A little over ten years ago Jo and I told the kids we were going out to do some food shopping. Back then, it was the best way of ensuring they wouldn’t want to come along. We were only going to ‘have a look’, that was all. It had taken no time at all to talk Jo into getting a dog as we both loved them, the kids were forging new lives for themselves in Bristol and this may help a little. We both knew that this was going to be the only addition we would now add to the family, so going to ‘have a look’ seemed prudent before making a permanent decision.
We drove through the rolling green countryside of Somerset, not far from where my favourite cider is made. Eventually we found the sharp turning up a track which opened out to reveal a house with fencing around the back, securing the considerable land running up a slope into woodland. Just before the woodland was a large kennel. The entrance to the back was through a large metal country gate, the kind we are always reminded to close in the Country Code. On the other side of the gate was an old red car that looked like it hadn’t moved for some time. From behind the car appeared two mischievous faces, one on top of the other like in a cartoon. One face was terracotta red and white. The other face was dark chocolate brindle with a white inverted wine glass running down the centre of her face, the stem of the glass ran between her eyes and the bowl of the glass opened out to envelop her mouth and jowls. They remained peeping from behind the car for only a split second, but that image will stay with me all my life.
They bounded out from behind the car to greet us, their bums shaking from side to side with excitement and faces scrunched up with unabashed joy. After a very quick discussion with the breeder who explained the female brindle was the only one left from the litter she would sell because although she was a fine example of the breed, her inner eyelids were different colours so she could not win competitions. Within seconds I was back in the car looking for an ATM while Jo stayed to make sure no-one else came along and took her from us. Going to only ‘have a look’ was never a realistic option. I returned with the money and we left for home with the new addition to our family, our Boxer puppy called Roxy.
As a puppy, we could not have asked for better behaviour. She never really messed in the house, apart from mitigating circumstances which I will explore in more detail later and she never chewed anything which was a blessing, as Boxers are infamous vandals. Not one chair leg, sofa cushion or shoe did she destroy.
I say all that, but must confess I am guilty of using rose-tinted glasses which ironically, would have been destroyed as she did eat a £200 pair of Oakley’s I had. I returned home from a night out with work somewhat inebriated to find Jo holding up a twisted piece of metal that resembled part of the frames and it took me a few moments to realise the glasses were no more. Roxy had somehow climbed up onto the dining table upon which my glasses had been laying in assumed safety, skated around on the shiny veneer before devouring said glasses. We knew this to be the course of events as our once pristine, lacquered table now resembled an ice rink where several drunks re-enacted Torville and Dean’s Olympic Gold winning ice dance to Bolero. She also gorged herself on every one of my England Cricket baseball style hats. She would eat one, so I would buy another one, and with canine appreciation she would eat that too, ad nauseam. Literally.
***WARNING – Anecdotes Of Poo – Those who have just eaten may not want to read this next bit***
Then we have the chocolate cake incident. I still shudder at the thought of it. We took our youngest to London on her birthday for a day out with her friend to do some shopping and then on to Planet Hollywood for something to eat. In Planet Hollywood I asked them for a surprise birthday cake, and bless them, they provided a huge chocolate birthday cake. Lush. We took it home as it was so big it would feed us all for days to come. Of course Roxy managed to somehow drag it off the kitchen work surface and devour it all. And when I say ALL, I mean ALL. Oh lordy, she ate every bit of it. But she was not sick and showed no signs of feeling sick. We were worried as we knew chocolate can be very harmful to dogs, but we got a lucky break and all appeared well.
At this point I need to explain that we had an ‘En Suite’ bathroom with a walkway between the bathroom and bedroom that had wardrobes either side of it. The doors of the wardrobes were mirrored and on a sliding track. Roxy would sleep on the floor either next to, at the end of or under our bed, it never failed to make us laugh as her little legs disappeared under our bed.
