We are all sad in these pictures, for reasons which will soon become obvious. Careful readers will recall my mentioning him several times in this blog because, for way longer than I can remember, Boggis has been a very special friend to us all. Since I joined the Dickens Dogs, he has been my nightly companion, an amiable comforter, always happy to be pushed into position exactly where I want him before I snuggle on him and fall into sleep. During the day, newly arrived little Nico learnt to crawl and stretch across him, snoozing contentedly on the biggest brother he’d ever seen and when he himself was the tiniest, wrinkliest pup, trying to make sense of the world he now found himself in.
Boggis himself came into the family when Uncle Johnny was hale and hearty and Uncle NuNu was still a longed-for dream. More enormous than any of Uncle Johnny’s other babies (Bobo had up until then been the biggest by far and he was probably only a quarter as big, if that), Boggis is also a bear, but one who sits prone on the floor, his kindly eyes, chewable nose and huggable body affording wonderful reassurance, especially when young Newman came along and made him his bedtime friend. Those were the days when everyone slept in the same small bedroom; when Boggis filled the space between the cupboard and the end of the bed and Uncle NuNu clung to him as he got to grips with life’s confusions and teething pain seared through him, causing him to scream out. Clinging to Boggis is what each of the Dickens Dogs has always done, each in turn, whenever Boggis is needed.
When Barnaby came along, a couple of years later, he settled down on Boggis, too, the dear creature being broad enough to bear both young retrievers comfortably. There was always room on Boggis! Barnaby especially enjoyed puling Boggis from his place of rest in the baby basket, dragging him into the midddle of the carpet and having a play fight with him. For Newman, Boggis was best when held tight in his mouth, his own eyes shut, when often sleep would come upon him, a blessed balm in a noisy world.
But the years have taken their toll: Boggis’s gentle eyes have gone, where we boys can’t imagine; his lengthwise zip broke before we moved here, rendering washing and re-stuffing him wholly impractical without a long sewing session (or so Kemo Sabe has long maintained); his pelt is threadbare and dull. He has – sad to say – lost his sparkle; he could be said to be a shadow of his former self. The time to replace him has come.
But, needless to say, Boggis is irreplaceable. There never will be a bear as big, or as bold or as expansive – or if there is, we have yet to track him down, despite an extensive search. For bedtime I now have a satisfyingly squidgy hedgehog: Bogpig is a joy, with lustrous fur and plump body, nicely rounding into a massive ball when he’s squeezed. But though he’s a good size for Nico and me, I’m not sure he’s up to comforting a retriever when times get tough. When our dear ones leave us, only their memories remain; the material things we treasure we can retain as long as we are able so I can’t see Boggis being cast away just yet. He simply means too much.