Time to say goodbye

doughnutI was up at the crack of dawn as usual this morning, but unlike almost every other morning since the summer of 2008 there was no Doughnut hauling himself to his feet to meet me at the foot of the stairs. No wide-eyed, hopeful face enquiring, politely, as to the whereabouts of a sausage or spot of ham.

Instead there was just an unnaturally large space in front of the fireplace, nothing to trip over on the way to the fridge and no one trotting out to the garden to take the longest pee in history or to snore gently, chasing imaginary mechanical rabbits, while I type this.

Unknown-3Doughnut died at the vet’s yesterday afternoon, aged 13 years and five months, making him three months older than our son Jack. He was going in for a routine injection for his arthritis but had had a funny turn in the afternoon and was still wobblier than usual on his pins as we searched for a friendly cab driver to drive him to the vets. As usual we’d found a lovely cabbie who didn’t bat an eye when we asked if he could put down the wheelchair ramp for him, he just opened his boot and reached for the spanner, as if he had slightly frail elderly greyhounds in the back of his cab every day of the week. But even walking up and down the incline of the ramp was a struggle and he stumbled on the way out and found it difficult to get to his feet.

By the time we got to the waiting room he had recovered his composure and gave a lofty but friendly sniff to a bouncy Staffie cross waiting beside him, a rescue dog who had slightly cross-eyes because of mistreatment in an earlier life. The Staffie’s owner came over to say hello and offered Doughnut first dibs on the bowl of water she’d got for her own dog, and stroking Doughnut’s long elegant nose, said, “He’s just like a gazelle.”

By the time we got into the consulting room he was wobbly again and was struggling to walk or get settled, till we put down his blanket and he lay down on it next to our daughter, Cleo, and we knew his time had come. We phoned round the family, and rounded up Liz, his greatest fan, who hurled herself into a cab to be beside him. Half an hour later we said goodbye.

A few minutes after that we were in another cab on the way home, the three of us sobbing our hearts out in front of another lovely cabbie who enquired, gently, “Are you ladies all right?”

Well no, not really, we said.

Breaking the news to Jack and Katy was awful, but not as awful as them having to see their beloved Doughnut becoming ever weaker and in pain. Ella distracted Katy by helping to sort out her looms, those plastic weaves that are all round the playground these days, and Jack and Katy snuggled on the sofa looking at photos of Doughnut. Cleo put the news out on Instagram, Nick put it out on Facebook and before long we were inundated with messages of sympathy.

He had a great life, born in Ireland into a greyhound racing family. He won 16 of his 64 races and retired in 2005 to a kennel run by the Retired Greyhound Trust Barley where his owner’s daughter worked as a kennel maid. She made the brave decision to have him rehomed with a family so he could have a comfy retirement, knowing that that would mean she would no longer be able to see him every day. She was the one who had named him Doughnut as a puppy, because of the white ring of fur on his nose. He grew into his name, though. We’d only had him a couple of days when he raced upstairs and then, because greyhounds, like Daleks, can’t do stairs, found himself stranded till our friend Allan scooped him up and carried him back down. He never climbed up them again.

A few months later, spooked by a thunder storm, he streaked past our friend Simon who was standing at the open front door, and ran out into the night, faster than any of us could catch him. Nick alerted Pete, our then local neighbourhood copper, who, probably much against the rules, sent out an APB to all the local emergency services, including the park keepers, and the following afternoon an ambulance driver spotted him limping across the road more than five miles away. Again, almost certainly against all possible rules, the paramedics stopped and put him in the front of the ambulance, phoned Nick and dropped him off in the park on their way to pick up someone with a broken ankle.

A year later, on a day out to Essex, Doughnut made one more dash for freedom, again out of an open front door, and the police kindly closed five lanes of the A13 with three police cars so we could pick him up, so preventing a multi-vehicle pile up and, in the event, extending his life by five years.

He created a stir wherever he went – the last being at Katy’s inter-school football tournament a few weeks ago where he invaded the pitch during the semi-finals to say hi to her as she was in goal and then spent the entire match surrounded by a fan club of little girls who sat stroking him all afternoon and sneaking him sausage rolls.

Only last week, as I mentioned in this blog, a man spotted that he had been tied up outside the corner shop for Quite Some Time and was so concerned about him that he asked Harry, the shopkeeper, to rewind the CCTV to see which dastardly person was responsible for abandoning such a lovely dog. It was only that I overheard them talking and admitted that Katy and I had been dallying over the ice creams and he was in fact ours, that prevented another emergency services situation.

He was always our champion, and not just because he won all those races, and, ahem, the best of show in our local street party at the grand old age of 10. He won at Walthamstow, Brighton and Hove and at Wimbledon, but mostly, he gave us fun and comfort and security, even though the only way he would have caught a burglar would be by tripping him up. He gave up his racing career at the top, and he did the same with life, but oh we will miss him so.

I’m not looking forward to going on the school run solo today, without him by my side. I’m just glad it’s sunny enough to wear shades.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn


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