What our dreams know


I dreamt about Rigby last night as if he was still alive and well and a key part of my life. He was perfectly recreated in the dream, vivid and true to life. I adored him and him me. That was perfectly nice, but then he disappeared. I woke up one morning, and he was gone. I looked everywhere, but he was nowhere to be found. I tried to think logically: where could he be? But really, there was nowhere else he could be. As I realised that, I began to feel that frantic sense of fear. Then I woke up.

Rigby is often in my mind, but even more so lately. The reality is, I wake up these days and he’s gone, just as in the dream, and I wonder if the meaning of the dream is as simple as that?

It often occurs to me that I lost Rigby at just about the worst possible time. There’s no good time, of course. He was a devoted companion for many years, and we had a close symbiotic relationship. I think he knew me better than anyone. That’s probably exaggerated, but he knew me in every tic, just as I knew him. I miss him looking at me with his deep eyes. I felt seen and valued. These days alone, recuperating from cancer, I miss that companionship and love – as well as the movement and life he brought to my home.

I’m on the list to get another chocolate lab puppy later in the year. I look forward to it, but he won’t be Rigby. I expect I’ll form a close bond with whatever dog I end up with, but once you’ve had a pet, you recognise how distinct their individuality is. There won’t be another Rigby, and I feel as if I’ve lost a great pal forever. It still seems hard to believe.

I fear that when I hear the puppy is available, I’ll be unable to afford it. Dogs have become very expensive, especially in light of Covid. I’m getting by financially, but there’s not much in the kitty. Cancer has cost me dearly, and I’m still on short wages. Things will improve when I return to FT work, especially if I get the pay rise I’m entitled to, but it will be a struggle to pull a few thousand out of the air when I need it.

What happens if I can’t afford the next Rigby?

While I’m speaking of dreams, I’ve had a few lately in which a woman has featured in different roles. There appears a bond between us, even when – as in one dream – we’re not in communication with each other. It’s clear that we know each other well as if we have been intimate in the past or remain so.

None of that is strange, except the identity of the woman. In my dream, I know her. There’s an acceptance of her presence, as if she belongs. Its just ‘her’ – someone familiar and well known. When I wake, though, I can’t remember who she is. She may be a complete stranger to me, a figment of my dream. But she may also be a real person, as it feels she is. And I wonder if, once more, my dreams know more than I do. It’s frustrating not knowing who she is – someone I know, someone from my past, or an imaginary figure? I may never find out.

Where to? How?


Last night I lay in bed with my head hurting and my breathing laboured, unable to sleep. Eventually I got up. I took a pill with a glass of water. As I stood by the sink my eyes went to the digital device on the kitchen bench, on which rotated some of my favourite snaps. The picture was of Rigby, and I stood there looking at it until it changed to something else.

For about 10 minutes I sat in the recliner in the living room, just resting. It’s where I sit to read sometimes or have a cup of tea. Mostly, before, Rigby would sprawl on the floor in front of me. I looked at the place as if he was there still. Sometimes, he would come and rest his head in the space beside my leg, looking up at me. My hand went to him.

I was in a bad way. I’m utterly worn out, physically and emotionally. I’ve got little life outside of home because I’m not up to it. I’m back working and doing my best, but I’ve lost all faith in the people there, and rouse little interest in the work I’m doing. And, Rigby is gone.

I wouldn’t feel that so keenly if my life was happier. I always had him, at least, and now I don’t even have him.

It’s funny how you still expect him, if only momentarily. I get out of bed and I look to him, knowing that he will follow – but he’s not there. Struggling as I was to sleep last night, I might have reached out and found some comfort knowing he was there. I miss his companionship obviously, and his love for me, and the love he created in me.

This is not about him though. I miss him terribly, but he’s a symptom of my current state, not the cause of it.

I need to find something to believe in. It’s hard. Physically, I’m not right. Work has failed me and the life I had before seems far distant. And Rigby, who could always make bad things better, is gone.

I’m doing things because I don’t know what else to do. And because I need to. I don’t want to fail. But what comes next? When? And why?

I need to find a way out of this mess but have to do it alone.

It’s mid-morning. I’m still in bed. I feel better than last night, but not great. I woke from an ugly sleep at about 9. I feel exhausted. I wish I knew more. For once, I feel incapable of navigating a way forward. What is right? What is wrong? I don’t think I can go on like this unless I have a sudden upturn in my health. But even then – what does it mean? There remain many unanswered questions.

