Thursday, 31 October 2013

How We Found Rosy, And How We Lost Her.

She's not staying, mum said to me, as she opened the car door to reveal the Miniature Yorkshire Terrier trembling on the front seat. She was on the road by the river, about to be run over. I scooped up the tiny dog and felt her heartbeat racing against my chest. She's not staying, said mum again, her voice firm. I nodded and tried to steel my own heart against the ache already pulsing there. If she wasn't staying, it wouldn't do any good to fall in love with her.

This was no stray. This dog seemed fresh from the grooming parlour. Her fur was soft, clean, and fragrant. Clearly, she was someone's treasured pet, and much as I relished the feeling that she was beginning to relax in my arms, I knew the pain and distress of whoever had lost her. We called the local police station. The desk sergeant told us that he had spoken, not an hour before, to a distraught foreigner claiming to have lost a small dog. The woman's Spanish hadn't been good, but it sounded highly likely that this was the owner of the elegant fluff ball currently reposing on my lap. Had the woman left any contact details? She hadn't, said the police officer, but we were welcome to leave ours. If she called back, he'd pass them on. Over the next few days the dog, who we named Rosy, made herself increasingly comfortable. I spent the whole time expecting and dreading a phone call that never came.

Since the police hadn't managed to help, we decided to try the vet. I confess, my heart clenched uncomfortably when his scanner beeped over the tiny microchip buried in her neck. I knew it was our obligation to return the dog as soon as we found out who her owners were, but I was already deeply attached. I may have been in my twenties, but deep down I was still the little girl who wanted a puppy. I will probably always be the little girl who wants a puppy. I braced myself for a name and address, but the microchip was blank. It was probably implanted by the breeder, but never registered by the owner. Mum and I linked eyes across the vet's table. Perhaps it was wrong to admit defeat at that stage. Perhaps we should have tried harder - though I'm not sure how - to find out who had lost her. What happened was, of course, that she stayed. She was somewhere between four and six years old at the time.

It would be difficult to overstate how important that little dog became. Rosy had special powers. She had this uncanny knack of soothing loneliness and raising spirits when spirits were low. She was exceptionally loving with us, whilst being comically bad tempered with most other people, especially men. She had a zero tolerance policy as far as rival dogs were concerned, and firmly believed herself to be at least as big as an average German Shepherd. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough! was her general approach to all things four legged, despite the fact that any fair-sized cat could probably have given her a sound trouncing. Rosy was also particularly strident on the subject of seagulls, and other miscellaneous birds. She was positively indignant that they felt they had the right to flap about in the sky near our apartment. The bally cheek of it. She would bark and yap and generally make a total nuisance of herself at the sign of all things winged.

We lost her for a whole day once, and she came back so matted with burrs that it took about three hours to get her clean. We were so overjoyed to have her back that we didn't care. I knew, then, as we pulled the dry, spiky spheres from her fur, how her original owner had felt when she went missing, and I sent a silent whisper of thanks to whatever had bought her home to us. I hope that whoever lost her would have been happy to know that she wasn't dead by the side of the road, but had instead found a new set of human slaves to dote on her.

Rosy used to sneeze when you held a ball high above her head. She used to skid along the kitchen floor in pursuit of said ball, crashing into stools and kickboards. She steadfastly refused to bring the ball back to you, instead carrying it to her basket for a comprehensive demolishing. She always made us laugh.

Rosy had a lot of adventures with us. She had puppies. She made a policeman howl with laughter after she was reported as a dangerous dog by a particularly mean spirited neighbour. She woke me up time after time because she was too small to jump on my bed. She trembled during storms and fireworks. She chased a lot of balls across the floor. She told a lot of seagulls where to go.

I was less than a week into a new job when I got a text from my mum, who was on holiday, telling me that Rosy was missing from the luxury kennels where she'd been staying. We'd deliberated over these kennels - it wasn't cheap to house Rosy and her daughter, Gypsy, for a week - but we knew and trusted the owners, and the place was lovely. A particular plus point was the large outside run, which allowed the dogs to play in the fresh air rather than stay cooped up all day.

I cycled home, slightly anxious, but mostly confident that Rosy would be found. I imagined that she'd discovered a hole in the fence and headed off in hot pursuit of mischief. I sat down on my carpet, laptop on my lap, and video-called my mum so that she could update me on the latest. Baby, she said. Rosy didn't run away. She was taken by an eagle.

It is difficult for me to write this without my jaw setting and my eyes filling with tears as I remember my howl of pure, primal pain. From moment to moment I went from slight anxiety to the knowledge that something - someone - I loved deeply was gone forever. And not just that she was gone, but that she had probably suffered profound terror and pain in her final moments of life. I want to believe that she died almost instantly, that all she had time to experience was a shock of indignation before all turned to darkness. But I don't know, of course. I don't know for how long she suffered. I try not to think about it too much.

So that's the story of Rosy, or the part that we know, at least. She had another life, once upon a time, as a pampered puppy somewhere else in the world. Someone else has memories of her, and probably still thinks of her with a pang of longing. We will always remember her with great love. She came to us by an unusual route, and she couldn't have found a much more dramatic way to leave the world. She always did know how to get our attention. If there's such a thing as doggy heaven she's up there for sure, yapping at the angels, deeply unimpressed by their massive wings.

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