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About Hamish

Hamish, an Airedale Terrier, was born on 13th April 1997. After spending the requisite time with his mother he went to his first home with a family with young children. Puppies are hard work and young Airedales can be a bit of a handful. When he was about a year old the family felt unable to cope with him any longer so contacted Airedale Rescue to re-home him. Hamish went to a Police force, as he had been selected as a potential passive drug detection dog. He undertook several months training but due to his liveliness (and Airedale Terrier temperament) he did not pass the course despite having a good nose. He was returned to Airedale Rescue's care in July 1998.

After just a few days Hamish was heading south to Kent and a new home by the sea with 'dog people'. The new household did not have young children but did have two cats. For the next six months the house was divided in two by a baby stair gate. The upstairs being cat and people territory, the downstairs being Hamish and people territory. Fortunately after training, controlled introductions and familiarisation a working relationship has developed between the cats and Hamish.

Being a rescue dog we knew little about his particular likes/dislikes or personality. We soon found he loved food and balls but hated raw celery and cold water washes. Like many Airedales he has a particular fondness for stealing household items, his favourites are tea towels and sponges. He has also acquired quite a lot of toys from other dogs. He has a big personality, is full of fun, and is something of a celebrity. As a result he has gained many friends and admirers both in our locality and on our travels.

Nine out of ten people who speak about Hamish start by saying 'you don't see many Airedales these days do you'? This suggests the breed has fallen from once high levels of popularity. We find this surprising as Hamish is a star in so many ways. What a practical dog he is: a great house dog but not a shred of malice (but one wouldn't want to threaten the lady of the house in particular!); happy to walk 15 miles one day but only a couple the next (he walks about 4 miles on an 'average' day); will eat almost anything (but is fed mainly on Oscar dried food); doesn't drop any hair and, as a result, doesn't really suffer from 'doggie smells' (but does need clipping and stripping); travels well by car or train; settles anywhere so long as his people are with him; can be left at home for several hours comfortably; cheerful disposition; as loyal is it gets and, perhaps most important of all, a great companion. We can't work out why we don't see more Airedales - maybe puppies are a bit expensive?

Hamish has enjoyed many UK holidays with us. He's been to Scotland , Wales and many parts of England . We are big walkers and so Hamish has 'conquered' Ben Nevis , Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm, Scafell Pike , Helvellyn, The Old Man of Coniston and numerous lesser hills. He's also walked sections of long distance paths including the North and South Downs Ways, South West Coastal Path, Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, High Peak Trail, Tissington Trail, Shropshire Way, Jack Mytton Way, Mortimer Trail, Offa's Dyke Path, Wye Valley Walk, Wysis Way, Gloucestershire Way, St Cuthbert's Way and Pennine Way. He's also enjoyed plenty of beach walking - especially during the Foot and Mouth crisis. Even we aren't happy walking all of the time so Hamish has visited castles, travelled on steam trains and boats and has admired the inside of show caves. All in all he's a well travelled lad and seems to have enjoyed almost every minute - we certainly have!

Hamish is generally blessed with good health and fitness. We need to keep an eye on his weight because his capacious appetite would be a test for him (one of our regular walking companions calls him 'The Eatist'!). Mostly we succeed and he weighs in at around 30 kilos of muscle and bone (he's rather bigger than the breed standard). Hamish does have something of a problem with his skin and is susceptible to itching. He seems to have particular problems with seasonal changes like pollen levels. Our last vet was great at dealing with this and a couple of injections a year are all that is required.

Hamish gave us a bit of a scare on holiday in March 2000 when he slipped on the Prison Band on the way up to The Old Man of Coniston. He banged his head on a rock (hopefully his harness and extending lead helped avoid more of a problem). By the time we reached Coniston it was after surgery hours on a Saturday evening. We contacted Oakhill Veterinary Group at Windermere (015394 88555). One of the vets met us at the surgery on his way out for the evening (his wife waited in the car!) to look at the wound, ensure Hamish didn't need a stitch and to give him an antibiotic injection. If you ever need a vet in The Lake District ..

Feb 05 Update:

Hamish continues to enjoy Dogpeople trips - some of the details above have been updated to reflect this. Having inspired this website he visited a large number of pubs, B&Bs and hotels on both days out and holidays. Many have been dog friendly directory advertisers; others just to see how pet welcoming they really were. His 'come and meet me appeal' makes him a good advert for the benefits of welcoming dogs and responsible owners.