Vale


On Wednesday, I finally picked up Rigby’s ashes, three weeks after his death.

I was keen to have them home with me. It’s not much, but it’s something. He belongs here and the home feels more complete now that he has returned.

It was sad returning to the vet, though. I remembered the last time I was there. I paid my bill and then the receptionist went into the next room and returned with a paper bag containing the black wooden box I had selected as the repository for his ashes, and a framed paw print. I couldn’t say anything but thank-you. As I turned to leave, the receptionist reached out and gave my arm a squeeze.

It was an act of grace and compassion I’m grateful for, but which threatened to undo me at the time.

It has got easier, only because I’ve got used him not being around. There are times I still look for or expect him. I’ll hear a noise in the background and think, that’s Rigby. My dislocated breathing has me awake in the middle of the night sometimes believing is back beside me. It’s very familiar.

It’s definitely a lot tougher now that he’s gone, but I have no immediate plans to get another dog. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I’ve offered to look after the puppy of the lady across the way while she’s at work.

It seems the least I can do given all the time she spent taking Rigby for a walk when I was unable. And, it might be good for me. It’s a lively little thing and it’ll be good to have some movement around the house again.

Que sera


First thing Tuesday morning I went into the hospital to get the PET scan that would tell if any cancer remained in my system.

I had one of these before, not long after being diagnosed. Though I was in much pain I was still able-bodied at that point. I caught the train in and did as directed as they prepared for and then executed the scans. It was a time of great suspense, and perhaps fear. The results of the tests would reveal how far the cancer had progressed and how far it had spread. On that the prognosis would hang. It was literally a matter of life and death.

On that occasion the blessed outcome was life – probably. I don’t know if these tests hang by such a critical thread, but the worst-case scenario would reveal untreatable cancer. That’s unlikely. Most likely – according to the blithe doctors – is that I’ll be given a clean bill of health.

I may get the results today, and it’s a biggie, I know, but I find myself not nearly as interested in the outcome as everyone else. I hope it’s good news, but if it isn’t I’ll just get on with it.

This is indicative of how I feel generally at the moment – unmotivated, disinterested, and wondering what the point of everything is. There has been a touch of this since around Christmas, but losing Rigby really nailed it.

Obviously, I’m grief-stricken, but there’s also the objective reality that my enjoyment of life is less with him gone – maybe 20-30% less. I’ve outlined most of the reasons why, but the one thing that I haven’t referred to is that all the love and affection I felt and would give to him has shrivelled up now that he’s gone. I needed that, and now I feel totally alone.

I remember in December when I was away writing about how I needed mental and intellectual stimulation, and how I’d missed it. It felt like the missing ingredient, and I was determined to reclaim it.

That was true, but a month or so later, I’m not interested. The same essays I read then with fascination now seem too dry and academic in the face of human loss and grief. Likewise, I’m uninterested in writing.

What this highlights to me is how we need a balance of emotional and intellectual stimuli. Add in spiritual, if you like. We’re all different, and so the ratios will vary from person to person. As I’ve found out, get the ratios wrong and life becomes a misery.

I felt quite positive when I wrote that in December. At that point, I had no idea that Rigby was unwell and ignorantly presumed that the emotional sustenance he gave me would continue. It was only a few days later that I discovered I was wrong.

As it stands, the scab will harden and ultimately the wound will heal, though the memory will remain. I’ll learn to live without what he gave me, though that seems an unsatisfactory solution. I’ll probably find myself returning to the dry words of scholarship and finding momentary distraction. I’ll get by, but really, it seems to me, if I mean someday to live meaningfully that I need to rebalance somehow.

For now, I would benefit just by having someone around. There’s nothing I need to say particularly, but it would be nice to have the option. It might seem strange, but Rigby filled that function, too. He was constant companion and the curious recipient of my occasional commentary. He seemed to understand. The grief I feel is compounded by the fact he’s not here to comfort or to listen. I’m closed in, and very sad.

Last considerations


I don’t want to go on about Rigby too much, but I feel the need to record some of what I feel and think.

There’s a range of emotions you experience, which blend into memory and ultimately the kind of knowledge you don’t worry at otherwise, when things are good and there’s no need for it.

The thing about dogs is that when they give themselves to you they do do completely with a kind of faithful innocence. It’s one of their most endearing and instructive traits. They invest in you fully, flaws and all. You become their world and main purpose for being. You are their sun.

