Sasha says over and out from me!

Last week my lovely little dog Sasha died. She was fourteen years old and she’d had a really good life. She was part of my family for a long time, so I wanted to take the trouble to remember her and honour her – she was a top notch little dog.

We’ve always had dogs in our household, first it was Rupert the independently minded West Highland Terrier who did exactly as he pleased for almost seventeen years. When he died we went into mourning for about four months, we couldn’t believe he’d gone. Then eventually we realised we wanted another dog. Andrew is allergic to animal fur and wanted a non-moulting beastie. Being the organised sort of fellow that he is he fiddled around on google and decided that a cross breed would be suitable and came up with a Cairn Terrier and Poodle Cross, often called a ‘Cairnoodle’ or a ‘canoodle’. In true husbandly style he located a litter of puppies and suggested that I go and see them. I drove four hours east across the country from Cheshire to the furthest corner of Yorkshire, if I’d gone any further I would have fallen into the North Sea. There I met a friendly lady, was offered a welcoming cup of tea and was introduced to a raucous group of little pups who were busy causing chaos in the playroom of the breeder’s home.

I chose the chocolate coloured one, a little girl, with a tiny white smudge beneath her muzzle. The lady put her in a cardboard box. I put the box in the footwell of the passenger seat. She then howled all the way home, deep, blood curdling yowls, as she expressed, loudly and clearly, her sadness at leaving her doggy family. I was so relieved when that journey came to an end. The howling dog was almost as bad as a howling child and as any mother will tell you those plaintive cries cut you to the quick. Never have I been so relieved to step into my kitchen at home and introduce our new dog to the family.

My four children were in the kitchen at the time; Edward, William, Alistair and Lucy. Lucy (aged 10) swept the little bundle of brown fur into her arms and balanced her on the computer keyboard where she was doing her homework. The boys showed a bit of interest, but for Lucy our new puppy was the absolute star of the show. We wanted a short easy name for our new dog. Something we could shout in the park without feeling like an idiot, so Gertrude or Samantha was out. I can’t remember how we came up with the name Sasha, but I remember thinking that’s a great name, short, succinct, rolls off the tongue, that’ll do.

Sasha fitted into family life very quickly. She was always in the garden with the kids or curled up asleep on her bed in the utility room. She had free run of the downstairs of the house and was often to be found awaiting snacks and titbits in the kitchen. She was also great friends with my sister’s dog Lily, a Jack Russell by profession. In fact the pair of them would go racing off across the fields, in search of small rodents or the occasional rabbit. One day we decided to get some chickens and Lily and Sasha thought it would be great fun to chase the chickens and actually managed to terrorise one so completely that it dropped dead. That never happened again, both dogs were seriously told off.

Terriers are naturally very tenacious hunting dogs, they have been bred to catch rabbits and small rodents. Sasha was always very brave and keen to chase whatever absent-minded rabbit or pheasant strolled through our garden. However from a very early age she did demonstrate a certain lack of perspective, in terms of vision, not ability to have complicated political debates! If she was running after me into my office, which was across the yard and into a converted barn, there were three sandstone steps and she would often misjudge the steps completely, take off to early, fly through the air and crash like a cartoon character straight into the top step. She was tough and resilient, so with a quick squeak and a shake she’d be back on her feet, only her pride was a little bit wounded.

Like most dogs Sasha was intensely territorial. Delivery men and postmen often bore the brunt of her tenacity. She was also selective. She really disliked our lovely postman Pete, who was always gentle and kind with her. And she reserved a special place in hell for the UPS man, who she really didn’t like at all. He did have a very strange greased-back hair-do and a slightly supercilious attitude. Maybe it was these she objected to……………..

