Our dog died  this week.jpg

Our dog died  this week

By DAVID LEWIS [email protected]

David Lewis lives in Praia da Luz with his wife Shirley, and two children, Ollie and Fraser. Having spent more than 25 years in the City of London, he is now Financial Services Manager with the Oceânico Group.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no intention of using this column as some moribund tribute to an animal none of you ever met.

Life is far too full of your own problems to be lumbered with my sentimental out-pourings.  However, there are certain things about this week’s event which I reckon are worth sharing.

Firstly, I do need to tell you a bit about him, just so I can set what comes next into some sort of context. The wee fella was called Bertie, a nine year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that Shirley and I bought shortly after we got married. It was quite common for me to refer to Bertie as my first born, so much a part of the family did he become over the years.

I can still remember the day we went to see him for the first time at a local breeder. There they all were, eight furry little bundles yapping excitedly to see us, clambering up the side of their pen in a desperate attempt to be fussed and then to be lifted skywards to start a new life with their adopted family. All, that is, except Bertie.

They always say that every litter has its runt and there was little doubt that this was the role that poor Bertie was born to fulfil. Trampled on by his brothers and sisters, he eventually retreated to the far corner of the pen, where he sat, shivering ever so slightly and looking at us with forlorn hope of rescue. It was inevitable that he would be the one we took home that damp afternoon.

From that moment onwards, the runt became the leader of the pack. There were only two things he wanted in our early days together. The first was a full little belly. The second was a piece of human anatomy on which to sleep. Lap, neck, chest, arm – the precise location never really mattered as long as he could feel your warmth and heartbeat blending ever so cosily with his.

Of course, when the children came along, all that changed. No longer number one in the household, Bertie took it hard, to the point that I would not have been at all surprised to see him wandering down the path one evening, bag of biscuits flung casually over his shoulder and with a tear in his eye, trudging off into the evening sun.

He never really came to terms with the arrival of Ollie and Fraser, and spent many an hour slumped in the corner of the sofa, pretending to be asleep in case one of the boys should, heaven forbid, want to play with him.

So lazy did he become, that I recall quite vividly the day when, at a local country fair, Ollie (who was just three at this point) was forced to climb out of his seat in our double pushchair, so that Bertie could ride alongside Fraser, much to the amusement of passers-by. Determined to convert him into a “real” dog, Shirley even gamely entered him in the local “Dog with the Waggiest Tail” contest, only to stand there, mortified, when he merely tucked his tail between his legs in a defiant gesture of resistance to anything remotely “doggy-like”.

When we came over to Portugal, we were slightly concerned with how he would adapt. By this stage, we had another Cavalier – Charlie – who was about as different to Bertie as it was possible for a dog to be. Where Bertie saw unnecessary exercise, Charlie saw an adventurous walk in a field. Where Bertie saw humans to be feared and avoided, Charlie saw children to play with. They really could not have been two more different dogs. So, while we knew that Charlie would take it all in his stride, we weren’t really sure about Bertie.

How wrong could we be?

Bertie had never been a particularly healthy dog. With a heart murmur that sounded more like a small steam train thundering around his chest cavity, we had almost lost him a few years earlier. We were genuinely concerned about how he would cope with the journey from the UK and the new climate in Portugal.

We needn’t have worried. His short time here was a revelation. Instead of trying to hide behind a cushion when he saw his lead, he now leapt into action, jumping around like a puppy. He still pulled on his lead, but now it was to go faster, not to turn around and go home. There was no doubt that he had found a place to be himself here in the beautiful Algarve…

…which is why what happened this week seems such a shame. From a mild limp one day to an inability to walk the next, it was clear something was terribly wrong. We rushed him into our local vets – the fantastic VIP Surgery in Lagos – where Scott, Zoe, Lars and the team couldn’t have been kinder. Despite their very best efforts, however, and the hope at one point that he was pulling through, the wee guy eventually died, his little heart just giving up.

We all miss him terribly. Even Charlie who, we suspect, considered him as a slightly pathetic example of a dog, misses him. He is now safely at rest in our garden.

Above all, however, we are just grateful that, even if just for the shortest time, Bertie had finally found his place to be. Portugal, a wee doggy paradise!

David’s book ‘Fifty/Fifty’ is available from the Griffin Bookshop in Almancil