Our dog Rocco died. When I say our dog, I mean Alan’s dog. Because a dog only truly ever has one master.
I met Rocco the first time I met Alan, when he bounded out of the house to meet me. He gave me the impression he approved of me. But then, Rocco was the kind of lovely, generous dog that approved of everyone. He was there when we got engaged – literally, mauling the one pair of clean jeans I had – when we moved to Cork briefly, when we had the babies. On every walk and ramble around the farm and along the road – on those early, slow walks with my first born. He loved sunshine, the hay shed and Alan. He had many, many friends, and one arch enemy – Solus from next door – and there are many that will miss him much.
Dogs are a special kind of being because they have a lot of love and a lot of personality. So they make a mark on this world. Yeats would be envious.
Some time back, a neighbour from home was talking about all the dogs she’d had in her life – the number was up on about 18 or 19 or so. Starting with Jasper the stray, then the two corgis who would stroll up to and back from the village as they pleased. I knew her parents and grew up with her children and so many of these wonderful dogs criss-crossed into my life too. Max who had arrived in a box as a surprise gift for her Mam. We all remember when Brandy came to the Bog Road, George the pug who was killed on the road, Red, a gorgeous retriever with mental health issues. Fabulous Lady who would visit from Waterford.
There was Rex next door who spent his time tied up as he had once bitten someone and who loved to lie in the stream after a walk. Dinny John’s dog who terrorised us when we cycled past. Doran’s dog too – I don’t think he meant any harm, but he was huge and liked to chase you. Especially on a bike.
My Dad’s memories are littered with memories of family dogs – the tragedy of Binks dying when he choked on a chicken bone. Cherry the Alsatian, who was related to Roger the gentle-giant Alsatian who lived at Roches’ Garage. My friends had dogs – Alice had Patch, and Mary and Ciara both had a Prince. There was another Prince where I babysat whom the children adored and I remember checking and sitting with him when he was sick and dying. My Grandaunt Patricia’s collie Duffy – the smartest, gentlest dog of all. And we all felt so much sadness when Oscar died at home. He had wandered into our garden, neglected and hungry, and immediately adopted my mother. I’ll always remember where I was when I got the text on that Valentine’s day to say he had died.
And there was Ned. He was my dog. A Kerryman, whose drowning was intercepted by one of my best friends one Christmas. She found homes for the litter and Ned’s claim to fame was that one of his sisters went to live with the Bomber Liston’s sister-in-law. Ned was with me through redundancy, through a break-up, through a time in my life when I lived with just him and his sister Sal and he loved running and the ball and swimming and me (& Sal). He was jet black with a white chest and four white paws, which made him look like he was constantly dressed in a tuxedo. Marriage and babies and house moves meant that he went to live with my parents for his last years and even when I could have had him back, my father always found an excuse for him to stay in Carrig. He was the kind of dog you’d want to hang on to. He got sick this year but we got to say goodbye and I got to say Thank You.
And then, fittingly, at his funeral his own arch enemy Fiji made a huge scene which makes Fiji probably the funniest character of a dog ever to have lived at my parents’ house.
Ned & Rocco At The Height of Cork V Clare 2013
When a dog dies it’s sad. You miss them and you realise that many memories from your life are interlinked with their short life. If you’re very lucky you’ll look back and there’ll be a long list of dogs that have accompanied you to where you are now. All dogs make a special impression.
We once had a handsome terrier called Sandy – another one of those dogs that tormented walkers and visitors. I’d say he still haunts the dreams of our postman’s son who used to run the gauntlet of our drive, delivering our post under Sandy’s calm eye before being mercilessly chased out the gate. I can still see him clamped to the high work boots of Davey Nagle, who was delivering some stone to our house. As he walked up to the door, Sandy’s fangs remained embedded. Davey was a big, fearless man well used to cross dogs with an attitude problem and took little notice of the attached canine. A few years later I met him and he asked after the dog.
‘And is that small rusty dog of yers still around at all?’
‘Sandy? No, he died a while back.’
I think Sandy would have been very proud.