When the kids went off to university and later to live overseas it was just me and Andrew and Sasha at home. Andrew was often in London during the week, so during the summer months Sasha and I had a little routine. I’d organise some chairs in the garden and take a glass of wine and nibbles outside, Sasha would share the nibbles with me and stand guard. I was always her person, she tolerated Andrew (just about) but she was quite clearly my dog. One evening during my cocktail hour, a strange looking creature meandered out of the bushes, took one look at Sasha and let out a blood-curdling shriek. I later learned it was a pole cat, similar to a weasel only bigger and pretty intimidating. Sasha leapt into action and chased the pole cat, at top speed, across the lawn. Fortunately the pole cat disappeared into the undergrowth with Sasha the thwarted terrier barking hysterically.

On holiday in Italy - 2018 Sasha and the resident pooch Gioia relax in the garden
On holiday in Italy – 2018 Sasha and the resident pooch Gioia relax in the garden

About five years ago I started travelling in Europe during the summer months and Sasha would accompany me. I organised a cage, with a bed, in the boot of the car. She had her own pet passport and her own travel bag, filled with her own supply of dog food, biscuits and chewy treats. She was a great companion on the road. We had a routine, I’d drive for two hours and then stop to exercise the dog. Good for me and good for her. Sasha travelled on numerous occasions through France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. She was great, easy going and flexible. She’s even sat under the table in some pretty swanky restaurants. Although her favourite restaurants and bars were always the ones where there was plenty to eat on the floor, croissant crumbs, bits of cake, anything like that – she was never a picky eater. In fact food was a defining characteristic for Sasha, she loved food, especially fish and fish skin. She was also very partial to a bit of steak!

Last year Andrew and I rented a town house on Lido di Venezia, the island that separates the lagoon of Venice from the Adriatic Sea. Sasha took to her new environment like a fish to water. She loved it. Two minutes walk to the beach and five minutes to the local cafe, where an endless buffet of crumbs and bits of cake awaited her. Heaven. I found a dog groomer for her and then when I had to return to England I was recommended some lovely dog-sitters. The kindest couple I could ever have hoped for. Silvio and Simonetta lived just round the corner from me on The Lido and kindly welcomed Sasha into their home as a paying guest. Sasha was treated like a queen, endless cuddles and affection, daily walks and a calm, safe environment.

Ilaria, Janet, Sasha, Carla, Giovanna at Villa Angarano - wine tasting and fun!
Ilaria, Janet, Sasha, Carla, Giovanna at Villa Angarano – wine tasting and fun!

Just about one month ago I had to return to London to meet up with my children and Andrew. Our youngest son was having a small wedding celebration in Portugal and we had decided to congregate in London first. I delivered Sasha to Silvio and Simonetta’s house, it never occurred to me that it would be the last time I would see her. I was aware that Sasha had slowed down in recent weeks and I did give her a special hug as I was leaving. Unfortunately poor little Sasha was not well. The lovely Silvio and Simonetta took her to the vet and he prescribed some medicine which did help for a week or so. However she was getting more and more tired. Silvio did everything humanly possibly to make her comfortable. The situation was complicated by the spread of the Corona Virus across Europe making it impossible for me to get back to the Lido. Effectively I was stranded in London and I could not get back (I’m still in London now and who knows when I’ll be able to return to Italy).

Last week Silvio and I spoke – he told me that he’d spoken to the vet again and once again the vet had prescribed some medication for Sasha and she seemed a little better. I was relieved and felt very happy. Perhaps I’d get back to Italy after all in time to see my little Sasha. Sadly it was not to be. That very same day I got a phone call from Silvio telling me that Sasha had died, just moments earlier. A wave of emotion poured over me as I though of Sasha and the loyal and consistent friendship she’d given me over the years. Poor Silvio and Simonetta were distraught too.

The next morning Silvio sent me some beautiful pictures. A nice shady spot in the garden had been selected as Sasha’s final resting place. She was buried in the garden, on a sunny day in late March. Poor Silvio and Simonetta had found Sasha’s death very upsetting. As often happens in these situations the actual moment of departure came as a shock. It certainly did for me. And yet the pictures of Sasha’s grave in the garden and the little Robin, who appeared at just the right moment to stand on the grave was like a little miracle for all of us. I’m sure it was Sasha’s spirit saying, ‘Thank you very much everyone, it’s been great, I’m off to chase chickens in heaven now, I was only allowed to do that once on Earth’.

