Monday, December 08, 2008

A very fine dog

I'm going to be putting out the details of all the books in the Christmas Stocking contest during this week, but today I need to blog about something else. Today I need to sympathise with a very dear friend in the loss of her very dear (canine) friend.

This time last year when I had the sadness to lose my alpha male cat Bob, and then his next in line Spiffy, there was one friend who totally understood and sympathised with what I was feeling. And that was Anne McAllister. She knew how these wonderful creatures we arrogantly call our 'pets' - when really they own us - work their way into out hearts so that their loss leaves a hole that is raw and empty. Last year Anne's understanding helped me. This year, sadly, I need to do the same for her.

Yesterday morning, Anne's handsome, lovable, cantankerous alpha male dog, the black flatcoat retriever Gunnar died peacefully on her sofa. His leaving was peaceful but the time leading up to it was a long, slow wearing out of a very strong and fine spirited creature that was distressing to hear about and I'm sure it was terribly hard for Anne and her family to live through.

So I prefer to remember Gunnar as he was when I met him. Because I was lucky enough to meet him when he was in full health and powers. When he earned the nickname Gunnar the Great. And he was a very fine dog indeed.

Anne has posted her own tribute to Gunnar on her blog and I couldn't match that. I just want to recall what a gracious host he was. Even though he knew his job was to protect the homestead - and defend it against anyone who was foolhardy enough to walk on Gunnar's sidewalk, approach Gunnar's home, or, worse - the mailman was a terrible villain for this - But when Gunnar had decided that you were a friend and could stay, he made you very welcome. He would sit on your lap, accept head rubs, share your mug of tea. He was, as Anne always said of certain cats, a centre of the room dog. A dog who knew his place - and his place was in the middle of things.

My favourite memory of Gunnar is the way that he bounced - the sight of his lead and the prospect of a walk made him bounce as if he had springs on his feet. It was quite a sight to meet a large, weighty, in his prime flatcoat retriever at above waist height as he bounced for joy at the prospect of going out of the house. The Babe Magnet often went for walks with Gunnar and Anne's husband and was shown some of the local wildlife and the best sniffing places. I thought that the photo I took just before they set out on one of these expeditions showed Gunnar in mid-bounce, but actually, looking at it now, I see that it is in fact a 'prepare for lift off' moment - but I'm sure you get the idea.

Once Gunnar accepted you, you were part of the family. During part of our stay we went to the RWA Conference in Denver, and on our return we were welcomed as if we were long lost relatives, cousins at least, if not quite comparable to Gunnar's Mum and Dad. No one, in Gunnar's eyes, was comparable to Gunnar's Mum. I have very special memories of him climbing on to the sofa and then onto her lap and lying there, totally blissed out to be so close.

And in Anne's eyes no other black flatcoat was comparable to Gunnar the Great. I know that she still has the beautiful 'goldens' Micah and Mitch but the Gunnar-shaped hole will be a big one and even though the two boys who are left are big and full of character, even together they still won't quite fill the space he has left behind.

So if you have a dog of your own you'll understand how Anne must be feeling today. If you have a minute to go by her blog and read her tribute to Gunnar and maybe send a hug, I know she'll appreciate it.

Gunnar will be a hard act to follow. Gunnar the Great, the d-o-g that even Sir Sidney the Cat of Superior Breeding was proud to call a friend. A very fine dog indeed.


Anonymous said...

Kate, I've been keeping up with Gunnar's progress and was really saddened to read the news on Anne's blog. You're so right, they do own us! I can totally understand how painful it must be to lose such a loyal loving friend. My Cokey loves to climb on my lap too, just like Gunnar did with Anne. Your post was lovely too.


Anne McAllister said...

Thank you, dear Kate, for sharing your own memories of Gunnar. He was indeed a very fine dog. The joy of his love and his presence will be with us after the sadness begins to fade. It's already there, just tempered at present by the ache of losing him. He was glad to call you friends and he, I'm sure, would be happy if you came to visit Micah and Mitch and checked on how well they are doing the jobs he left them to do.

Love, Anne


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