Surviving grief

Ella is helping.

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Ella at Mugdock park

I used to wake up effectively mummified: two dogs on top of the duvet, on either side of my legs, penning me in. With Taji and now Habibi gone, that’s not going to happen any more.

Ella realised something was Wrong yesterday morning, and she spent some time in places she normally wouldn’t - under my desk, or at the back of the office where there’s normally no room. She slept beside the bed when I took a nap that evening, even though (I’m guessing) she would have preferred to be outside in the garden. Did she think that Habibi had been guarding us, and now that Habibi was gone that that was now her job?

It’s possible. Ella is unusually emotionally-sensitive for a dog: whenever I shout at the computer, I can expect her to be there within seconds, concerned that I’m upset. So I hug her, because I want her to be happy, and it turns out that hugging a big happy walking carpet is good for you as well, so we’re both better-off.

There’s a thing some people do as part of US Thanksgiving, I understand: where you go round the table and each person says “I’m thankful for thing, because reason”. Well, losing Habibi was heart-breaking, but the saving grace was that we still had Ella. So we bundled her up into the car and took her on a good long walk around Mugdock Country Park, and for a while we all had a great time.

We couldn’t have done that with Habibi, because she was ill and didn’t want to go far. And chances are that Ella wouldn’t have got to sniff and play with a number of the dogs we met even if Habibi had been in perfect health, because she’d have barked her head off and we’d have moved on quickly.

And when Berkeley was alive and I’d yell at the computer, he thought I was angry at him and would run away.

Now, simple is not better. Part of loving someone is accepting the baggage that comes with them; and you do this because it’s their baggage. And it’s going to be very strange tonight when Cleodhna takes Ella to Jessie’s and the house has no animals in it for, quite possibly, the first time ever since we moved in.

Still: that Ella is, objectively, a superb and wonderful dog, makes things a little better.

Habibi Neferet Nightshade

200?-2017

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Habibi wagging her tail

Some time in June 2007, a small brown dog was abandoned in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. She spent almost a week cowering under a bridge before Patsy, a sometime friend of ours who can’t help rescuing dogs, managed to coax her out. Patsy nursed her back to health, but then needed to leave Glasgow for a few days, and asked us if we could dog-sit her for a few days?

That was in the afternoon. By the evening we were thinking of names.

(We thought she was part-Basenji, so decided to call her something Egyptian, only to discover that after Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Neferet, all other female pharoah names are unpronounceable. So “Beloved” in arabic it was. Then we realised that a Natasha Atlas song we were listening to at the time Mondegreened as “Habibi leash”. Whoops.)

Habibi had a beautiful coat, like a tortoiseshell cat’s but subtler, each hair a slightly different colour from its neighbour; and with a fun little white bit on her bib that would change shape when you frobbed it. But most importantly, she was delightful. Our cat Helen had a switch-on purr; well, Habibi had an insta-wag. You’d just have to walk into the room and say her name and that thing with its little twist on the end would spring into action. Often, when you were cuddling her at the foot of the bed, she’d get so excited by tummy rubs that she’d have to jump off the bed and run around. One day she asked to go outside, and when I got up to go downstairs with her, she jumped up and made an excited sound like a skeksis opening a screen door.

She was also smart. Most dogs get so excited about going outside that they start running around while you’re trying to put their harnesses on, which of course means you can’t put the damn harness on them because the damn dog won’t stay still, so they don’t get to go outside after all. Habibi did all of that, of course, but once you’d put her harness around her neck she’d lift her paw up to make it easier for you to put the rest on. (When we were in France, she would also lift her paw up to make it easier for you to carry her up the stairs; stairs that she could go down perfectly well but refused to go up. We tried putting beeswax on her paws; that didn’t help.)

We don’t know how old she was; we thought she was about 1 or 2 when we found her, but then she got sclerosis in her eyes, which normally happens to older dogs. No matter; she got grey in her muzzle, and she progressed from barking just at the postman and black dogs to barking at pretty much everything, but she stayed the same wonderful little brown mutt.

She started having off days, not wanting to go out on walks, towards the end of last year - nothing you could reliably put down to anything in particular. She had insurance, so we did blood tests and scans, but nothing came of them until our vet noticed a bulge in her abdomen. At that point things proceeded quite quickly: she had her 1kg (!) spleen removed, and the diagnosis came back. Hemangiosarcoma, the same cancer that killed Laszlo.

