With Hamish now resting in peace, gone but never forgotten, I am starting a new blog. Having for so long written in the persona of Hamish, it may take a while to settle into my own voice. For fans of my little Westie, I can promise that he will be present in spirit in the new blog, and, amongst much else, there will be the occasional reminiscence about the dear chap.
Readers of this blog may remember this photo of Hamish. I took it last Spring in the front garden of my West Highland cottage.
The stone when Hamish stands is just outside the front door of the cottage, overlooking Loch Torridon. The sheltered garden faces south, and even in Winter, if the sun is out, I love sitting there, contemplating the quiet and unspoilt beauty of the surroundings.
Hamish's preferred position was to lie on the soft peaty soil of the flower bed immediately to the left of the stone. Every year, he cheerfully flattened what was, until he turned up, a delicate display of autumn crocuses.
Hamish so loved our trips to Torridon. I think of it as his spiritual home. He knew that, once there, he'd have my full attention, no disappearing off to work and boring stuff like that. He 'd have such fun exploring the garden and roaming around the numerous and boggy footpaths along the loch and up the nearby hills. I'd let him get all muddy, safe in the knowledge that I could wash him off in a cool clear stream just a few yards down the road from the house. He didn't even mind the midges in Summer....
So it didn't take long to decide where to bury his ashes.
I drove over there a week last Sunday. Then, first off, I went down to the rocky beach a short distance from the cottage and selected a suitable stone to mark the spot. It had, of course, to be Torridonian Sandstone (part of the oldest sedimentary sequence in the UK, from the Precambrian era, approximately a billion years old, and so much easier on the paws than the other rocks of that region, the sharp angular quartzites, and coarsely crystalline schists and gneisses).
I chose a square squat stone, perhaps fancifully thinking of my compact and sturdy little dog.
Then I returned to the cottage, dug a little hole (unearthing a few crocus bulbs in the process).
I scattered in the ashes, lifted the marker stone into place, and made the bed tidy again.
Now I can sit in my favourite spot, think happy thoughts about my beloved and unforgettable little pal, and pat his marker stone from time to time and feel that all will be well.
PS Still working on ideas for a new blog. Watch this space.
Well I ran into a neighbour today, who often walks his rather slow black labrador at about the same time as I used to take dear Hamish out. Through tears (embarrassing in the newsagents) I told him about how I lost Hamish last week. With kindness in his eyes and voice, this taciturn Scot said "och well, he had a good innings didn't he?"
I don't know if this expression is used in non-cricket playing cultures; it is common to the point of cliche here, but none the worse for that.
Hamish did have a good innings, and I am so thankful.
Readers of this blog, I have been overwhelmed by your messages of condolence and support, and by all those beautiful poems and thoughts that you have offered as comfort. I apologize to those of you I have not found time to thank personally - I have so appreciated every single kind comment.
As for blogging, I have enjoyed it so much that I shall find a way to continue, as I begin to adjust to life without Hamish. It will be a new blog, and I'll post a link here when I decide exactly the format (probably in a few weeks). I shall of course also continue to follow my all favourite dog blogs - life would be dull without them now.
One day too, but not immediately, there will be a new dog in my house, I am sure.
There is no good way of saying this. I'll tell it straight.
Late Wednesday afternoon (only a few minutes after I pressed the 'publish' button on the blog post) Hamish fell into a fit. A couple of hours later, he seemed to have stabilised, but then at about eight thirty came another seizure, and after that he went into a downward spiral of convulsion after convulsion interspersed with a sort of unhinged frantic pacing in circles around the room. After several calls to the emergency vet, at three o'clock in the morning I drove him the short distance to the veterinary surgery and made perhaps to the hardest decision of my life, to sign the consent form for 'humane euthanasia'.
He was such a grand little dog. He brightened my life for over a decade. I can't quite accept yet that he really is gone, the end came so suddenly. I keep hearing noises in the house and thinking 'what's he up to', and I find I don't know what to do with the time when I should be taking him for walk.
This photo below is last one I took of Hamish, crossing the road on his way back home after his final stroll.
So we went out for a walk round the neighbourhood at lunchtime today. The winter sun was shining bright, and in the middle of day, by this time of year, if there's not too much wind, you can begin to feel just a little bit of warmth in the rays.
Not enough to make an old dog leave his coat at home mind.
Anyway, we weren't in a hurry, and I persuaded Gail to bring her camera along, so I can show you what our little corner of Aberdeen looks like. On a good day....
But please be aware that our Northern city doesn't alway appear so benign.
For example, you wouldn't believe what the conditions were like when Gail took me out earlier this week. I can't imagine what she was thinking!