I know that I’ve not been as loved as well as what Rigby loved me. I would look up and he’d be gazing at me with a kind of settled rapture. It’s one of the things I’ll miss most, how he would look at me – as if I had all the answers.

It might sound a bit silly, but he knew me better than anyone else. Dogs are so observant. They pick up cues quickly. They read your gestures and your eyes and they know your habits as intimately as any partner. It’s part of the joy, really. It’s fun to be so well synchronised and heartwarming to be so well known.

Rigby, for example, would know that if I reached for my glasses while lying in bed that I was about to get up. He would leap from the bed ahead of me and turn, waiting. Or, having a coffee, he would keenly watch until I took the last mouthful, when he would ready himself to lick out the milky remnants, as per ritual. Occasionally he would give me a nudge as if to hurry me up.

Then there is the shared experience. I live alone, but whatever I experienced Rigby did also. It seems a small thing and not something I was conscious of until now. You react to something and you turn to see how Rigby has reacted – how often our eyes would meet as if in common purpose.

This will sound a little pathetic, but in the days since he’s gone I’ve indulged in activities as if he were still here. Consciously indulged. Sitting down, I’ll reach down idly with one hand as if he was there sitting beside me still, as if I could caress him, as I would before. I call him sometimes. Sometimes I teach out a hand as if to invite him to come to me – as he would before, tail wagging, a happy smile on his face.

I’ve packed away his things. I couldn’t bear to see them sit there unused. In the next day or two, I’ll pick up his ashes. I’m surprised how much that means to me. I never understood before, but now I want him back with me.

Goodbye beautiful boy


I don’t know when I’ll post next, so let me get this out of the way.

Rigby was put to sleep on Wednesday. The tumour on his spine had grown to the size of my fist, and he had lost function to his hind legs. It was heartbreaking watching him try again and again to get to his feet and fail. I can only imagine what was going on in his mind. The day before, he could do it, and just a couple of days before that, he had been tugging at his lead when we went on a walk.

It’s the speed of this that is so hard to take. Five weeks ago, there was no visible tumour. He was fit and healthy in all other respects, and he was bright-eyed until the end.

By Tuesday night, he couldn’t move. I feared the worse then. I picked him up and put him on the bed so he could be close to me. We slept, almost embracing each other.

I had hoped that medication might get him up and about again, but it wasn’t the case. By Wednesday, he had given up trying to get up. Occasionally he would drag himself across the floor. I think I knew what was coming.

That afternoon I took him to the vet. Cheeseboy came with me because I couldn’t do it alone. I discussed options with the vet – a cortisone injection a harness. She shrugged her shoulders. The problem was the tumour was growing so quickly that any sort of respite would be temporary. It was so hard to contemplate, especially as he seemed happy and alert otherwise, his eyes curious and warm, as always.

I had to make the decision. I think it was the right decision, but I’ve felt unbearable guilt since. I feel like I betrayed him. It would have been easier had he been less alert.

I was with him when it happened. I couldn’t let him go through that alone. I fed him some jerky which he gobbled up gratefully. He licked my fingers. Then his eyes began to rapidly blink, and he was gone. Dead, he seemed at peace.

I’m heartbroken. I loved him so much. He was such an integral part of my life that I can’t turn around without being reminded of him. You have a dog, and routines become rituals that bite hard when they’re gone. No more him waking me up to be fed. No more of him leaping up onto the bed to snuggle beside me. No more him nudging me to let him lick out my empty coffee cup. No more of him dogging my every step and his keen and hopeful eyes watching whenever I handled food. No more of him curling at my feet. No more of his surreptitious little kisses as he went by. No more coming home to eagerly waiting for me.

I’ve felt the absence of all that like a knife in the days since. I miss his eyes on me. I cry, and it’s like the tears are poison I must rid myself of. I can’t believe he’s gone forever. It would be easier knowing he was out there somewhere, even if I never saw him again.

What makes it harder is that he’s been there for me throughout my battle with cancer. At my low points, he would snuggle up to me and give his unqualified love. I’ll miss that love, and now, at what feels like my lowest point, he’s not here to comfort me.

Part of me feels very bitter. I got sick, and he died. Where’s the justice in that? It’s so much harder that it all happened so quickly. Without this, you’d have easily imagined him going on for another year or two. Even with such an ailment, had it developed at a normal rate, you’d have expected months. We got weeks.

I’m sick of the tough times. I’ve had it with being strong. I’ve had more than my share of shit stuff, and I’m not going to accept it anymore. Give me a break – though now it feels too late.

