Yesterday was a horrible day and I think what made it worst of all was that it was so completely unexpected. When Toby and Tessie (CFZ doggies Mk1 and 2) finally died it was at the end of a long (16 year +) life. Biggles had only just turned two in August, and the day before he died he was still chasing the cats and messing around the garden in a boisterous, though noticeably subdued manner.
We realised that he was ill, but had no idea that he was that ill. However, as Max said quite rightly when I telephoned him with the news yesterday morning, he was probably the strangest dog that I ever met. I strongly suspect that he had been the runt of the litter because he was prone to bouts of illness, going off his food and generally acting strangely. I still wince when I think about the day he nipped the fire prevention officer.
Poor little chap (Biggles I mean, not the fire prevention officer who was in possession of an offensive haircut).
I will probably write more about him over the next weeks or months, if only because writing things is my best way of coming to terms with stuff. But there is one thing that I do want to share.
Both Corinna and I were touched by the sheer volume of messages we had, both on the blog, by email, and on Facebook. Because he lived his entire life in the public eye, he touched the hearts of many more people than he would have done if he had been an ordinary domestic pet. He was the third CFZ doggie, and as Scottie Westfall wrote on my Facebook page yesterday: "Biggles's presence on the blogs and OTT will be sorely missed."
Life without him is proving to be just as hard as I thought it would be, and I went through this before - ten years ago - when Toby was put to sleep on the first of June 2000. After he died I swore that I would not allow myself to go through that level of pain again, and that I would not (as Kipling put it) "give my heart to a dog to tear", and for eight years I didn't. In questionable taste I used to say that although I had not planned it that way, in my life I had not been exactly a `one woman man`, but that I was undeniably a `one dog man`.
Only a few weeks after Toby left us, Graham's then girlfriend Tracey asked us if we could have her dog Tessie, who became CFZ doggie Mk 2, but she was always Richard's and Graham's dog, and whilst I was mildly fond of her, and she shared my space for the next eight years, she was never my dog.
Then two years ago Corinna brought back a delightful bundle of dogginess and almost instantaneously I fell in love and all my resolutions went out the window. At the risk of appearing mawkish, Biggles taught me that I could, indeed, love another dog. Now he has gone, but I am in far more positive a state of mind than I was when Toby died. Yes, I will probably once again give "my heart for a dog to tear". I have had a dog in my life for all but two periods of three or four weeks since 1985, and I cannot imagine life without one. And I shall, I am sure, love it as unconditionally as people and dogs have loved each other since our hairy ancestors first adopted an orphaned wolf cub or two, but I am sure of one thing: in the same way as not a day goes by without me thinking wistful thoughts of Toby, there will always be a Biggles-shaped hole in my heart.