I mean, who ever would consider it good idea to make one's elderly companion walk along by the city beach, when it's icy cold, a gale force wind is driving horizontal sleet in from the North Sea, and massive waves are walloping into the promenade? Well I did alright for a couple of hundred yards, then suddenly came over all faint and wobbly, my legs felt quite unsteady and I keeled over onto my side, and started to shake. I couldn't go any further. I just lay there. Gail picked me up and carried me back to the car, looking very anxious. She turned the heater on full and quickly drove us home. After a quiet couple of hours, inside in the warmth, I was feeling a good bit better.
So don't worry, I'm OK again now.
But it's no picnic, this getting old business.....
Long time readers of this blog will already be familiar with my Parallel Universe theory (see 29 July 2009). Well toss a few extra dimensions of quantum superposition into the mix and you will find yourself on Max's World Tour. Welcome!
You all know Max, don't you? My fine, handsome, loyal, noble friend from South Africa, the star of a quite wonderful blog. Well I am thrilled to be able to tell you that, wholly unexpectedly, he dropped in to see me this week, and accompanied me on a ramble in the Highlands.
Now it has always been my contention that a Westie is the perfect embellishment to the Scottish landscape. But, you know, looking at these pictures, I fear I have a rival. (Please don't let on to the Scottish Tourist Board, our contract negotiatons are still in the balance).
Well we had SO much to talk about, Max and I, and as we are both quite elderly gents, we interrupted our stroll with frequent rests.
Max told me all about his family back home, and especially about his Mom, who he adores and wants to thank over and over again for being so kind and taking such good care of him.
Of course, before Max left, I invited him in for a wee dram of Highland Park. It was a poignant moment, as I fear it will be Max's last visit to Scotland. My paws were shaking badly so no more photos were taken.
When I took Max back to the airport in Inverness, I have to report that he showed signs of being touch hungover. Well, we were both tired and emotional, and a tear or two was shed as he boarded the plane.
PS We would like to thank Petey's Mom in New York for her invaluable assistance with this post!
How am I doing today? Hmmmh. Thanks for asking. Well I've been feeling a bit up and down this week. But, to use a favourite phrase of human grandad, Soldiering On.
Yes indeed, I'm Soldiering On.
As I haven't been out much, I've had plenty of time to think about important questions.
There's just one thing I just can't make up my mind about. Perhaps you can help?
Gail was given these two mugs as Christmas presents last year. It really is difficult to decide which one is nicest.
I think we need a closer look.
One always has to consider a problem from different angles
And take into account all the features. Let's see.
I think the most important factor is the depiction of the Westies, don't you? The 'red' mug on the left features two, but the 'blue' one on the right has three, so round one to the blue corner, yes? But then on the other hand, one of the red mug's Westies has a smart coat, and the other a nice collar and tag, so that maybe balances things out.
What about the other accessories? Here, advantage red mug, where the two dogs have their own kennel, a welcoming robin, and someone has given them an interesting gift.
Oh but then perhaps that's not the whole picture. Consider the weather. Those two Westies on the left do need a kennel, as it appears to be snowing on their mug. Whereas our three pals on the right are enjoying a pleasant summer day, blue skies and green grass.
A quiet voice in the corner here is suggesting that I am 'over-analysing' this issue. And also complaining that I am missing the point by ignoring key features like compatibility with dishwashers and microwaves....
Which mug do you prefer? I'm too tired to think about it any longer....
Gail speaks first: Thank you so very much to everyone for sending Hamish all those best wishes, love and healing thoughts yesterday. What did we learn at the vet? Well apparently dogs of Hamish's age and breed do not suddenly develop epilepsy, so the fits must be caused by something else. A blood test ruled out liver or kidney failure, an abscess, and hypoglycemia. That leaves, worryingly, a brain tumour or a mini-stroke as the most likely cause. The vet does not recommend further invasive investigations for a dog of Hamish's age. He has been prescribed medication to improve oxygen supply to the brain, and if the fits continue he will also receive anti-convulsant medication. He has been taking a short course of prednisolone for the last few weeks anyway to calm his itchy skin. So it's now a game of wait and see, with fingers crossed.
Now back to Hamish:
Hi folks! Well I did feel pretty strange yesterday, after my odd turn on Saturday night. A few bruises too, from tumbling downstairs. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and as neither Gail nor I felt up to embarking on one of our more exciting Sunday outings, we ventured instead into that terra incognito known as 'the back garden', and I helped (well, provided moral support) with some tidying up work.
And I do want to make my contribution quite clear as it is usually me, who, most unfairly, gets blamed for the state of this overgrown, unkempt and generally neglected patch of earth. I mean, I would show you photos of how bad it looks, but that has been banned, on grounds of 'embarrassment'.
Pleased to report that this morning (Monday) I'm feeling a good bit sprightlier, and am looking forward to a cosy week at home, assisting Gail with this new 'job'. (I have decided to take my friends' advice and not write to her employers about the false authorship claims...)