You can’t do anything about that, and she didn’t like being prodded by strangers in vet surgeries, so we settled in to pamper her outrageously while we still could. She had a bad moment last Sunday, so we arranged for our vets to come over today and put her out of her misery. It’s strange to set a date for your dog to die, especially when she appeared to be doing a bit better today; but we didn’t want her to be in any more pain. Think of it not as a death sentence, but a death promise.

Goodbye Habibi. Pretty girl! Clever girl! I miss you already. This doesn’t get any easier.

Habibi at Mugdock park

Everyone should have a hobby

Unless it's racism, mass-murder, or country dancing.

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As she got older, my mother decided to exercise her brain by learning new things. She learned new Romance languages until they formed factions inside her brain and ganged up on each other when she was busy. She went to ballroom-dancing classes. She made pots.

Cleodhna does crochet. She has long been known to make little figurines out of yarn for people’s birthdays, but the hobby has accelerated recently. She has storage thingies that go under the bed like a normal geek, but hers are full of yarn rather than cables or Lego. She has favourite yarn shops.

She has this overarching project to make something like 48 large granny squares and 96 small granny squares, and then to sew them all together and make a quilt. She’s about half-way there. She started off following this enthusiastic woman on YouTube who had a “do one granny square every day!” channel, but she’s now branched out. She buys patterns on the Internet from fellow enthusiasts. And she knows how to make more than one hat out of yarn.

Here’s how I know: I walked through the door and asked her something, and she lost count.

As far as I can tell, crochet is about doing the most complicated things you can possibly do with a bunch of thread, while doing the strict minimum amount of cutting or knotting. Any old idiot can take an embroidery grid and a bunch of coloured threads and make a picture, and never mind that if you turn the thing over you see a complete rat’s nest of cut off threads. The platonic ideal of crochet, I vaguely imagine, is to build the Sistine Chapel out of a humungous complicated amalgam of intertwining loops, and then say to the marvelled onlooker “if you cut this knot here, right at the end where The Man said we really needed one, and then pull on this thread, it will all come crashing down around you - very slowly and softly”.

(Marcel Pagnol, in one of his novels about his childhood growing up in Provence in the 1910s and 1920s, had a wonderful bit about the pecking order of people who built walls. The Proper People built dry-stone walls, carefully stacking one stone on top of another until you got a wall that would never fall down. They looked down on stone-cutters, who did the same except that they cheated and cut the awkward bits off individual stones rather than finding the perfectly-interlocking shapes in nature. The stone-cutters in turn looked down on masons, who used mortar to glue their stuff together rather than relying on brilliance and physics. Crochet seems to me like it aspires to the dry-stone-wall school of unnecessarily brilliant excellence.)

As I was saying, I don’t really know about crochet. Cleodhna does it and she’s happy; I get to make jokes about it. And I occasionally ask her something when she’s counting… er, crochet things, and she gets mildly annoyed.

“You should have some way of indicating that you’re doing a finickety crochet thing and you shouldn’t be disturbed”, I said to her this evening, “but that’s going to be difficult as you’re going to have your hands busy.”

“I can make a hat!” she beamed. And it turns out that she has a pattern for a dwarf hat, which includes a yarn beard because of course it does. That wouldn’t be appropriate, because the yarn beard would annoy her unnecessarily while she was being necessarily annoyed by crochet stuff, so she clearly needs another kind of hat. That’s OK, she’s got a pattern for a simpler “I’m busy” hat as well.

It is, clearly, turtles all the way down.

What do Libertarians have to say about puppy mills?

Can you diagnose a market failure where there isn't really a market?

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I think I know some people who speak Libertarian, so here’s a question. To my mind, this tragic story is about puppy mills, but it’s more generally about regulation.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are notoriously prone to syringomyelia, which means “your brain is too large for your skull” (!), but they’re not the only breed to have been messed about by breeders and dog fanciers. The BBC decided to no longer show Crufts because, amongst other things, the standards for German Shepherds amounted to animal cruelty. (The 2016 winner could barely walk.) The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel people in the UK have a kitemark about trying to do something about the terrible health of the breed, and hooray for them. But the breeder of this tragic puppy said (effectively) “we abide by all laws”, and said nothing about making sure that their breeding stock was healthy - because they didn’t have to.