Hamish's travels have been very rewarding. He's met some really great people and enjoyed the fabulous variety of smells, views and attractions England , Wales and Scotland have to offer. It has given us great pleasure to be with him and to report our findings at many of our customers (click on the Dogpeople Says logo where you see it in a directory entry).

Just like us, Hamish has started to show some signs of age (he recently overtook Alan in 'doggie years'). He had a problem with a grass seed in Summer 2004 that eventually needed surgery to remove the deepest part. He also developed a bit of arthritis (found after a precautionary x-ray following a slip on the Grey Mare's Tail). Sadly this was only a precursor to a more major problem suffered in January 2005 when he snapped his right cruciate ligament.

Luckily veterinary science has advanced in recent years so better solutions to this problem are now available (at a cost). Hamish is recovering from a tibia plateau levelling operation (TPLO). Even more luckily our current vet, Andrew Wills of Toachim House Veterinary Surgery (www.thvs.co.uk) is an orthopaedic expert and a man in whom we have absolute confidence.

Details of the operation are too gruesome to go into here. Hamish was certainly in quite a bit of pain when he first came home but an increase in painkillers sorted that for the first few crucial days. He also had to be careful not to disrupt the stitches holding a considerable wound together or to pay too much attention to bald patches on both front legs (drips used in the operation), his back (epidural) and side (opiate patch). Because we know he dislikes wearing his 'buster' collar he needed close supervision for the first ten days - he slept better than we did!

He is now making great progress, the fur is starting to grow back and he's already putting some weight on the leg. He's passed his first two check ups with flying colours and has started to get stir crazy. He is 'confined to quarters' (including the back garden) and will have to be so until the post op x-ray shows the tibia has healed (and the plate and screws are all in the right position). This means he will have been without a walk for over 3 weeks since the operation - and a week before. We are very pleased to say this is becoming a problem for Hamish as he is starting to really miss going out with us. We're pleased because he has bounced back to his normal 'full of life' self!

Even when the x-ray proves everything is fine Hamish will have to build up his walks slowly. It will be some months before he's back to ten miles or more. This should mean there will be more shorter routes in the walks directory over the coming months, just right for less able dogs and people!

July 05 update:

Sadly everything did not go well for Hamish. The x–rays did show the operation had been a success in so far as his leg was re-aligned well and the plate and screws were perfectly placed. As time went by they also showed the bone healing well. Unfortunately Hamish developed an infection at the operation site. His leg swelled and the infection soon erupted through his skin. This was probably caused by an infection on the metal work but may have been a rejection of the plate and screws. Antibiotics helped control the symptoms but could not completely kill the infection.

Hamish went off to the West Country still taking the antibiotics. His leg was improving fast but the course of tablets was due to run out whilst we were away – we had an emergency supply in case we needed them. The tablets really did the trick and he started to walk much better – he was quite comfortable in time for his 8th birthday. For the first week or so everything was on the up. He easily managed a much more demanding walk at Lynmouth and Linton than we thought he would want to do. Regrettably as soon as the antibiotics finished he started to decline again. We now knew what to look for and picked up the return of infection much more quickly. The emergency supply of antibiotics was brought into use at once!

During the same trip Hamish developed a lump on the front of his neck. This grew quickly whilst we were away and ulcerated. Almost the first thing to do when we got home was to take Hamish back to see Andrew (his vet). He decided the lump had to come off as soon as possible so Hamish was back under the knife before then end of April. His luck changed for the better though, as more x-rays showed the bone in his leg was sufficiently strong to remove the plate and screws at the same time. This meant one anaesthetic for both procedures.

A biopsy proved the lump to be a mast cell tumour. Results showed cells were dividing but not aggressively. They also showed Andrew had removed the whole tumour with the preferred margin of sound tissue in all directions except the tumour’s underside (where Hamish’s windpipe was in the way!). We are very pleased to report there has been no recurrence of this tumour or any others to date (we aren’t tempting fate we hope!!). Another superb job by Andrew.

The leg wound was much smaller than following the operation to perform the original TPLO – but on a slightly different line to allow stitches in virgin skin. Hamish was clearly not in as much pain as before and seemed glad to be rid of the metal work from the moment he came home. He still needed close watching and this time, because of the neck wound, a ‘buster’ collar was out of the question. Once again he slept well but we didn’t!