I’ll rebound, but right now, I wonder, to what end? I’ve lost my best mate forever.

It seems ironic, but on Tuesday, I have the PET scan to check if the cancer is gone.

Love and hope


As of Friday last week, back home in Melbourne. It’s good to be here. The plan is to take it easy as much as possible, though it’s a busy time of year. It means giving up the little post-Christmas jaunt I hoped for, for fear of getting another infection. I’ve had lunch with my dad and aunt and uncle on Monday. Wednesday night, I catch up with friends for a pre-Christmas dinner. Christmas day itself I will spend with the Cheeses. In between is a visit to the hospital for a check-up and hopefully the chance to sneak in a booster shot.

My health has gone backwards a little since returning from Sydney, and I saw the doctor yesterday to get a new set of antibiotics. I expect they’ll do the trick, though I’m resigned to the fact that proper health is months away.

For most of the time since surgery, I would describe my state of mind as philosophical, if not stoic. It’s a practical mindset that accepts the things I can do nothing about and must accept. My challenge is to make the best of the situation presented to me. I have my moments of exasperation and impatience, but, by and large, I think I’ve achieved that. At times I feel it’s added a hard edge to me.

Surprisingly, there are occasions when I feel very emotional. The trigger event will usually be a news item – the usual, something sad or something uplifting. However, it taps into something deep inside me. I suspect there’s a lot of unexpressed fear inside me and grief and loneliness.

Today, I’ve had more cause for emotion. I can hardly bring myself to write about it.

On my return from Sydney, I noticed a lump on Rigby’s back. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed it before. He’s had various lumps over the years, and most have been fat deposits. This felt different, though it appeared it wasn’t causing him any pain or inconvenience.

I’d planned to take him to the vet, but this hurried it along. We went this morning. The vet confirmed what was probably obvious: it’s a tumour of some description. Given his age – he turned 13 in November – there’s not much that can be done.

I can only hope it’s benign, though I fear the worst. He’s remarkably chipper for his age – still lively and full of energy. Other than the occasional issue with his back legs, he appears just as fit as ever. He’s happy and appears pain-free.

There’s nothing I can do. The time was always going to come when he would begin to fail, but I don’t know how I’ll cope with this. My own pain, my own dire state of health, is easier to deal with than the thought that my best mate may be ailing. I can only continue to love him and hope for the best.

Be more doggy


The Cheeses went away last weekend, and so I ended up dog-sitting Bailey. I did it with trepidation. My place is quite small, and though the dogs know each other and get on well on our weekly walks, there’s been tension before. And, in a way, it’s like being asked to look after someone’s child. You don’t want to fuck it up.

Bailey was a bit discombobulated initially, which was understandable. His folks had abandoned him, and though he knew Rigby and me, he was the interloper.

For the most part, Rigby seemed unfussed, though a couple of times he got a bit possessive and territorial. Always an affectionate dog, he became more so. When Bailey engaged with me at the start, Rigby would push himself forward, and he didn’t want Bailey getting up on the bed – that was his spot.

Over the weekend, Rigby became more relaxed with it. In fact, Rigby appeared to make an effort with Bailey more often, gently engaging with him, as if to say, how you going, mate? Bailey, who is a bit more snarky generally, wasn’t always responsive.

I had to watch out at mealtimes as they’re very different. As a Lab, Rigby will gobble up everything. Bailey is much less focused on food. Rigby always prompts me at mealtimes and gulps down his food in a matter of seconds, whereas Bailey was happy to let his food sit in the bowl until he was ready for it.

That represented a huge temptation for Rigby. He knew, instinctively I think, that it wasn’t his to eat, and so while he’d keep a keen eye on it, wouldn’t attempt to snaffle it. It might have been different if I wasn’t in the room, but it made me fret more than I wanted to. Come on, Bailey, I’d tell, eat up! When he did finally, Rigby would always inspect the empty bowl and give it a few licks, just for good luck.

Then it was our walks. These are two dogs with very different walking styles. Rigby might be getting older, but he’s quite muscular and always striving to get ahead. Bailey, by comparison, is happy to amble along and occasionally behind. Rigby likes to stop and sniff, which he regularly does, whereas Bailey generally was happy to maintain a steady pace. Rigby generally will go to the left but will suddenly swerve and zig-zag. Bailey would go to the right and would often go around the back of me to get there.

All of this meant that leads were frequently tangled, and dogs, and occasionally me. I’d have to pirouette often, or step around or over, or tug the dogs into line, or switch hands. It was a real challenge.

