NUMBERED DAYS: Our Tuesday columnist Maggie Cooper's English setter Rory.
NUMBERED DAYS: Our Tuesday columnist Maggie Cooper's English setter Rory. Contributed

Paying tribute to our pets who have left us

RECENTLY our Tuesday columnist Maggie Cooper wrote about her beautiful English setter Rory, who she rescued as a pup of 18 months old.

Now a stately 13 year old wise dog of the world Rory doesn't have much longer on this earth.

Maggie knows that Rory's time is running out.

Her heart wrenching column prompted Lismore's Michael Evans to write in sympathy after having to put down his mini foxy Fang.

Our pets play a huge part in our lives, often becoming our fur babies and constant companions.

We would love readers to send in their photos and stories of their pets who are no longer with them.

Follow this link to pay tribute to your companion along with photos.

We will be posting your stories online and in The Northern Star on a regular basis.

Maggie's column

THE past few weeks have been a bittersweet time for my family.

Once again I am watching a beloved old pet slowly but surely run out of time.

Rory is an English setter, her coat a glorious confection of long and silky white strands with bold red spots. Impossibly elegant (and profoundly dumb), wherever she drops herself for a nap she invariably looks as though a fashion stylist has spent hours arranging her to provide the maximum wow factor.

She's 13-and-a-bit now, and has been my constant and faithful companion since she was 18 months old. Something of a rescue dog, she came to me via the internet from a breeder who, while he didn't exactly mistreat her, failed to provide love. She'd been kept in a concrete pen and fed slops; when she came to live with us, she couldn't eat properly - having never had solid food in her mouth - and couldn't run, play, or climb steps. I had to teach her the many skills that had been denied her in the early part of her life.

When she arrived, full of terror and shyness, her name was Vogue. We quickly dubbed her Vague, but after the initial jokes at her expense, I renamed her Rory; it was a "boy named Sue" moment (I thought it would toughen her up having a masculine name). It worked; while never losing her soft and gentle demeanor, she quietly developed a will of steel.

I'd never before owned a dog that would happily consume her own body weight on a daily basis but, as a fat dog is an unhappy dog, she was on a constant calorie-restricted diet. That didn't suit her one bit; she took to sitting in front of the biscuit jar, staring at it intently as though the sheer power of her thoughts would be enough to open it and deliver the contents. Occasionally it worked.

Rory has welcomed with a saintly (and slightly pained) air a succession of puppies to her home over the years. I lost two young dogs in rapid succession to medical misfortune; when I bought a third Standard poodle puppy, she rolled her eyes and settled down to teach it the ropes. They are now constant companions and the best of friends; how does one explain to a dog that her mentor and big sister will be leaving us soon?

Last Tuesday after a heatwave I booked the visit to the vet; arthritis has taken its cruel toll and the eternal glutton refused a meal for the first time ever.  A final trip to the beach proved to be a lifesaver; the ocean rejuvenated her and I cancelled the appointment. But clearly it's just a matter of time.

We'll miss her badly when she's gone.  

Michael's letter

Dear Maggie

I have just read your very moving account about your pet Rory. I do hope that when the time comes things go peacefully for you both. It is a very tough call to make about putting a loved one to sleep - particularly after so much quality time together.

I had to do the same with my 19 year old mini foxy Fang and it broke my heart waiting for the vet to come and do the deed. He is buried on our front lawn in a red cedar box traditionally French polished and made with the kind assistance of local master cabinetmaker, Geoff Hannah, where I do classes.

Fang was just so loyal. Several years ago an arsonist lit fires that burnt out 5 farms at Tregeagle where I live. At one point I was trapped in the flames and was screaming out to the fire brigade for help. But who came dashing through the wall of flames - Fang. He bounded up onto my chest, looked me square in the eye as if to say 'We die together dad'. We were finally rescued but Fang was so badly burnt that he was given little hope of survival. However, within a week he was bounding around like a pup - the only legacy was that he was now blind for his last two years. He took that in his stride and even invented new games that he could play.

You may like to read two articles written by Richard Glover in Spectrum in the SMH about him losing his beloved dog. 'The best dog that ever was' and 'Luck comes with a wagging tail' as a rejoiner to all those people who wrote in to wish him their condolences, are very moving pieces of work that may help you with what you are currently undergoing. They worked for me.

Finally may I suggest you procure a copy of 'The complete book of great working dog stories'. A  good friend of mine gave me a copy then Fang passed away and it is a first class read. Some yarns will split your sides while others will reduce you to tears. However, I am better for reading it as, like you, it shows how much people love their furry companions.

Best wishes to both you and Rory.

Kind regards

Mike (Evans)

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