Hamish still has to be careful. Removal of the screws left large holes in his tibia – some the whole way through the bone. This means his leg will be weak and more subject to breakage until about October. Even though the holes filled with blood clots in a short time – and will now be filled by granular tissue – it will be a while before the bone is completely re-built. Hamish really perked up very soon after this second operation. He returned to his old stubborn, cheeky, playful self very quickly. He soon wanted to start walking further (so we had to moderate him at first) and is now back doing quite long walks off the lead (about 6 ½ miles is his furthest to date). He has started showing an interest in chasing rabbits etc. but we have to make sure he only does this on level ground (not that he ever gets very close).

Hamish is getting used to his ‘new’ leg. At first he walked with it pointing out to the side. Then, when he first started to run again, the angle was very clear when viewed from behind. Now one can hardly notice any difference at all when he walks – especially at pace. There has also been a big improvement in his running. He’s getting more and more comfortable and the angle of his leg is getting less and less. He’s still not going to win any races or any shows (but he never would have done). He is every bit the happy and inspiring chap he always was. Nearly everyone still wants to meet him and he’s an absolute star to us.

We are really pleased with his TPLO and have no regrets about choosing this method of correcting his snapped cruciate ligament. Having a vet as expert and committed as Andrew obviously helps!

August 08 update:

Hamish is getting on a bit – having reached 11 in April. We went away on one of our trips - to the North East – to celebrate his birthday. He enjoyed himself; the cold and wet seemed to affect him much less than us! He managed a couple of reasonable walks and gave us a bit of a scare on one occasion when he took off into some dense woodland after the scent of a deer. When he was a young chap this wouldn’t have bothered us as he’s never been quick enough to catch anything and would always have come back to the whistle. Sadly he’s now getting deaf so often doesn’t hear a whistle (we are sure this is not just him having learned to fake deafness so he can get away with more stubbornness!). Also we had been a little concerned about discomfort he occasionally seemed to suffer in his ‘good’ back leg.

If you’ve read all the way down the page you’ll have seen Hamish developed a touch of arthritis – probably as a result of a stumble on the Grey Mares Tail. Over a year or so problems from this have been greatly reduced – apparently by glucosamine (he takes a human version). This has greatly improved his mobility, and comfort levels, especially first thing in the morning when he had been stiff getting up.

The old boy is filling up with fatty lumps (happily all those tested have proved benign). He now has more lumps that Tate and Lyle! One of these developed in his right thigh and was obviously troubling him as it grew. His vet wasn’t keen on doing anything with this until it got so big it was obviously causing him difficulty when he walked. In the end he had it removed – and another two or three that were growing under it – quite a mass overall! He bounced back from the operation really quickly and walked with a lot more comfort as a result.

Sadly, the discomfort we noted on our North East England trip didn’t settle when we returned home. Things got gradually worse and we recognised the signs of cruciate trouble (not putting weight on the leg, keeping his knee bent etc.). Hamish went back to see Andrew who quickly agreed our suspicion that his left cruciate ligament was on the way out. We thought long and hard about what was best for him, the options were basically: do nothing (not really an option as he was in obvious discomfort and things could only get worse); have a ‘traditional’ cruciate replacement (cheaper and probably less of an operation for Hamish to get over – but Andrew doesn’t recommend these) or; have a TPPO (an improved version of the TPLO he had on the right leg). We decided on the TPPO but were very anxious about it as Hamish doesn’t need too much sedative and anaesthetic at his age – and he had problems with his first TPLO!

We were mighty glad to see Hamish after his overnight stay at the vet’s following the operation. He’d heard us arrive to collect him and upset his water all over his dressing whilst we were told what to do and not do – and pay the bill no doubt! This meant he had to go home without a dressing – but he did OK with very little supervision (maybe he remembered the rules from his first operation?!). We saw a photograph taken during the operation showing Hamish’s knee – we and Andrew were right, the cruciate was tearing and was only about 50% intact. Andrew decided to leave what remained in place hoping it would help speed recovery from the operation and, as the operation would overcome need for a cruciate ligament, no more damage should occur (and, even if it did, the operation was the ‘fix’).

