Day 1 – Mad Dogs Beginnings, Sad Dog Endings

And so it begins…Recall if you will the ski jumps at the winter Olympics whereby the skier hurtles down what appears to be a cliff and then climbs precipitately up the other side. This is roughly what we have been negotiating as we leave Ambleside on the first leg of “Mad Dogs”. I have been muttering about the paternity of the psychopath who constructed the route!

In mitigation it is achingly beautiful and reminds me of the Venetian doge who said, “Why should I travel when I have already arrived?”

Leah and Dinah
Many ZANE supporters who have been kind enough to follow our walks will remember that we had a much loved Staffie – Leah – who walked with us from Edinburgh to London, from Land’s End to London, from York to Canterbury, and then from Holyhead to Oxford.

Loyal little Leah flogged a total of over 1,200 miles for the poorest of the poor in Zimbabwe. However, it became horribly clear during the last walk that she was unwell and struggling to keep up. She made it to the aptly named Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford, but was squatting unsuccessfully to pee every couple of minutes and was obviously in growing discomfort. On our return home, we took Leah to the vet only to be told she was dying from cancer of the womb. Leah was in a lot of pain and we had to make an awful decision.

Jane and I are sure that Leah instinctively knew when her final day arrived on 9 August last year. She walked gently round the house sniffing all her old haunts, and then she lay down in our sitting room and waited patiently for us to take her to the vet. She seemed resigned and forgiving. It was a ghastly drive as we made our way into Woodstock with Leah slowly licking my hands. Once there, she lay in the back of my car with her head on my knees. Her brown, liquid eyes looked up at me trustingly as the vet injected her. Leah collapsed at once, so her death was more or less instantaneous.

Jane and I felt like traitors. Leah trusted us implicitly and look what we arranged for her. Dog lovers will understand these feelings – although ending our pet’s suffering was the right thing to do, her death was a profoundly miserable occasion and I felt that we were somehow betraying her trust. All those joyful memories and happy times, all that unquestioning loyalty and affection, all those walks crowded in to make us weep at her passing. We buried her deep by the big tree at the bottom of our garden.

The Young Pretender

We now have Dinah, another Staffie (champagne in colour). The first thing I did after she skittered into the house was to take her to Leah’s grave and she explored it with some interest. Silly really, but I think she might have felt in the core of her tiny being by a sort of doggy osmosis that she was next in a strong line of considerable nobility. She has a lot to live up to.

Dinah started her life here as the mistress of destruction. She managed to disconnect our internet connection by chewing through the cable, trimmed a valuable rug, nibbled my wallet and destroyed two 20-pound notes. She also ate through what we foolishly believed was an indestructible dog bed. However, Dinah is a joy. She stares at me with such concentrated adoration that I pray I will live up to her high opinion of me.

For Dinah’s first few walks, I called out, “Leah! Leah, Come here!” before pausing as the memories flooded back. Then I had to shake myself.

Oh get on with it you big girl’s blouse. Leah is dead: long live Dinah!

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