We were woken by the horrific sound of solids and liquids being expunged from an orifice at high pressure. The noise came from the walkway between the bedroom and bathroom. It eventually ceased and there was the sound of rapid paw steps over to Jo’s side of the bed. I turned the light on to see Roxy sat at Jo’s bedside with an expectant look of ‘uh-oh’ on her face. I turned to look at the walkway. Oh my. I felt like Roy Scheider in Jaws, sat on Amity Island Beach in the homage to Vertigo as the camera moves in and zooms out. Before me was Dante’s third circle of hell, Gluttony, or at least the results of it. All I could scream was,
“OH NO!” in shock and awe.
My wonderful dog had woken with significant digestive discomfort and legged it over to the walkway where all hell broke loose. She was understandably curious and concerned with what was going on back there and tried to investigate. Dogs chasing their tails can be amusing, although not when something like that is taking place. She had created her own little circle of hell, all over the mirrored doors, the floor, the tracks and inside the cupboard. Jo ushered Roxy out of the room and downstairs. I got myself a towel, wrapped it around my face in an effort to filter out the overwhelming smell and started the clean-up process.
I eventually joined Jo downstairs to sleep on the sofa. It was several days before we could sleep in there again.
I could tell many stories about pulling grass from out of her as she ran inside like her ass was on fire, or waking to find her nose in my mouth and the time she coughed canine phlegm into my mouth but that was only the smallest part of our life with Roxy.
She was so very gentle, which for a Boxer is quite something. If we were ever upset about anything, she would always be there in front of us, tail wagging and nervously looking for reassurance that we were okay. She was a begrudging companion to an old rescued Boxer we had for the last few months of his life, but she was a companion to him nonetheless. She was aloof, fuss was on her terms. She was a foot warmer when you wanted to sleep on the sofa. She never showed aggression to other dogs and just wanted to play with them or on them, even once still trying to play with a dog that had just attacked her and opened her side up quite severely. She was great with our Grandson, always so patient with him as he played with her, put shoes on her and sometimes fell on her (all closely supervised by us, of course). When we came home she would sit patiently, waiting for us to take our coats off and hang them up before leaping up with excitement to greet us. She would punch Jim in his testicles every time he came to visit. She only ever showed dislike for one person, which proved her to be a great judge of character. She was my alarm clock, waking me up every morning without fail to go for a walk and she would play by running at me, swerving and jumping out of the way at the last moment. She loved to do this and I loved to watch her do this every morning. Her favourite words were Cheese, Chicken, Treat, Walk and Cats, but not to speak, that would be ridiculous. The back door to our old house had a cat flap and she would poke her head through it to bark at people who were walking along the footpath at the back of our house, like some ground-level animated Gargoyle. She developed over a number of years, a unique way of asking to be let out for a pee by exhaling in a manner that sounded like the groan of a Zombie or one of the creatures in Resident Evil, it amused us but could be rather disconcerting for the uninitiated. She was most comfortable when she could lay on the sofa, roll onto her back and tuck her legs in, like an upturned bean. On one occasion she allowed several cows to lick her face. She was a keen and constant farter.
And then a week and a half ago we were on the way back from our morning walk when she slowed down, not to sniff at anything and not to pee, she just slowed right down and stopped. This was to be the start of our losing her. She went rapidly downhill from there, refusing water and food unless it was given to her by hand and only then in very tiny amounts. She perked up a little on Sunday with a visit from the girls and our Grandson, but not enough. That Tuesday the vet advised we could have tests done but they would only confirm what was causing the inevitable and there was little to be done. So Jo and I had reached the day we had known would always come and we made the hardest decision. To carry on would have been selfish and cruel on our part and would not have taken into account her comfort and quality of life.
We both held her as she went and our hearts broke.
You can’t choose your family, only your friends so they say. But Jo and I were so very lucky to have been able to choose this member of our family who was also our dearest friend, bringing us so much happiness in the 10 years and four months she was here. We no longer have our alarm clock, no-one to eat that little bit of cheese, no-one ‘zombie breathing’ to be let out to pee and now the corner of the sofa looks empty.
But in the last ten years we have laughed so much, smiled at each other over her as she snored laying between us and have had the best companion and friend we could have wished for. We would not change a minute.
Goodbye Roxy – X