We British are quite mad about our pets. We look after them and cosset them just like children, sometimes more than our children. But then, what we get back from them is unconditional love.
All we have to do is feed them and give them the occasional titbit, (occasional?), give them a little of our attention and, in most cases, just a few home comforts. Did I say a few? Well I must raise my hand because I totally subscribe to all those weaknesses where our pets are involved. The sad thing is that generally their lives are shorter than ours and that means that we will go through the pain of losing them at some stage. The loss of a pet can be as devastating as losing a human being, sometimes more so if the owner is on their own and the pet has been their only source of comfort, friendship and a constant companion. We know only too well the terrible sadness of losing a pet.
We have two dogs. Hungarian Vizsla’s. Rebus and Milo. They are hunting dogs but we do not go hunting so they satisfy their instincts by hunting for a vacant armchair or sofa and reclining whilst waiting for their next call of duty. They are always by our side. We are their world and they mean the world to us. Rebus is in his twelfth year. Milo his sixth. We made some conscious decisions to have two dogs of different ages. The first that they should be company for each other. Secondly that if one of them is lost to us then the other would still have us for comfort and we should have one for comfort ourselves. Although it does not always follow with six years between them we tend to worry about the eldest one, Rebus.
Let us tell you about Rebus. In our eyes he is just the best dog we have ever had, quite possibly, the best dog in the world. Strong, remarkably intelligent, proud. He has an almost aristocratic manner about him. His head is always held high and he looks the most wonderful canine specimen you have ever seen. When taking him for a walk people would stop us just to talk about him and admire him.
Cars would screech to a halt with the driver, predominately women, wanting to look at him. Oh, that any person could have that level of animal magnetism!
Rebus did have a bad beginning. When our previous dog, a Dalmatian, passed away we found it hard to try to replace him. After a number of months we came to France and spotted a Vizsla. We had never seen one before. Watching the energy and intelligence he displayed we decided, after some research, that we would get one. The UK Kennel Club informed us that a breeder in Hampshire had a litter. We went to Hampshire and chose our puppy. Unfortunately it turned out that the time when the puppies were to leave their mother was when we were away. The breeder said she would look after our puppy for a month until our return. We collected him as soon as we could but he was very shy and wary. He seemed traumatised. We came to the belief that when his siblings departed he was left alone for long periods in a stable. On taking him home we made his bed in our kitchen. He virtually destroyed our kitchen! Next we put him in a large dog cage. The noise he made was incredible for a small puppy. It went on through the night-all night, every night. We asked the local vet for advice who suggested light music, using pheromones and a dim light. It did not work at all. We tried everything other than physical violence, although it was close sometimes.
After some weeks of sleepless nights we had had enough. Around 2am in the morning he was in full voice. I stood in front of his cage and told him to be quiet. He ignored it. Then I let rip with a loud, angry tirade and mixed expletives. How long I went on for I do not know. Then I realised he had stopped and was sitting looking at me. I told him to go to sleep. He dropped into his blanket, curled up and went to sleep. He never made a noise again when going to bed. We are not sure who was the most shocked, Rebus or us.
As he settled down we decided he should go to puppy training and socialisation classes nearby. The first evening we went, after lots of sniffing the other dogs, the trainer took us all through basic dog training. Sit, walk, wait, call etc. He took to it like a duck to water. I had taken with me doggie treats to encourage him but after a while he did not want them- he was enjoying himself. At the end of the session the trainer announced that the next week would be competition week to see which dog had improved the most. She suggested Rebus come and ‘give it a go’. He did, and walked away with a third prize rosette. His training in class and at home went from strength to strength. He was just amazing and he knew it. About this time he assumed a regal bearing which he never lost. As if to emphasise his status Rebus, like many gentlemen, is going slightly grey with age. But for him, of course, it is not the top of his head but his feet that have changed colour by creating white ‘spats’ over each paw. Now, just how fancy is that? His snout is also a fine mixture of chocolate brown and white which compliments his distinguished appearance even more.
By now you would have the impression that we thought he was a wonder dog. You would be right!
In December, just before Christmas things went a little wrong. Rebus was not well. He kept being sick and stopped eating, and then he was having bowel problems. We thought that maybe he had eaten something in the garden which had disagreed with him. We watched and cared for him all we could. One Sunday evening he went into the garden to carry out his normal business when his back legs collapsed under him. He had become a little arthritic of late and not so active but this was something exceptional. I carried him back indoors. Our concern turned to despair as he was clearly very ill and we had to accept that we may lose him. We were unable to reach an emergency vet so that night I stayed with him so he would not be alone.
First thing Monday morning I telephoned the vet for an emergency appointment and carried Rebus to the car and on to the surgery. He was examined very quickly. Multiple injections, a bag of medication, new food and a sizable invoice and the vet helped carry him back to the car.
At home, we put him in his favourite armchair and he fell asleep. The next day, a week before Christmas, Rebus arose, stretched his tired legs and ran out into the garden like a spring chicken.
Whatever miracle the vet performed Rebus has returned not just too good health but possibly his youth. This, for us was the best Christmas present-ever!