At his first check up, a few days after the operation, all seemed well. Hamish was staring to put weight on the leg; he hadn’t upset the wound and was reasonably mobile. We hoped the worst was over and he would soon be better off than before the operation. Sadly nothing seems that simple with Hamish. Just a few days after his check up he yelped as he moved backwards and his leg went from under him. He was in pain and showed all the signs he had when he snapped his first cruciate. He was rapidly back at the vet. Andrew thought his remaining cruciate had probably ruptured causing Hamish’s pain. He thought this should settle down over a few days – and Hamish had already had the operation to ‘cure’ a ruptured cruciate. There was concern the uncontrolled rupture might have caused a meniscus to move out of place – causing pain in the joint. We agreed to review how Hamish was when he was due to return for a final X ray.

When Hamish went back he was still struggling. Andrew described him as nearly 60% lame – Hamish was obviously in pain with even minimal manipulation of his leg. There was no evidence of clicking to suggest a problem with a meniscus but, clearly, something was still not right and something had to be done. We agreed Hamish would have another general anaesthetic and have both the X rays and further operation (this did, at least, save him having another sedation). The operation led to another overnight and, despite me ‘tiptoeing’ when I arrived to collect him the next morning, he knew I was there and ‘sung out’ almost the minute I arrived. Surgery was running behind so I was kept waiting – I don’t know who was more anxious – me in the waiting room or him in the recovery area!

It transpired the cruciate had not completely ruptured – but was about 90% torn. This was giving him the pain. None of the menisci had ‘popped’ but one was trimmed a little ‘just in case’. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – but with its benefit it would have been much better if the cruciate had been removed during the first operation. Most importantly this would have saved Hamish a good deal of pain and discomfort – and us a good deal of concern. It would have saved us something over £800 too!

Hamish’s problems didn’t stop there. Because he was still suffering pain well after the second operation Andrew suggested he have a course of four anti-arthritis injections as well as his Metacam. The injections were a course of four scheduled for one a week. Hamish was not to have Metacam on the day of each injection. A couple of days after the third injection Hamish had a disturbed night – he was ‘as sick as a dog’ three times and had diarrhoea. The diarrhoea continued for several days before he was back at the vets again (he has had upset stomachs before so we kept him on rice for a couple of days hoping it would clear up).

It seems very likely the pain killers caused this unfortunate side effect – including some passing of blood. We are pleased to report several days of three types of tablets and an ant-biotic injection settled his stomach. He was heartily fed up with having to swallow tablets (the anti-acids had to be given three times a day and 20 minutes before food so could not be disguised in a treat). He was also pretty unhappy about chicken and rice after a week – well the chicken wasn’t too bad but he started leaving the rice altogether.

Hamish has started to recover slowly, he is still far from mobile, but we guess age is against him. The main thing is he’s enjoying life again. He still likes a trip to cricket and, when there’s no play, still finds the balls cricketers have lost in the surrounds (his nose is still up to detector dog standard … even if only for balls). He would still like to join in on match days – but is kept on a short lead for fear of ruining the match ball! He can’t, however, sustain excitement as long as he once did – and needs a good rest after short bursts of fun.

March 09 update:

Hamish started to slow down over the Christmas 08 period. He seemed a little lethargic at first, more so as time went on, and less keen on his walks. By the New Year he was starting to show less interest in his food too. We wondered if the time had come for him to have some help with his old joints and were worried about some of his lumps that had grown. We also noticed one of his teeth looked a bit worn. Hamish was booked to see Andrew in early January. Andrew was pleased with both Hamish’s knees but did making him jump a bit whilst testing his hips – some deterioration there unfortunately. The lumps all seemed OK – big, but almost certainly fatty (Hamish has a history of these). The tooth was worn – but much more of concern was the paleness of Hamish’s gums. He was almost certainly anaemic.

A quick blood test showed Hamish’s red blood cells count – packed cell volume (PCV) – low at about 21% (the reference value for an Airedale is 37% to 54%). Immediate examination of the sample also indicated some unusual cells – this was the first time Sarah became deeply involved in Hamish’s treatment (Andrew is ‘tops’ when it come to orthopaedics but defers to Sarah on, among other things, blood analysis). A more thorough examination by a pathologist confirmed low PCV but showed the red blood cells were regenerative. This conclusively proved Hamish was significantly anaemic but did not suggest a clear reason why.

