There are some days that aren't very nice and this was one of them...
Himself took Lily to the vet first thing this morning and she had to be put to sleep...those tumours were actually getting bigger by the day and although she seemed grand in herself, she'd lost her appetite and kept licking the biggest lump which had begun to ooze.
The vets we use have two who are what is now known as Companion Animal Vets, as well as a selection of tough looking chaps who deal with farm animals...they are all excellent, kindness itself both to their patients and the accompanying humans.
Lily was the very last of our 'rescue' dogs...we'd been out one day and when we came home she was sitting in the yard looking both hungry and hopeful. And she was heavily pregnant.
The following week her 'sister' appeared in the yard...we presumed it was her sister because they were virtually identical though the latest arrival wasn't pregnant...it was then that I wrote a huge sign and stuck it to the yard gate...Don't Just Dump Your Dogs Here...Ask First.
We re-homed the sister really quickly and decided we'd keep Lily at least until she'd recovered from giving birth...but she stayed on for the next thirteen years...
So now we're down to three dogs...all ancient. There's Bobby who has arthritis in his back legs, he's thirteen...Eilis who I bought for five punt at a horse sale fourteen years ago...and Millie who is also fourteen.
There was a time, when we were taking in all and sundry, that we actually had thirty-two dogs...we gradually re-homed and sorted out...many had to be put to sleep through untreated illnesses, like Nipper who had appalling mange which the vet said was totally hopeless...
The vets bills during that time were horrendous...they let me pay a little each week and the vet who came out would raid all the free samples she had been given by the reps and give me a bagful of everything from wormer to antibiotic to pain relief...
The butchers in town gave us as much meat as we needed in an enormous plastic sack...off-cuts mostly, with some decent bones for chewing. And the slaughterhouse gave us livers...
I became an expert on begging...
The small newsagent saved all their unsold newspapers for us to use as litter...and delivered them to boot. And the owner would sometimes bring me a bottle of wine and a big box of chocolates...
We all too quickly became known...kittens appeared as if by magic and goats were tied to the gateposts...people appeared with a boot full of puppies which had landed in their garden...nothing to do with their dog of course...we dealt with total timewasters who wanted an adorable cuddly puppy and turned their noses up at the old and the incontinent and those dogs with less than pretty faces...and the shock horror when we said there would be a donation to pay if we decided they could have one of our dogs was a sight to behold...
Other people were plain generous...we'd find a huge bag of dog biscuits just inside the gate or a plastic bag full of rubber toys...no note to say who'd left them.
They all had to be walked of course...we had an old car then which could just about make it as far as the beginning of the bog road...we'd open the doors and the boot and everyone would simply pile in and sit on top of each other in a sweaty heap of fur...and didn't they bark...goodness, they really let rip because they did love the freedom of racing about on the bog while we tried to keep track of them all and make sure no-one was left behind...
We once found a tiny puppy sitting by the side of the road all on his own in the middle of nowhere...we re-homed him with a young couple who arrived on a motor-bike. They were actually looking for an adult dog but the girl took one look at the puppy and scooped him up. She tucked him right inside her leather jacket with tears in her eyes...and said he was quite the bestest little dog and please, please could she have him...I said he might pee on her jacket...she said...no matter...he's only a baby. So I said she could take him. They came back a few months later...in a car this time with a glossy coated handsome mongrel sitting bolt upright in the back seat...this is our Paddy she said...we thought you'd like to see him now.
Paddy landed firmly on his feet.
Originally we'd begun to take in waifs and strays because the animal rescue people said they'd fund our expenses...those expenses quickly dried up mostly because the funding was incredibly badly managed...the cat lady, as we all refer to Marie, was also left high and dry without a penny when she was so full of cats and kittens she couldn't have squeezed another in if she tried...there were several others like us who took in virtually any animal in need...we all slowly gave up. We'd spent days trawling remote areas trying to find a reported dumped dog or a litter of kittens...ploughing through forestry land in search of abandoned donkeys...dealing with un-neutered stinking Billy goats...catching foxes riddled with gunshot only to have them die from shock and pure terror...
Can you get to Castlerea to collect a dog who was left behind when the Mart closed...there are five emaciated donkeys with overgrown hooves in the forestry behind the old Murphy's place...someone's just brought me a cardboard box full of kittens...can you have them until I re-home a few of the ones I have already...would you ever come out with me tonight Sue to try to catch this blessed sheep...there are maggots eating into its flesh...I'm baiting a dog trap in the old graveyard for that Lurcher...could you meet me there at eleven...
And so the 'phone calls would go on. We grouped together and tried market stalls and fund raising and we became vocal when we saw blatant ill-treatment...we hammered home the need for spaying and neutering which fell on deaf ears...cheaper to dunk newborns in the water butt surely...
Now times are changing...animals are still abandoned...people still find a box of mewling kittens...but very gradually the idea that an animal has no soul and therefore no feeling is changing...most vets have a low charge for spaying and neutering...there are far more farriers available to trim hooves ...advice, if advice is accepted, comes from many sources.
The dogs homes are still stuffed to the hilt...the dog warden still has to destroy far too many animals...but the marts have improved in leaps and bounds...we no longer see fox cubs for sale for instance. The donkeys might still have sway backs and be skinny, but more often than not their feet are reasonable.
I'm conscious of having written far too much this evening...but animal welfare is on the list of one of my soapbox subjects...