By human standards, dogs’ lives are considered very brief, something their owners’ lives will encompass and have to move on from, the awful effect of death of a beloved canine so unendurable that many humans afterwards proclaim: ‘I can never go through that again.’ Yet when you consider their lifespan more carefully, even just taking a decade as a conservative estimate, it’s striking what changes in their family circumstances our canine companions have actually witnessed and, of course, the powerful effect they have made on us resonates well after they have left us. Just think what you were doing and where you were ten years or so ago.
When the Great and Original Newman Noggs was born, the Jaguar Land Rover plant was a bustling place near his family home but curiously still quite rural in its own way for a Solihull kennel. In moving to London, he benefitted from the last vestiges of a social system Mrs Thatcher soon dismantled but he ended his days back in the Midlands in a lovely Victorian house, buried in a private bluebell wood within the garden where he lies to this day. Willie, his closest friend, was born in the Black Country, enjoyed regular visits to a country cottage but soon came to live in London too, always happy within Epping Forest and, like Newman, was a school dog through and through. The last few years of his life were spent making people smile within a south of England grammar school, enriching the daily lives of the students. In a final twist, he was laid to rest in a little London garden south of the Thames. Such is the whirligig of time and place.
The biographies of Uncles Johnny and NuNu create their own memorial kaleidoscope of joy and sorrow, economic change, views and viewpoints, ups and downs. All of them have eaten their dinners in extraordinary places, watched by a whole host of friends and called all parts of the country home; remembering this makes remembering them poignant and often painful, but it is part of the measurement of our relationship with them all. When we contemplate the eventual death of a dear dog – which will happen several times over a dog-owning lifetime – so much of life is brought into sharp relief. Such is the unique bond from which both species benefit and which makes experiencing such sweet sorrow so worthwhile.