If you decide to buy a mobile phone from a particular company, and they then confess that it catches fire and explodes, so for your safety you shouldn’t use it, it’s perfectly reasonable to decide to not buy another phone from them again, because you did, after all, plan on buying another phone in a few years’ time. If you decide that, because you dislike Nestlé’s efforts to promote baby milk, or Amazon’s attempts to screw over other publishing companies, you’re going to boycott Nestlé or Amazon, well, other brands are available.

But you don’t have this choice when faced with a buying decision you’ll make at most a handful of times in your life, and that you’ll share with nobody else. Unless you’ve decided that it’s your life’s ambition to live in the same place for 40 years, and own a succession of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, how are you going to be able to tell which are the good and bad breeders?

And unless you’re stunningly unlucky, are you ever going to deal with a funeral parlour more than two or three times, ever? No - so in the US and the UK, costs are rising. You can hope that industry trends will mean a reversal of the trend eventually, but that’s as much wishful thinking as paying attention to the IMF forecasts: they might well be right, but would you bet on it? No.

So: what do we do about industries like dog breeding (or funeral parlours), where dodgy vendors sell to many people but will hardly ever have repeat customers or word of mouth? The social-democratic response is obvious: regulation enforced by the courts. What do libertarians say?

The perils of a cat sleeping inside the piano

Namely: what happens when it decides it's awake now.

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Something my sister-in-law posted on Facebook today reminded me that I hadn’t told everyone this story!

As a kid and then a teenager, I had this wonderfully eccentric piano teacher, Jacqueline Gallon. (No, you’re right, there indeed aren’t many names that are more French.) She’d move all of the furniture in her house around every few weeks, because she said it would help her relax. Wonderful woman. Anyway, amongst other things, she had cats: a siamese queen, and a persian tom. They had kittens, and the one that she kept was a gorgeous pure-white cat with blue eyes - and therefore deaf. (This is A Thing!. And yes, Deaf White Cat would be a pretty good band name.)

Athar, Attarre, or however you spelled his name, liked to sleep in the baby grand piano that you got to play on if you were good. (Less good students were relegated to uprights.) You know how a grand piano is curved, like a pregnant B if you’re viewing it from above? If you prop open the lid at the front, you’ll realise that on the left hand side the strings go a constant length and then stop, so there’s a semi-circular bit of space at the back between the end of the strings and the wooden wall of the piano casing. Well, the lid was always open, and Athar liked to sleep there. Presumably the vibrations from the hammers hitting the strings felt nice, like a convenient cat-massage.

Anyway, this one day I’m playing this particular Chopin piece for Mme Gallon, and Athar is asleep in his usual spot. And as I play on, I realise that Athar has woken up. It’s not hard to miss; I’m playing the piece from memory so the music stand is down. I’m staring right at him, in increasing dread, as he gets up, stretches, and starts walking along the strings towards me. And I realise that there’s nothing I can do.

There are two things that must happen, and they are in direct opposition. First of all, I have to play this Chopin piece, well, and not stop. Secondly, Athar has decided that being asleep inside the piano is no longer his Thing, so he’s going to walk along to a point where he can comfortably jump out of the piano. Which, given the geometry of the piano, inevitably means the front. You know, the bit with the keys that I’m currently doing things to.

Did I mention that this particular Chopin thing used plenty of pedal? So whenever Athar jumps out from inside the piano onto the keyboard, the keys he jumps onto aren’t just going to sound, they’re going to keep on sounding?

Well, I did the only thing I could. I kept on playing for as long as I could. Athar did indeed jump out of the piano onto the keyboard, produced the greatest cacophony you’ve heard since that time your two-year-old nephew got into a fight with a bagpipe factory, and I don’t remember what happened next because Mme Gallon and I creased up with laughter. (Presumably Athar buggered off as if nothing had happened, which from his perspective was entirely true.)

Mme Gallon did say well done for carrying on playing even though we all knew what was going to happen next, though, which was nice.

Thanks to a serendipitous choice of website layout, we have multicoloured TARDIS stairs now

I'm not sure this is something that website designers should try to reproduce, though.

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When we moved into our new house in October 2014, we triaged our redecoration. We repainted walls in colours that we preferred, especially those downstairs rooms that visitors might see, or rooms we’d be in much of the time. We decided not to bother too much with any of the carpets: they were pretty knackered, and when we had time and money we’d get rid of them. Besides, we were going to get a puppy.

Ella has discovered that the carpet is not an integral part of the stairs...

Fast-forward a year, and Cleodhna was looking at replacing the stair carpet with rubber tiles, because they’re easy to clean and the dogs would be happy.

