LOVE ME, LOVE MY DOGS

BERTIE - never forgotten.

I've been crazy about dogs all my life, but was never allowed a pet of any kind as a child, then work got in the way. I was in my 40s before I got my first dog. Bertie was a feisty, but beautiful collie/beagle X and we got him from the local refuge at the age of 3 months. He was a handful and I was the only one who could do anything with him. Bertie was a healthy dog until we came to France and he spent less than 24 hours in a French refuge because we needed to board him out while we went back to England to attend my eldest step-daughter's wedding. Having seen the state in which these poor dogs were being kept - dogs, cats and one huge cougar being fed stale bread [raw chickens for the cougar] I decided I couldn't go to the wedding and a good job too. Bertie came out of that refuge with a huge haematoma on his back paw and over the years it turned cancerous and he had various operations, ending in amputation of the whole leg. He was 15 when he finally succumbed to illness and old age and we had to say our goodbyes, with me holding onto his paw as he slid into his final sleep.

CANDY

A few months of grieving for Bertie and being so miserable that my husband gave in and allowed me to get another dog. He suggested that as I had always loved Yorkshire Terriers I should get one of these - and the smallest I could find. We found a breeder of Yorkies and put in an order for one small female. A miniature, in fact. I had no idea they came so small. The day we went to pick up the dog I had already named Candy, then at 8 weeks old, was unforgettable. We were presented with a tiny black powder puff on legs. For the first six months she never made a sound, other than mouse-like squeaks and, indeed, a friend who saw me walking her, sarcastically asked me why I had a rat on the end of the lead.

But the 'little rat' grew into a beautiful princess. Our tiny girl is now a sedate, elderly lady entering into her 15th year with us. She is going blind and deaf, but she is still beautiful.  My 'no more dogs' husband adores her. She was his 'top photographic model' for the first few years of her life and is still very photogenic. We both dread the day when we will have to see her float over the rainbow on angel wings.

As the years went by, I began to get broody for another dog - one a little more robust that I could walk with. Candy walked brilliantly for the first three years, then developed arthritis, so she invariably had to be carried after a few metres and even at 3 kilos this became a bit wearying. I knew my husband would say a great big 'NO' to another dog in the house, so I did it behind his back and collection of a new, male Yorkshire Terrier fell on a weekend when he was away with his birdwatching group. That day the rain came down in deluges and the local town was flooded, but my brave friend, Jenny, drove us to the farm where I was to pick up the new arrival. That was quite an experience. The farmhouse was overrun by tiny Yorkies, but my puppy came out of a large, dark barn, a scrawny black scrap of a thing. The farmer handed him to me and the pup immediately hooked a paw into my shirt and wouldn't let go. I was going to call him Jasper, but by the time we got home with him, he was called Toby.

Toby is beautiful, mischievous, jealous, possessive and thinks he's Vicious Sid every time anybody comes to the door. My other half hated him at first sight and it's taken five years for them to become friends [with reservations]. The two dogs maintain a love-hate relationship which has improved with time.  I love my little rascal to bits and I'm still working on his attitude towards visitors - though he's fine once they're inside and sitting down.