Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

Goodbye Mabel

Posted in: Me

The first time I saw you, you were like an overweight rhino, huffing and puffing and bashing around the small room in Battersea Dogs Home. You pretty much ignored Holly and I but we were in love with you from that first moment. The staff called you ‘Mabel the coffee table’ because you were the right height for cups and saucers and had an enormous flat back. Goodness me you were fat. I remember that day so clearly: I couldn’t believe how strong you were and how excited we were to take you home.

We made lots of fuss of you and gave you lots of cuddles. You used to come upstairs in the morning to wake us up which I loved. We couldn’t understand why you didn’t like walking, digging your heels in and lying down. I had to carry your heavy lump back to our flat many, many times. We asked the vet why: she said you were lazy. We wrote to a dog magazine for help: they said bull terriers are lazy. We soon realised that this was very true. Only rarely did you run like normal dogs do and even then that was only for a few seconds but when you did it was hilarious, like an out of control juggernaut cavorting around open spaces. You liked Clissold Park and the animal enclosure with its deer and goats. You got excited but never aggressive – never have I met a dog that was so unscary as you. You were a big softie, frightened of pretty much any animal, bigger or smaller than you. You were friendly and would say hello to anyone and would be happy to go off with them, without a thought for us.

Many people crossed the road to avoid you as you did look like a tough dog. I used to feel sorry for you as all you wanted to do was to walk over and say ‘hello’. You travelled on buses, which frightened some, you travelled on the tube and laid right across the aisle on your back, which amused many. Everyone who saw you remembered you for one reason or another.

You were an undog-like dog: you didn’t like walking or moving much, you didn’t show a lot of affection, you didn’t bark. I can count on my fingers the number of times I heard you make a normal dog-noise. When you did, food was usually the cause of it and curry in particular. Often I caught you barking at some food that hadn’t be put out of your reach: your rare bark was your audible frustration at the torment in front of you. Mostly though you just ate what ever you could: bananas in a sealed packet, flapjacks in a tin, mouldy old kippers on a compost heap, it didn’t really matter if it was remotely edible or not, you didn’t seem to mind. In particular I remember you eating the kids’ wax crayons and having multi-coloured poo for a few days.

When we  moved to Wales you were overjoyed by the many kinds of manure on offer. It was a constant battle to keep you away from it. That and rotten fruit which one time resulted in an emergency trip to the vets. You never did learn.

You hated water in all its forms wand wouldn’t go out for a walk if it was raining, windy or cold. Strangely though you didn’t mind the sea so much and loved the beach. It was so nice to see a lazy dog run around and have so much fun. Bath times caused you a lot of terror but you just stood and accepted it. Like you did with all the other unpleasant things that you sometimes needed.

You did begin to walk much better in the countryside and I think it was the London concrete you didn’t enjoy. Even though there were many treasures around Highbury: lots of discarded chip wrappers and kebab leftovers lying around. You liked the countryside and its country smells and used to go on the occasional long walk but you were always glad to get home and collapse. You liked to sleep. We had our short daily walk past the various obstacles of apples and animal poo and I struggled to get you to go the right way: you never seemed to know where you were and were happy to go in any direction.

When the kids came along you inevitably took a back seat but you didn’t fuss, you never did. You were great with them as they climbed on you and pulled your ears. I never worried for one second as I trusted you more than anyone. You coped well with change as I think you always knew we’d look after you. When we first got you, you did used to get really anxious when we were stressed or were packing bags for a weekend away. I think you had a hard time at your first home and the marriage break-up must have unsettled you a lot. Those were the few times I saw you concerned, normally you were stoic about everything: at the vets, travelling, when you were hurt – all the things that normal dogs get upset about didn’t phase you. It was hard to know what you were feeling sometimes but I knew you had emotions of course. You had your embarrassed look, your worried look, your playful happy look, your leave-me-alone look. You  liked your own space and time.

One night you got out and went missing. Despite days of searching we couldn’t find you. I was devastated and thought you’d never survive on your own but you proved everyone wrong and were found 6 days later. You looked awful and were skin and bone. Even though we fed you lots extra you never put the lost weight back on. People used to stop when we were out walking and comment on your incredible story. You were usually oblivious and just wanted to eat fallen apples. You lost more and more weight and became really skinny and sick, your dicky tummy playing up almost every month. You were poorly but you were such a strong dog. I felt a lot of confusion as to what to do for the best – I think you had more time in you but I didn’t want you to suffer any pain.

I’m glad I had a chance to say goodbye and we had a lovely cuddle by the fire. When I think I won’t ever see you again, it breaks my heart. You were a unique and special dog. You were beautiful. You were my companion and friend. I miss you girl and always will.