(This isn’t as silly an idea as it sounds. Habibi, our smallest dog, doesn’t like going up stairs where she can see gaps between the steps, and she has problems on wooden staircases. We wanted to be sure that she would be comfortable going up and down, and not insist on being carried up the stairs all the time.)

The website had a range of tiles in various colours, and the way it was displaying them… Why choose just the one colour?

Well, she ordered a bunch of tiles, and we offered them up in situ. And of course we clamped her Proper Camera to the bannister with a tripod/octopus hybrid that you can get in John Lewis, because we were going to do things properly:

And lo and behold, now we have TARDIS stairs:

Here’s a before and after shot. As is traditional with these sort of things, the before shot is lit badly to make it look even worse than it actually was.

Part of me wishes that they lit up and played sound when you trod on them, just to go into full-on music video territory. That’s almost certainly a bad idea, though. Not only would it be tricky, impractical and the novelty value would wear off, at least one of us would probably suffer a significant injury while trying to play the stairs like a musical instrument. Besides, there are 12 stairs, and (assuming each stair went up by a semitone) you’d need 13 to make a complete octave. The missing last note would drive me spare.

No dog show for us this year

The first time Ella came into season, she insisted on going outside at all hours and burying her toys. This time we had to lock all the doors.

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Bujadelle, a small village where my old primary school teacher lives, is just under 2km away by car. As the crow flies, or, perhaps more pertinently, as the large black intact male dog runs, it’s just a kilometre away. At first we thought Ella was merely happily barking at a friend down the hill, but then her friend turned up at the front of the house, and after some coaxing came into the kitchen. He had a collar (albeit without a phone number to call), and was obviously well-cared-for, so we gave him some food and prepared to keep him inside with our two for the night. And then he started getting somewhat frisky with Ella…

Ella’s and his puppies would have been magnificent, but Ella isn’t even a year old yet, even if we had room in Glasgow to raise a litter of puppies, which we don’t. So we sadly ushered him outside - and found the lengths a large smart dog will go to if there’s an attractive bitch in heat inside a house.

Opening doors: yes, he knew how to do that, so we pushed the door handles up so you’d need a strong downward force to open them. Problem is, he was large, determined and smart enough to be able to do that, and also to jump over or wriggle under the fence in the back garden - which we realised when we suddenly heard Ella and big black dog playing together outside when surely she’d been inside only moments ago. So we brought her back in, locked all the doors, and I went to bed so I could drive him to the police station in the morning where they’d scan him and find his owner. Only to be regularly awoken by a large dog barking or howling every half hour or so, and our dogs barking back.

Eventually he went to sleep under a tree in our front garden, and then went away for a while before returning late in the afternoon. At that point his owners had realised he’d got out, and our neighbours had recognised him and phoned them, so everyone was happily reunited. And at one point I’d like to go and see them in Bujadelle, because he truly was a magnificent dog: very large, jet-black with brown accents, a coat like a flat-coated retriever but wiry, intelligent and good-natured.

In the mean time, though, our plans for tomorrow are scuppered. There’s a dog show that happens every year and we were looking forward to going with our two, but taking a bitch in heat to a large assembly of dogs, all of whom are trying to be on their best behaviour… no, that’s not fair to anybody.

Taji on the bed

It all started when we were in the car on the way back from the vet. Taji was slightly overweight, so Cleodhna was calling him “fat boy”, “lardass”, and so on. He’d put up quite a struggle before they could take a blood sample, so she was also alternately calling him “petunia”, “wussbag” etc. Then she crossed the streams.

“Fat Petunia!”

That was instantly, indelibly, unavoidably, his nickname from then on. He gained more nicknames over the years: “chocolate” from when he ate an entire bar of Green & Black’s and had to be rushed to the emergency vet (the case notes for that incident read in part “large amount of dark brown chocolate smelling vomit produced”); “bell” from the bell we put on his collar when in France so we could hear him having got out of our garden and into the neighbours’. He would blow his coat twice a year, but refused to let us brush him, or pluck any more than a few handfuls of tufts off him; that was where “fruity hairball” (or, possibly, “hairy fruitball”) came from. (When he needed to have his teeth descaled, something that by necessity involves general anaesthesia because you can’t tell a dog to hold his head still and not move, we asked the vets to also pluck all the loose hair from him while they were at it. One of the vet nurses described the process as “oddly therapeutic”, like doggy bubble wrap.) He got “deckchair” from his habit of lying down from standing: first cantilevering his hindquarters down, then his front.