I had Bailey for two nights, and he was well behaved, though a little confused, I think. Outside of our walks, we had a quiet weekend. At the end of it, I felt especially loving towards Rigby.

I’ve long thought that dogs are the best people and Rigby one of the very best of all – devoted and loving, sensitive and gentle, entertaining and fun. Early in the weekend, I had the opportunity to see the difference in behaviour towards another dog. There was a definite rivalry. It seemed to me that to each other, dogs are probably more like what we are – and they save their best behaviour for us.

But then I observed how Rigby mellowed. He was reassured perhaps, realising that Bailey was no threat, and began to see Bailey in more brotherly terms. He would go up to Bailey to check in on him, like a good neighbour – or host. He would lay his head close or, gently snuffling, extend his snout to Bailey, undeterred by rejection. There was kindness in this. It affirmed to me the innate decency of dogs, which he epitomises. He’s a lovely, gentle, affectionate boy, and I couldn’t adore him more. And I was proud of him.

And now he’s barking! Someone at the door? Must go!

For the love of Rigby


It’s lucky today is a public holiday because I didn’t get to bed last night until 4 am, and I’m bloody tired.

It’s not that I did anything fun last night, nor was it anything planned. I expected a regular weeknight and to bed at an unreasonable hour. But then Rigby got crook.

It happened very quickly. He was perfectly fine up until about 7 pm. By the time I noticed something was amiss. It was about 9 pm. By then, he was panting hard as if it was a summers day, and scratching at himself frantically every few moments. It was so insistent that he would stumble mid-stride as if he’d lost control of his back legs as once more he stopped to scratch.

I put some steroid cream on him I’d picked up earlier in the year for a similar problem, but that made no difference. Then I took him for a walk, hoping that some fresh air might do him good – and, if he needed to, there was grass for him to chew on. He was as keen for the walk as he normally is, and seemed improved. He wasn’t interested in grass.

Finally, we went to bed with grave misgivings. I didn’t know what to do. I googled his symptoms, looking to find out. He lay on the bedclothes breathing hard and scratching and nibbling at the skin around his groin, which by this time was raw. He got down from the bed and lay on the cool floorboards. Then he hopped up again.

I turned off the light, and for a while, he seemed to settle down. I caressed him gently as his hard breathing eased. For minutes at a time, he didn’t scratch. But then it all came back again, and I knew I had to do something.

It was well after midnight when I left the house with him. I’d called an all-night vet in Highett and was encouraged to bring him along. I pulled into the car park there at about 1.15, put my mask on, and took him to the door.

Because of Covid restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to go in with him. I was told to wait in the car, and they would call me.

I don’t know what I expected. I just hoped it wasn’t anything serious. And I wanted his discomfort to go away. It’s hard seeing something/someone you love struggling so badly. I sat there looking at my phone as the minutes ticked by.

It was a bright night, but so quiet. Everyone sensible was home in bed. I sat in my car in a lonely car park in Wickham road. Across the road was the Salvos. There were no houses in sight, just factories and outlet style stores closed for the day, hardly any traffic on the road, and certainly no-one around on foot.

It was a strange and uncertain time. He’s inside being treated, but you’re outside without a clue what’s happening.

Once I went for a short walk wearing my mask, to stretch my legs. That’s when I got the first call from the vet. Seems like an allergic reaction, he said in an American accent. Something he came in contact perhaps, and he asked me of anything new, or anything that had changed. I could think of nothing. Until he got sick, it’d been a normal evening. He lay on the couch beside me his head on my lap as I watched TV. It was normal. I told the vet. Okay, he said, we’ll get back to you.

I waited some more. Around me, other cars had pulled in and taken their pets inside. Others had left. I’d been there maybe 90 minutes and wondering what was going on when I got the next call. They wanted to try a steroid injection on him but wanted to check of any other medication he might be on or prevailing illnesses. There were none, I said. Okay, give it 20-30 minutes for the injection to take effect.

In the end, it was about 45 minutes. By now it was after 3 am. The vet reported that Rigby had settled a little bit and wasn’t scratching so much. He was breathing normally. I could take him home soon – did you want us to sedate him, so you can both rest. Don’t bother, I said, and the same when he suggested antibiotics, just in case.

I’d made up my mind by now. If he were still troubled the next day, I’d take him to my local vet for a proper check-up. I hoped that Rigby would be fine by then, and had it in my mind that this was something that would improve with time.