Basically there were three scenarios – Hamish was no longer producing blood cells (Leukaemia would be the most likely cause – but then he may not have regenerative cells), something was attacking his red blood cells (possible parasite infection – rare in the UK – or own immune system failure), or something was causing blood loss (internal bleeding / tumour). Andrew prescribed powders to fight any parasitic infestation even before the path lab results were back. When the results arrived he thought Leukaemia the most likely cause so recommended a bone marrow biopsy. We were not convinced by this, especially as the pathology results showed some red cells with nuclei, suggesting the bone marrow was responding to anaemia but that immature cells were being released into the blood. We agreed with Andrew that a further blood sample would be taken for deeper analysis and comparison with the first test. The gap between samples was to be about a week, with the second test on a Monday morning.

During the late evening of the Saturday before the second test we came home to find Hamish in a state of near collapse. He could barely stand, was breathing poorly and his gums were even paler. We thought we were going to lose him overnight and spent the night with him. The following morning he was a little better and a little better still on the Monday morning. This ‘incident’ helped rule out Leukaemia – had that been the cause he would not have recovered at all. Another blood test showed a PCV of only 14%. An internal bleed and / or tumour seemed the most likely cause. An abdominal ultrasound confirmed Hamish had an enlarged spleen.

Emergency surgery found Hamish’s spleen was not only enlarged but covered in nodules (I’ve seen the photo!). One of the nodules had ruptured (almost certainly when we were out Saturday evening) causing an internal bleed (and Hamish’s ‘collapse’). Hamish’s blood quality – and general health – helped the wound clot quickly and, mercifully, little blood escaped into the abdominal cavity. The spleen was attached to the cavity wall in places suggesting previous bleeds that Hamish had contained. Andrew performed the splenectomy and stitched Hamish up.

We spent an anxious night but were delighted to see Hamish the following morning. He was very poorly – but he’d had a very major operation. All the early signs were positive; his PCV had already improved to 17% showing that, even without a spleen, his red blood cells were recovering (no doubt helped by Oxglobin during / after surgery). Hamish came home with an enormous scar, a Durogesic patch and a set of tablets. Three days later he was back at Toachim House for his first check up with Sarah (who looked after his post operative care). She clearly understood all the issues, made sure we did too and maintained our confidence. Hamish hadn’t been eating enough so we went away with special easy to eat food and a change of pain relief (supported by stomach protection).

Hamish was fed by hand for a couple of days and we experimented with various treats in order to get his medication into him (the bigger tablets had to be dropped down his throat and his neck stroked until be swallowed them). He gradually improved and showed more interest in food – it wasn’t long before he was back on some dog food. We tried different kibbles to encourage him to eat; Pedigree Complete proved a hit. A week or so later Hamish was making great progress – but then had a relapse. He became more lethargic again, went off his food and seemed to have a temperature. Sarah immediately recognised he was rejecting his stitches – he has a history of rejection (see his first TPLO above) … I suppose one could say he’s ‘special’!

Hamish had two sets of dissolving stitches – quick dissolving ones externally and slower ones internally. A course of anti-biotics and anti-inflamatories brought the rejection under control and, happily, it proved to be the external stitches that caused the problem. A week later Sarah, with expert help from two practice nurses, removed all but one of the problem stitches without sedation (not easy with Hamish … trust me).

Hamish has made great strides since. He’s eating like a horse, and is now on the brink of being overweight. He has all his personality back, is stubborn, bright, intelligent and playful – quite a handful at times! His age prevents him going too long though, at times, his mind thinks he can do more than his body will allow (this might sound familiar to some readers!). He is gradually building up his fitness again and enjoys a decent walk every day (a mile or so on a good day). He takes his time and scents are sometimes more important than walking.

Hamish’s most recent PCV was 28% and other aspects of his sample were positive. He’s ‘signed off’ other than another check up in a couple of months. It has been an anxious couple of months or so but Hamish has re-emerged from the poorly body that confined him for a while. We are in no doubt he would not have done so without the expertise and dedication of Sarah, Andrew and all the other special people at Toachim House.

July 10 Update:

Hamish is now definitely an Old Aged Dog (OAD). Since the last update he’s slowed considerably and struggles with hot weather (he’s never liked it). He also has more health problems – some we’ve been able to help with and some he has to cope with (bless him).