He was also the first of our dogs who truly had a voice of his own. Something about him made us want to speak aloud the thoughts that, we were quite clear, were going through that strange doggy brain of his. Typically they would start with “you have food. Give it to me”; when rebuffed, he would point out good and noble things that he had done recently, and, after a pause, “I should be rewarded”. (If we pointed out that he’d just had such a thing only moments ago, his response would be “I have no concept of time”.) He seemed the sort of dog that would try to argue logically but fail, so we delighted in him spouting grotesquely flawed arguments.

His first owner thought he was (or should be) a tough guy dog, and taught him all sorts of bad habits; two other would-be owners returned him to the kennels because he was too boisterous. Cleodhna had bruises all over her arms and legs when we first got him because he would occasionally do a “batzoid” when out on walks, jumping up and biting her. Eventually we realised that this wasn’t aggression, but something he thought was a game that he should play, so we resolved to just turn our backs until he stopped, and within a couple of months he stopped and never did it again.

In truth, Taji was a total goofball - “cozy lummox” I’d call him. He loved nothing more than to sleep on the bed with me; I’d have to make sure that the duvet was spread over his side of the bed because he wouldn’t lie down otherwise, he’d turn around in place two or three times just to be sure, and then flop down beside me with a satisfied sigh. Often work started later than planned because how could you get out of bed when there was a warm furry akita to cuddle?

When Berkeley died we decided we would truly embrace the life of endless drifts of dog hair and get a longcoat Akita. Ella is as different from him as it’s possible to be while still being the same breed, but he patiently accepted her into the family, even when she decided that the best thing about his tail was that it would fit in her mouth. He was slowing down - 10 is a reasonable age for a large dog like an Akita - but the arrival of a new puppy rejuvenated him to some degree; only a couple of weeks ago they were happily romping in the garden.

In the end, it was quick: he suffered a quick gastric dilation that damaged a fairly hefty part of his stomach lining, which then proceeded to leak toxins into his system. We rushed him to the vet on Thursday evening, then again on Friday afternoon, and he was dead on Saturday morning.

Ella is arguably a “better” dog - she has a wonderful temperament, without any hang-ups, and she’ll let us brush her. I look forward to when she’s fully grown and I have to stop calling her puppy and can instead call her Your Furry Highness or Your Hairy Majesty. But we would never have had her if Taji hadn’t first shown us the Way of the Akita. Thank you for all you gave us, dear old boy. I miss you terribly.

Taji in our garden

Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; what would third be?

"Enemy action" doesn't apply as both times things have been scary but ultimately good things.

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This is now the second time that my cousin Barney has jumped in to help us during an emergency the day before he was due to drive back to the UK from our house in France. The first time, it was when a storm went from “impressive!” to “er, this is getting a bit scary” to “help, a tile from a neighbour’s roof has shattered a window and water is running through the kitchen!”. This time it was “Taji isn’t looking well, he has a distended stomach and he’s just tried to throw up but nothing happened; damn, this might well be bloat, in which case we might only have an hour or two”. He needed a vet, and I’d had enough to drink that I was probably over the limit (not that in this case it would have stopped me), but Barney stepped up, and we bundled Taji into his car.

This post wasn’t titled “Taji Totoro Fat Chocolate Bell Petunia Fruity Hairball Deckchair Nightshade: 2006-2016” so it’s giving nothing away to say that Taji is fine. He’s asleep on the kitchen floor, dreaming happy opioid dreams; Habibi and Ella, having fussed over him when he came in, are asleep nearby. The vets told us to let his stomach empty entirely before we let him drink in the morning, and then have some food by midday, small doses each, so that’s what we’ll do. We’ll get some elevated food bowls because there’s a suggestion that it helps. But in truth nobody really knows why big dogs can get stomach bloat, or why it happened this time. He certainly didn’t do anything obvious like wolf down a huge quantity of food and then do a sled run, which is the closest vets have to a likely cause.

Once at the vet surgery, they sedated him a bit to x-ray him, found a whole bunch of air inside his stomach, sedated him some more so they could stick a probe down his throat and suck a bunch of air and water out and not much more; then we waited for Taji to unzonk, while Barney had a power nap in the car, and the two vets (on-call vet + vet who knows what he’s doing) discussed between themselves why on-call vet thought Akitas were smaller, and which breed he was thinking of instead. Remembering the last time that Taji had general anaesthetic (he needed his teeth cleaned, but while they were at it we asked them to also cut his nails and pluck him of his blown coat that he normally won’t let us touch), I took the opportunity to pluck him. Unfortunately I only got to deal with one half of him as he was lying on his side, so he’ll probably look rather strange in the morning.

