A Dog’s Life in a Walnut Shell

The pants I am wearing right now are black and lacy, designed by High Street guru, Mary Portas. I paid £15 for them. (That is our little secret, ok?)

This pair, worn twice now, has two large holes in the frontal area. They are not there by design, at least, not by Mary’s design. Those holes have been wrought by strong teeth.

If you were hoping that I was going to recount an erotic tale of knicker ripping following a large Pinot and some savoury nuts, you’ll be disappointed.

The peep holes (my peep is definitely clearly visible through the holes) are the work of my eight month old puppy, Ludo.

Ludo is a Cavachon. While that sounds like a Normandy cheese, it is in fact, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel crossed with a Bichon Frise. As you’d expect from the match, he’s good looking with big ears (bit like Gary Lineker).

Ludo is an Executive Youth choice, made to help me cope with the Empty Nest thing I was suffering when my older son went to university.

I needed someone to launch himself onto my bed and lick away my tears and my husband simply wasn’t up to it. Not with his dodgy knees.

Ludo has been launching himself onto my bed every morning as my furry alarm. (Let’s get this straight, he sleeps downstairs in a soft crate we call the Cava-van. He does not actually sleep with me. Though I am not generally averse to a wild beast in the bedroom.)

Our day begins with a walk in the countryside where we live and Ludo makes for a lively companion. He listens as I complain about the Today programme and then, when he’s off the lead and no longer has to suffer comments about John Humphrys’ smugness, buggers off at speed chasing birds.

Watching him leap about in the autumn sunshine, living in his doggy moment, is a joy. He is just being alive and being a dog and being with him makes my heart sing. It makes everything, the good things and the bad things, just a little bit better.

At home, he trundles around after me, turning the most mundane of chores into a game. Ok, the game can get tremendously wearing and very frustrating at times,  but running up and down stairs in pursuit of stolen laundry items (the beginning of the journey to Pants-with-Holes) is keeping me fit.

When I walk in the door after a period of absence, you’d think I was Taylor bloody Swift, he gets so excited. I’m certain that if he had a pair of pants of his very own, he’d be throwing them at me as soon as I crossed the threshold.

The thing is, I’ve only had him for a little over six months and already we are deeply attached to one another. I feel no shame in saying out loud to intelligent adults that I really love my dog.

Which is why, when the story of Walnut the whippet’s last walk came on the radio yesterday, I had to pull over in my car and cry for a few minutes.

I was crying because everything about the story was beautiful. The love Walnut’s owner Mark had for him over their eighteen years together; the important presence Walnut had been for Mark through two marriages, three engagements (you have to wonder if Mark has more successful relationships with dogs than women) and a relocation, and the wonderful death with which Walnut was being rewarded.

We are not good with death in this country. We talk about the sanctity of life and force people who’d prefer not to, to live on to the very end in spite of acute pain, loss of autonomy and a loss of dignity.

Last year the Assisted Dying Bill which posited that competent adults who are terminally ill be provided with medically supervised assistance to end their own life, was thrown out on its second reading.

As I later watched the crowds turning out on a Cornish beach to wish a faithful and much loved companion godspeed, ritualising his death in the most beautiful way, I wondered why we can’t choose beautiful deaths like this for ourselves.

Good deaths should not be the preserve of dogs. I want Walnut’s way. A dog’s life and a dog’s death.

RIP Walnut. (I wonder if Mark has holes in his pants?)

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