In March 2010 Hamish’s bad tooth (see above) was really giving him problems with an infection. Sarah, his vet, decided something had to be done (it hadn’t been previously to avoid any more anaesthetic) – the risks of the operation were judged small because Hamish’s general health was strong and doing nothing would seriously affect his quality of life. We were a little anxious about another ‘general’ but Sarah assured us that if Hamish were her dog she’d go ahead. We agreed and, despite and anxious wait whilst the work was done, are very glad we did. In the event Hamish had three teeth removed, two of which were harbouring significant infections. He also had a thorough clean to remove staining and plaque – we now brush his teeth regularly to try and keep his gums and teeth in good order (and wish we’d appreciated the importance of this earlier).

Whilst ‘under’ Hamish had X-rays of his back legs and lungs. These showed no significant problems – but both his lungs and legs are wearing out. His back legs quite literally let him down on a fairly regular basis. Slippery floors all too often result in him suffering ‘four way splits’ – and needing help to get back up. Even uneven ground can cause his back legs to collapse. Steps are too much of a challenge these days. We are very careful where we take Hamish now, planning the accommodation we stay in (ensuring there are no stairs, non slip flooring and easy ‘comfort’ walks). Our latest trip was too hot for him so we’ll have to think carefully about when to take him away in future. Even at home he’s often reticent to go for a walk on hotter days.

Hamish’s lungs have struggled for a while. The X-rays in March didn’t show any tumours or structural problems but he’s had difficulty breathing under pressure for some time. The hot weather – with its need to pant – makes this more apparent. We’ve also noticed a change in Hamish’s voice – especially after he’s been barking for a while whilst guarding the whole street. His symptoms strongly suggest he is now suffering with Laryngeal Paralysis – and this, more than anything else, probably accounts for his reluctance to go for walks when the temperature is up. Sadly, there’s little we can do to help. An operation is possible but is really for younger dogs (as it brings problems that would, in our opinion, reduce Hamish’s quality of life - quite apart from the normal risks of anaesthesia). All we can do is keep Hamish as cool as possible and not ask him to do any exercise he does not choose. Keeping his weight down will help, but is a big challenge as food is now an even bigger element of his quality of life than it always has been!

On top of all this his digestive system has been upset more often than normal. His non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be contributing to this – in which case we may have to change to different pain relief (with different side-effects).

Quality of life is the main theme in this update. At the moment it is clear Hamish still has lots. He loves being with us, meeting other people and, especially, other dogs (as long as he doesn’t have to walk too far to do so). He enjoys guarding the house (if mainly from a prone position!) and has become much more attached to our cat (who is even older than him – an Old Aged Cat). He is a joy to be with and still has bursts of cheekiness (if not naughtiness). We love him to bits – but are conscious that Sarah says it might not be long before we have ‘to make some difficult decisions’. Hamish’s spirit is as strong as an ox and we hope (and believe) this will see him through to happiness for some time yet.

About Hamish – final chapter (19.4.1997 - 26.4.2011)

Hamish gradually declined into old age. Mercifully his Laryngeal Paralysis did not cause him too much discomfort (he did ‘choke’ from time to time but this didn’t seem to worry him – he took it in his stride like so many other things). It certainly didn’t stop him from barking and protecting his property and his people (he made his presence known in the middle of the night before he passed). He had no more obvious dental problems. The biggest health scare in his final months was in the early hours of 5 November 2010 when he had a seizure. This may have been caused by him banging his head as he got up from his bed (because a bang summoned me from my bed) but the seizure may have already started causing Hamish to lose his balance getting up. It took about 10 or 15 minutes to bring Hamish round enough to lift him. Once able to do this he was carried into the garden and the cooler air seemed to help (Andrew, one of Hamish’s vets, explained why this might be – something to do with heat generated by muscle spasms). Within another 30 minutes Hamish was looking much brighter and an hour or so later he was desperate for his breakfast. Andrew was consulted by ‘phone before he got it; it didn’t last long!. I am very glad Hamish never suffered another seizure. Old age is a sad thing. Hamish gradually declined, his eye sight, hearing, back legs and kidneys all became problems – but his nose remained razor sharp. Tia, Hamish’s Labrador ‘girl friend’ called a few days before he passed and he was absolutely delighted to see her – but, I think, he scented her well before he actually saw her!

In his final weeks Hamish sometimes struggled with the two steps in and out of the garden but rarely allowed us to help him. As his kidneys declined he became more fussy about what he would (could?) eat. A wide variety of dog foods were tried and he ate most of them at least once – but often only once! He tried a range of human food too. Rice had always been more than acceptable but he declined to touch it well before he passed. Pasta and potato were both enjoyed until close to the end. Tuna and pilchards were both a hit for a while - so too were chicken and turkey (and better protein for his kidneys). White fish and scrambled egg were also good. Hamish really enjoyed prime rump steak on his 14thbirthday – but his kidneys probably struggled a bit the day after. Towards the end Hamish ate less and less (and this made getting his medication into him harder). He had what I suspect is a typical kidney problem profile with water. He gradually increased the amount he drank over several months but, near the end, he barely touched his water or food. We knew then his time had come.

Sarah (another of his vets – the lady who looked after him most in his old age) came to our home with a nurse. Hamish was in his favourite spot in the porch when they arrived. He barely lifted his head. I sat with his head cradled on my lap as he slipped away. Utterly heart-wrenching but I know in my heart the time was right. To quote from a lovely card Sarah sent “I think I really had started to believe that Hamish would live forever. I’m sure that it was his love for you that kept him so strong for so long, and I know it was your love for him that meant when the time was right – as it was today – you could let him slip peacefully away”.

We were greatly comforted by nearly eighty condolence e mails received from customers and friends of the website, many of whom had never met Hamish. We also had another touching card from a customer who had. My mum’s favourite epitaph, which she helped choose for my dad’s mum’s gravestone, seems appropriate “to live in the hearts of those we love is not to die” and fits nicely with a comment on one of those e mails … “hopefully he’ll live on and be remembered through the website” – this certainly is our intention.

Since Hamish passed his first owners have been in touch. We now know why they had to give him up and understand how terrible this must have been for them. We empathise with their loss but thank goodness for the opportunity it gave us to share so much with Hamish.

Reflections:

It is still hard to think of Hamish without being upset; he was such a star it is impossible not to miss him. It is comforting though to know we and he enjoyed so many things; his light is strong in our memories and must still be shining brightly somewhere else.

We packed a lot into life. Hamish walked mountains (including Ben Nevis, Ben Macduie, Cairn Gorm, Hellvelyn and Scafell Pike), travelled on steam trains, mainline trains (including on his way to visit the Kennel Club), sailed on the Isle of Wight ferry, crossed The Wye via the rope ferry and used the row-boat ferry to get back to Southwold. We visited castles, museums and show caves together. Hamish travelled the length and breadth of Britain by car. We stayed in top hotels, lots of B&Bs and dozens of self catering holiday homes. Hamish came with us to make a presentation at The Sussex Pet Friendly Awards and ‘lectured’ at “A Taste of Hospitality” event at Canterbury College. We met a huge range of people and dogs (especially through The Kent Pet Airedale Club). In everything we did Hamish was an absolute gentleman.

A few specifics help emphasise what a character he was:

On an early holiday we visited Whitecroft in The Forest of Dean. One evening we left the pub to be met by a barrage of stones thrown by a bunch of yobs from the steam railway line. Hamish and I ran up the hill and by the time we arrived at the level crossing most of the youths had run away along the track – those that remained denied any involvement in stone throwing. Hamish probably didn’t know what on earth was going on and was, in any case, a real softy … but he certainly looked the part and enjoyed the ‘buz’.

Whilst Hamish probably thought I am big enough and ugly enough to look after myself he clearly thought Jo needed his protection. On a couple of dark walks he saw off joggers who made too much noise and got too close. He could look and sound really fierce and had some impressive teeth (not that he bared them often). His home and his car were definitely his territory and he loudly protected them – luckily he was never tested by unwelcome visitors.

We are sure Hamish enjoyed his adventures with us but know we must have challenged him on occasions. At the top of Scarfell Pike there’s a boulder field to cross to reach the trig point. If he’d struggled with it we wouldn’t have asked him to cross it – but he wanted to be with us more than anything. His face was a picture as he concentrated hard to keep his paws on the top of the boulders as he picked his way across. A school group was at the trig point and one of their leaders remarked what a fit boy Hamish was. He overcame other challenges like rope and plank bridges, open-tread stairs and spiral staircases with determination and implicit trust in us (that we would never have stretched).

Hamish was adorable, intelligent, lovable, loving, handsome, fun loving, strong willed, determined, strong (physically and mentally), trusting and trustworthy (over almost everything, especially as he got older) and courageous without an ounce of malice in him. He had qualities I hope to aspire to if I get old and face the health challenges he overcame to continue enjoying every minute of life.

Bless him ….

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