvation, judging from his behaviour and appearance when we picked him up from the sanctuary. It is fortunate then, that dogs live in the present. He was so gentle at home yet manic on walks. But always obedient once trained. I have never seen a happier dog and he made us as happy in return. We had ten years left of John but now none. He has been removed absolutely and clinically by the indiscriminate cruelty of one man.

John was a beautiful dog. Whenever required he cuddled you, but only as long as his best friend Louis was ok. He never registered pain or discomfort. He never whined or sulked. Ever. Not in the worst storm or most dangerous trial. On the terrible voyage here from Greece I tethered the dogs to me when I thought we were going to get knocked down. Waves broke over him and he didn’t flinch. He never complained. Not even at the end. He was loyal and enthusiastic. He was honourable yet he could never know what this meant. He made us feel loved and he cared about us. He protected us whenever we were threatened. When four dogs attacked his mate and him, he charged. They were all bigger than him and they ran.

He feared nothing except the violence of man, and he was right to do so.

He loved Louis most of all. He was his best friend, always inseparable. Even though John was much tougher, he was happy to let Louis have the upper hand. He never challenged the pack, he was just delighted to finally be part of one and we were delighted to have him. Whatever he got from us, he gave back far more than he could have known. Just like all dogs.

John was extraordinary. I have had several dogs and I love and remember them all. But I have never known a selfless dog – it’s in their nature to put themselves first. John was absolutely selfless. We do not have children so our dogs are substitutes. Some people think we are mad for doing so. I think we are just filled with love. Our dogs know this as did John and all the others, as does Louis, as will all the rest to come, whoever they are. John died with our voices in his head and our hands on his heart. If I have this, I will think myself lucky.

We will meet again, my dogs and I. When my time comes, I will remember them all and they will run beside me one last time.

I miss you John, sleep well my beautiful boy,

* * * * *

Throughout life we love others and are loved in return. But that love often fades as we move on. The love for our dogs does not fade. They never betray or disappoint us and they deserve our care and protection whenever needed. During my research into local poisoning cases, I found this site. If you want to help pet and stray animals in Europe,

Finally someone has set up an excellent national database of UK rescue dogs. It's time to put the boot into those who profit from selling dogs and creating all these strays –

Poisoning information for dog owners. I am also putting together a first aid kit for here, I have no doubt at all that if we’d had one at the time, it would have made a difference. If anyone’s interested, email us. See also: