“(S)He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.”
Thank you for all the messages and kindness, I’d respond individually, but I just don’t feel able to right now.
Getting through the night was difficult, I’d only slept three hours the night before, but still I couldn’t fall asleep. I considered a Valium, but I’d had too much to drink during the afternoon and evening and the mix results in a dreadful hangover. The problem is/was we were entirely co-dependant. We’d been together for the past eight years and three months. We never spent a night apart, in fact, we were never apart for more than 4 hours. Mike and I set that as the maximum limit the dogs should be alone, and we make sure that even those cases are rare. My love affair with Irish Wolfhounds began around 12 years ago, when I met Mike’s dog, Billie. Irish wolfhounds are usually aloof and reserved, Billie was especially aloof and reserved, she really didn’t like outsiders. When people visited Mike, she’d prefer to go outside and observe from a distance. But this is us the day we met. Mike said the coat must have made her think she and I looked alike.
I’d never been near an animal that was so human, so large, so opinionated. They have unusual habits and abilities, they like to sit on chairs, as you see on the right (notice how the hind legs are suspended.) They know they’re big and powerful and the general attitude is: “I’m big enough to do what I want, so don’t push me”. Each one is different but fantastically human. With a clever little move of the face they can open doors as their faces are at the height of the average door handle. They believe in equal rights: You sit on the sofa, I sit on the sofa. You have a large bed, I want a large bed, or I’ll sleep on yours! Unfortunately, Irish wolfhounds often end up in shelters because people think the idea of them is wonderful (which it is), but sharing space with such a large animal requires knowledge, patience and a lot of care. They can reach the kitchen counter, they can take the food off of your plate, and playfully they’ll try both. We have a wonderful story of Billie once tiptoeing away from the terrace with an entire roast chicken in her mouth in the short time it took for people to get from the outdoor seating area to the table.
We’ve had three wolfhounds, Billie, Blue and finally Tara, who was the result of an accident. A professional breeder had a female that escaped whilst on heat and consummated the act with her brother. They didn’t want to sell the inbred puppies, so they gave them away. Billie had cancer and died at the age of eight, so Blue was on her own, hence we decided to take Tara. We found her incredibly amusing as a newborn. She walked over all of her siblings and came to us. Even as puppies, they’re quite big. At 8 weeks, we brought her home. She promptly found my lap and sat there during the 3 hour drive home. You probably can’t tell my keyboard is wet from tears as I wipe my face and type. The first night she was here she repeatedly climbed on the bed. Mike kept putting her back on the floor, but when I woke up her head was on my pillow, next to mine.
The years that followed were funny, intense, at the age of one she became our generic Birthday card. She destroyed the legs of my Biedermeier arm-chairs, she ate the corners of two Persian rugs. She destroyed my alarm clock and a mobile phone. I smoked and she would take cigarettes from my pack and chew them. If I got up, she sat at my place on the sofa. If I went to the bathroom at night, she got into my place in bed. If I put my wine glass on the floor, she drank from it. Mike often joked that I was a terrible example which she followed to the letter. The pain of her absence is physical as well as emotional. She was always in my eye-line, if not blocking my path. She stood behind me when I was cooking, hoping I’d look away for a moment and she could steal something. She was my child, my friend, my companion. She was such a tremendous part of my own identity, today I feel as if missing a limb. And that’s where the incredible humanity of wolfhounds is so incredibly touching and so fantastically painful- they live 6 to eight years. Years like nothing anyone who hasn’t had one could possibly imagine, and I say that as someone who has and has had all kinds of dogs.