Dandy was a Springer Spaniel who died a couple of years ago – 13 years old, quite aged for a dog of course. My wife described him as the ‘dog from heaven’, and he was!
Risking life and limb I scattered his ashes into the sea at the end of the beach groyne opposite our caravan holiday home at Hopton on Sea on the Norfolk coast. He loved the beach there and chasing along it early in the morning or late at night dipping into and out of the sea as he ran, he loved the sea, he loved fighting the waves to retrieve a bottle or a ball as far as one could throw it, and rushed out wagging his tail despite being floored by the massive swell as he swam back to shore. The sea current will have taken him far away from his beloved Hopton by now, but we are sure he will be there swimming his heart out as normal.
It all started when I personally was looking for a Springer while my wife was adamant that she didn’t want a puppy. I had a rare day off work, a Friday, and unbeknown to her I visited the local vets, and there was a note on the board saying a puppy was for sale. I quickly rang the number, only to be told by the lady that she wouldn’t be back home till 5pm that evening – she lived out of town and I arranged to visit.
I had to make up an excuse to my wife to go out. I said I was going to Tesco’s to buy some fillet steak for dinner – she told me to go to our nice local butchers over the road, but nevertheless I managed to escape!. I fell in love with the puppy, and arranged to go back at noon the next day to buy him. I had to get the meat as well, so my wife was annoyed that I had been away so long! Again I had to have an excuse the next lunchtime to go out, so told my wife I needed to get some batteries down the town – once more she couldn’t understand why I didn’t just pop over the road to the hardware shop!
I brought the small puppy back in a cardboard cat carrier and left it closed outside the kitchen while facing an angry wife cooking bread, who accused me of having been down at the pub drinking (despite me not having a bit of chalk behind my ear!). She investigated the noise from the box outside and the puppy poked his little brown & white head out to say hello. She was totally smitten, and when I said he was hers, she looked aghast when I lied that she didn’t have to keep him!
He was born from a working dog and a wealthy local landowner and farmer. He came from a very privileged source so he was a dandy boy -so that was his name from the start “Dandy” – he had to have a second name for Kennel Club registration so that became ‘Jock’ as that was my own nickname at school (because my parents were Scottish and I had that accent those days!).
Dandy was unbelievably good from the very start, didn’t mess in the house, didn’t cry at night, never tore anything up, never howled if left alone at home, and was always absolutely loving and adorable. He was utterly trainable and walked to heel early on, and was reliably recalled with ease – we could take him anywhere anytime anyhow with full confidence, and he had a temperament to die for. When out he was rarely on a lead and ran like the wind in the woods and the fields – hunting the ground like gundogs do, and finding and retrieving hidden items with unbelievable simplicity. He was a real water dog as well and was quickly into any stream, river, pond, or flood available.
Later on we got a tiny kitten – a ginger tom who from the very start established that he was boss. The cat was called Beano (for reasons that older readers will find obvious!). Dandy and Beano got on famously – and to the utter amazement of others, Beano used to follow Dandy in the walk to the local park and indeed walk round it with him!
Oh yes, he cost us a lot of money though – he had a medical problem with his front leg elbow joints which hadn’t fused properly. He broke a leg and was treated at the Royal Veterinary Hospital – they fixed his leg break and put a screw in to support his joint. A year or two later it failed and it was back again to the Hospital. I was working away from home at the time and my crying wife rang me to speak to the surgeon as the vet was suggesting having Dandy put down. I spoke to the surgeon and explained to her that ‘my wife would rather have ME put down’ – my pleading worked and she agreed to operate again so Dandy ended up with titanium bolts in both his front legs holding the joints together. Again he was amazing about this major treatment and the vets said he was the most stoic of any dogs they had ever seen! For a long while Dandy couldn’t walk of course, and I used to carry him down (heavy though he was!) to our Hopton beach to sit on his beloved sand and in the shallow water. Then there came the time to bite the bullet and let him have a chance of a dog’s life again, and allow him run free – whatever the consequences. The powers that be were good to him – and us. He got his life back. His leg bolts took the strain and he ran like the wind again. The Hopton North sea might be cold at times but he didn’t give a dam – he was in there swimming for all he was worth. He loved coming to the caravan.
As we drove from our home to the caravan Dandy used to sleep in the back of the car, but as soon as we approached the Hopton Holiday Park, there he was up and sniffing the sea air. He knew he was in for a wonderful time. He knew all the kids would fuss him when passing our caravan. He knew he would soon be running on the beach. He knew he would be getting a long walk along the sands to nearby Gorleston & meet a shed-load of other dogs there (and sit outside the beach café). He knew he would be exploring the cliff walk and scout the fields to the village of Corton in the other direction. He knew he would be going to the nearby inland lakes & walks. He knew he would be going down the local pub with us. He knew he would be running on the cliff land at Lowestoft resort. And he particularly relished the opportunity to get onto our Hopton beach, drop his ball at the feet of unsuspecting children at the water’s edge and ‘outstare’ them until they threw his ball into the sea for him! He knew he would get a trip out to the nature reserve at Walberswick for a massive run & swim in the nearby marsh water gullies (and a bit of our left over wonderfully fresh fish at the quayside café on the other side of the river). Oh yes, it was a dog’s paradise at the caravan! And it was all a big part of our own holidaying fun as well of course.
As the years and years went by without incident our happiness was incalculable, while we always knew that his time would eventually come to a end. And of course it did.
[We can still shed a tear about his loss, but we are calmed by knowing that he is now back in his Hopton seas, had a good fulfilling life, brought us immense joy & pleasure, and will retain a part in our hearts forever He was not ‘just a dog’ – he was Dandy].
This post was originally written for Bourne Leisure’s Haven Press Office to publish on their Owners website