Sasha the dog - it's over and out from me!
Sasha and her beloved Lucy - if I wasn't around Lucy was a totally acceptable alternative!
Sasha and her beloved Lucy – if I wasn’t around Lucy was a totally acceptable alternative!

Notes:

  • Sasha was actually quite a decent writer – you may be interested to read a couple of the articles that she wrote during her life:

Thanks for reading!

It’s true what they say ‘A Dog Really is Man’s Best Friend‘!

13 thoughts on “Sasha says over and out from me!

    1. So sad to hear this news of little Sasha. I have some pics of her sitting next to my bottle of water when you first got her. Such a little seeetheart. Can it really be 17 years ago? RIP sweet Sasha.

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  1. Dear Janet,

    I love this post. I’m so sorry to hear about Sasha, but you did the little girl proud! She had a perfect dog life, and she certainly knew how you felt about her. For her to get to accompany you on your travels was such a bonus, although I suspect she took it in stride and felt it was her due.

    I can imagine that there is a real hole in your life now, and that’s difficult to come to terms with. I’m sure you keep looking for her unconsciously, and perhaps it’s even more unreal because she was in Italy. But, my goodness, the photo of the robin sitting on her grave is remarkable, and couldn’t be more perfect for a little English dog!

    Ken and I are holed up in Mallorca, and it’s quiet and peaceful here. Unlike mainland Spain, the Balearics have had fewer infections and deaths. I’m not sure when we’ll get home, but that’s ok.

    I hope you and all the family and safe and well. Please give my love to Andrew and the kids, and save a big hug for yourself. I look forward to seeing you somewhere when life resumes.

    Lots of love,
    Grayson xx

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Janet

    Yet again you have excelled yourself – although this is the first of your postings to bring me to tears! (Not because of any grammatic or punctuational errors [this time], but purely because of the emotional response of someone who is currently without a dog of his own, for the first time in 76 years!! (Well, I am a 50% shareholder in my Son’s two gorgeous labradors who live next door to us – but who are having enormous difficulty in trying to undertsand why I am simply waving at them “over the garden fence” instead of taking them for walks or cuddling them. It;s funny how they can understand “perambulation” but not “isolation”!)

    So I really just wanted to compliment you on another superbly-written and moving article – and also to insist that you read “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” by Farley Mowatt, if you haven’t already done so. It’s my favourite canine hors d’oeuvres – hilariously funny and brilliantly written – any dog-lover would love it. See https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/291179.The_Dog_Who_Wouldn_t_Be.

    Meantime, my condolences again – having said goodby to nine dogs in my lifetime; (Each time heart-breaking, but one learns to look beyond the loss, and to be thankful for the joy, companionship, pleasure and love which they give so unquestioningly to us).

    RIP, Sasha.

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  3. Oh janet, What a shock this is, BUT also so so lovely to read – A few little tears at the end when I saw a photo of her as I knew her quite well too-
    She used to tease my cat ‘Scootie’ and their was always a stand off a BARK a MEOW followed by a yelp as one of then had got the better deal….
    Dog and cats hey…..
    Yes that poor poor postman- he never liked getting out of his van ahahha
    She LOVED being in the office with you and yes at sundown she would LOVE to sit with you waiting for her ready salted crispies 🙂 SHE ADORED YOU JANET ❤️
    RIP Sash-kins 🐶 XXX

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  4. Dear Janet;
    I am so very sorry to hear of Sasha’s passing. I remember you had mentioned that you couldn’t get back to Venice and she was being boarded. What a beautiful, touching tribute you have written to her. I too am a terrier lover (I have two Wheaten Terriers) and I know how spunky and tenacious they are. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. It sounds like Sasha had a long and eventful life, growing up in your family and traveling across Europe, enjoying luscious morsels and a whole lotta love.
    Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

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