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that all problems in the world can be found to involve telephony and/or computer problems these days. Most trivially, by the time senior vet went to look for x-rays, it took him a while to realise that we’d gone from 14th July to 15th July, so the reason why the photos were missing was that he was now officially in the Wrong Day. More interestingly, on-call vet was accustomed to seeing people phone the vet’s phone number and getting put through to his mobile, presenting as phoning him from the vet practice. When I called, though, the practice’s telephony passed my number - all 13 digits of it - straight through, so on-call vet assumed he was being cold-called by dodgy randos. It’s only because I called back a few times that he was persuaded that I was serious.

Wait, no, I can blame something even more topical. When I called the first time I assumed that the vet’s phone system was on the blink because I couldn’t hear anything happening; in fact, my phone was for some reason only relaying sound when I put the speaker on, so the first message on-call vet got in his voicemail was basically background noise of trees rustling in the breeze while I waited for something to happen. Once we’d arrived at the vet’s I rebooted my phone and everything was back to normal again.

What happened to my phone, though, that I could only use it as a speakerphone and not as an actual, you know, phone? Well, there was only one thing I’d done recently that could have anything to do with that.

That’s right.

I blame Pokémon Go.

Berkeley Baskerville Nightshade

2000-2015

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Berkeley in a chair

Before we moved in together, let alone before we were married, Cleodhna said to me that she was thinking about getting a puppy. I said to her: “I love you dearly; I may not love your dog”.

And it’s true that Berkeley, in many ways, was not the perfect dog. He wasn’t what your idle dog-fancier would call beautiful; not in the way Laszlo (Malamute-Alsatian cross) or Taji (Japanese Akita) would attract attention everywhere they went, although he did have his share of admirers. Hell, your idle dog-fancier wouldn’t know what to call him, and neither did we: lurcher cross? bit of bearded collie in there maybe? something else? we had no idea. Cleodhna would occasionally meet someone else with a dog that looked like Berkeley and would ask “what sort is your dog?” and they wouldn’t know either.

He was shaggy enough that when he decided to roll in something - like, for instance, the same dead salmon he’d found the two previous days running - you would smell it until you’d managed to douse him in baby shampoo and hose him off. In those days when we lived next to Byres Road, he would sing along to fire engines when they drove past (we never managed to take him to Edinburgh during the Festival so he could troll pipers).

And he certainly wasn’t smart: Laszlo had to teach him that when Cleodhna went outside (the same way they went outside for walks every goddamn day), she would turn up on the street that they could see out of the window. Berkeley knew that if he dropped his ball on one particular hill in the Botanic Gardens, it would roll downhill; it took him quite a while to systematise gravity, viz. that that happened if he dropped his ball on any hill.

But then, contra Taji, he never displayed any inclination towards eating broken glass and/or Buckfast. Thanks to a freak event when he was out in the Botanic Gardens playing with his squeaky broccoli, he never had Habibi’s fear of thunderstorms, because Cleodhna said “hey, hooray, lightning, isn’t this fun‽” and he played and barked and thought no more of it. And his habit of shoving his head between random new stranger’s knees (because that’s obviously how you get stroked) stood in stark contrast with Laszlo’s absolute fear of anybody he hadn’t been out on a walk with. (If Laszlo had been out on a walk with them, though, they were suddenly Pack, and prone to muscular displays of affection. Jessie claims she still bears the bruises to this day.)

And towards the end of his life, when he was in and out of the Vet School at Glasgow University, he never made a fuss. There were times when we’d be in a consulting room and in would come Dr French, like a mother goose followed by a gaggle of vet students, and the students would take turns prodding him and listening to his heart and doing the sort of uncertain things that first year vet students do. Berkeley quietly let them do whatever they wanted, like an absolute trooper.

And if I have any single thought of Berkeley, it’s as Dog: not the pretty dog, nor the smart dog, not the goofball dog, just the ur-Dog. With his magnificent eyebrows, his fuzzy coat that would be a CGI renderer’s nightmare, and above all that simple but somehow beautiful face, he was the epitome of furry, patient doggy love.

You made me into a dog person, Berkeley. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

Berkeley by the canal

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