It was past 3.30 am when I collected Rigby. As always, he leapt to see me. I drove away nearly $250 lighter and with Rigby in the back seat restless and whimpering.

It was nearly 4 am when I got back to my bed. Rigby lay beside me. For a while he was unsettled, and I became worried again and wished I’d agreed to the sedative. I crooned to him, and slowly he settled, and we both slept.

I dreamt of it all, and in the dreams, there was a fearful element wary of what I might wake to. I woke at the normal time, foggy with sleep and vaguely aware of Rigby. I thought he was scratching again, but then both of us drifted in and out of sleep for the next couple of hours.

When I opened my eyes properly, it was after nine. Rigby seemed well-rested, and though he had the occasional scratch was much better than the night before. He’s got better still more since. I am greatly relieved.

Last night, as I sat in my car, I posted something to Facebook about the situation. I woke this morning to find a dozen or so had reached out to me in the time since. There’s something about pets that touches at the vulnerable place inside of us. Our pets are guiltless and innocent and know only how to show affection. We owe them a debt that comes calling when their safety is threatened.

I was heartened and moved by the reaction. Not that I needed to be reminded, but the blessings of love resonate at times like these when it’s under threat. He is well, for now, and so to am I.

A tribute to Rigby


Everyone thinks they have the bestest good boy in the whole wide world. Dogs are so friendly and loveable and affectionate and generous that it’s very easy to think your hound is extra special. The truth is that all dogs are extra special – it’s just that some are more special than others.

I know, I’m as bias as any dog owner, but I reckon my very own Rigby is the greatest dog in the history of great dogs. I think think this more than you might expect, but I was reminded of it over the weekend.

A friend of mine in Perth has been umming and ahhing over getting a dog. I’ve been urging him to make the commitment and get one, and it didn’t take much. He’s been looking at dogs over the last few weeks and sending options and asking for feedback, and so on. Over the weekend he sent me a pic of a very happy looking Kelpie cross that’d caught his eye. He wanted my opinion, starting with, she’s no Rigby, but…

Rigby is the standard. He’s crazy, but he’s smart too. He’s always been handsome, but with a lively, winning personality, which is what I love most about him. He really has a distinct character which is by turns quirky, affectionate, inquisitive, excited, insistent and entertaining. I swear he has a sense of humour, and he’s very human sometimes – which is how he sees himself, I’m sure.

We are in fact a bit like an old married couple, we know each other so well, our rituals and routines and funny little eccentricities. One of the plusses out of this lockdown is that I’ve been able to spend more quality time with him. You feel some responsibility as a dog owner to provide your mutt with the best possible life. I’m sorry occasionally that I haven’t given him a family to play with, but he seems content and happy.

Typically, he’ll be curled up on the mat behind me as I work. Every half hour or so he’ll get up and come to me, the clatter of his wagging tail under the desk as he nuzzles at my hand for attention, or rests his head on my knee. As always, he’ll follow me from room to room whenever I get up. And, like all dogs, he knows when it’s time to be fed or for his afternoon walk, and he’ll remind me gently, but insistently.

The truth is, like many dogs, he is much loved, and it makes a big difference. He knows no different but to be spoilt and fawned over. My mate from Perth has long thought Rigby is the greatest dog, and even Cheeseboy over the weekend commented on what a great companion he’s been.

It’s funny how familiar we are with each other. We only have to glance at each other occasionally to understand what’s next. Like a lot of dogs, he’s a creature of habit. As I lie in bed, he’ll curl up in the lee of my body as I read, or else lay against my body with his head resting on my hip. In the morning he’ll cross from ‘his’ side of the bed to mine, as if on the clock, and I’ll make room for him. And as I finish my morning coffee, he’ll leap from the bed to lick out the cup – he loves a latte.

I guess I want to pay tribute to him. I often wish he could speak. If he were a human being, I’d pretty well think he’s the greatest.

For me, throughout, he’s been a great comfort and occasional solace. I would never have survived without him. There were times I felt as if he was all I had in the world, but that was a wonderful thing.

He’s getting on now, but still very strong and healthy and full of personality. He tugs on me like a sleigh dog when we go for our walk. I’m hoping come the new year that I might move into a larger home with a garden he can roam in. I’m also thinking about getting another dog, a puppy for me, but also Rigby. I expect he might get a bit jealous of the attention a new puppy would get, but I also think he’ll share his love and protective nature. I think it might be a good thing for all.