Today is the birthday of our extraordinary, ebullient, energetic, affectionate, infuriating, incorrigible brother, Newman Noggs. It is seven years since he entered the world, on a day and in a way none of us saw or knew about, in Leicestershire – a long way from here – in a canal-side home with his siblings. Then nine or ten weeks later he came into our family, and in particular, to Uncle Jonny’s embrace, for he welcomed him with his open heart, making him his devoted friend for the rest of his own blessed life. Immediately Newman was introduced to Uncle Jonny, a moment captured in this picture, it was admiration at first sight, as you can no doubt see. When just over four years later his friend and mentor died, Newman was characteristically resilient and took on the mantle of senior dog to Barnaby and me in his own individual way. We have all celebrated with him today, with a wonderful swim in his favourite pool by the rocks, extra treats at dinner time and reminiscences of his time on this earth. Newman’s single-mindedness marks him out: when he is focused – whether on the possible danger posed by another dog (he is very sensibly quite a coward) or the possibility of finding a mouthful of something or other (not necessarily edible, let alone food!) – only the most determined command can interrupt his concentration. Despite his size, he loves to sit on Kemo Sabe’s lap, cuddle and fall asleep. He really is a big, soft dog. Happy Birthday dear friend, now a Veteran in dog terms.
As birthdays notch up I cannot help thinking about how precious is each day, a dog’s life being such a fast and furious thing, particularly for a spaniel. When we take our leave of our beloved family, as I know from Uncle Jonny’s passing when I was a pup that we must, an ineffable bond is sundered in one sense but, in another, a different one is forged. This week we heard that our friend Tomas the Dalmatian (see the March post called Precious Winners All) lost his lovely grandmother, called Abby, aged twelve. She was taken seriously ill unexpectedly and was treated by the vet who discovered that her dramatic decline was caused by inoperable cancer, so she never returned home. Her daughter, Tomas’s mother, who is also with him with their own Kemo Sabe, is troubled by the inexplicable loss and the hole which has opened up within their special family. At such times our humans are full of self-reproach for the times they’ve ignored or reprimanded us, but they should not worry so: their mourning is a tribute to the place we fill in their lives, lives we love and share and will do for ever, whether there in person or not. We salute you, Abby, gone to rest after a lifetime of love, friendship, puppies, shows and fun; now you live on, forever lively.