Sunday 19 April 2015

The Final Adventures of Frodo the Faller – a Trooper to the End

 The introduction of two beautiful Somali kittens to the Crowthorne Crew in February resulted also in the introduction of ringworm. It is not caused by worms but by a fungus belonging to the Tinea family. It creates intensely itchy spots which are very painful when scratched. Bertie and I seemed to be the worst affected but naturally Frodo had to share the experience. At the same time he had another outbreak of sarcoptic mange (canine scabies) on his shoulder, four months after the first attack.
He had also been experiencing recurrent stomach upsets. Courses of antibiotics and a change to an hypoallergenic diet helped – his appetite was unaffected – a greedy Dalmatian is greedy to the endJ

However, it was clear that he was slowly deteriorating. His system seemed to be breaking down and each new problem or setback took him longer to overcome. He began to sleep longer and longer, sometimes as long as eighteen hours, and each time I hoped and prayed he would quietly slip away but he wouldn’t. The mange on his shoulder broke down within two weeks into a wound that refused to heal, despite antibiotics, and it was clear that he would soon be in a great deal of pain if it were left to attack the underlying tissues and expose the bone. So, with great sadness, we let him go. We were comforted by the knowledge that he had spent so much time with the vets that he was never afraid of visiting them and so his final moments were with people he trusted and who loved him.

Frodo was hard work when he first came home with us at five months old. He liked all our family dogs but any unknown dogs were a challenge and he would always make the first aggressive advance. Even in his (short!) show career he would attempt to take lumps out of other dogs as he galloped past them. For that reason and also because he never really liked shows we stopped subjecting him to them. In any case, the small rings at dog shows don’t really allow dogs to show their full potential. There is nothing finer than seeing a healthy animal at full stretch in the countryside.

Eventually Frodo learnt to be more trusting and in his final years he bore the attentions of puppies and other dogs with grace. He was such a special dog – he had so many problems but he bore them all with stoic determination. He was my Velcro dog, never happier than when he had me in his sight. Indeed, when we went walking together he checked on me every few seconds. Sometimes I would hide from him and he would rush back, a concerned expression on his face. His relief when he ‘found’ me was palpable. He was gentle with small children, the other dogs and the cats. Anyone could steal his food from his bowl as he ate and he wouldn’t murmur, quite unlike his Labrador companions! He was the top dog but never lorded it over the others. If he wanted a particular bed he would loom over the occupant until he or she moved. Naturally the cats refused to move and so he would climb in and lie down on them. They moved then!

Like all Dalmatians (or was it just ours?) he was an inveterate thief and we had to hang the rubbish out of his reach as normal bins were no defence against his raids. The medication he took twice daily to try and control his epileptic seizures made him ravenous, constantly seeking food, not always from an appropriate source. He started to eat Frankie’s books because they had miniscule applications of food on them – toddlers are so apt to deposit tasty morsels everywhere! His tablets also caused him to ‘leak’ and thus he wore wraps or ‘loin cloths’ which added to his dignity rather than diminishing it. He was much admired, even in old age, in the forest, my elegant, loping boy. In latter months he wore a harness which enabled us to lift him if he got stuck somewhere as occasionally his hind legs let him down and he couldn’t extricate himself from whichever flower tub or bush that had trapped him.

He taught us such a lot. We learnt how to comfort him after he had had a seizure and was unaware of his surroundings – how frightening that must be. We learnt how to lift him into the car for the journey to the forest where he loved to walk. We learnt to be patient when he had ‘accidents’ in the house because he couldn’t move fast enough to reach the door. He was a fastidious dog and hated to be dirty.

We miss him – it’s only been four weeks – and I have not yet broken the night-time listening habit that developed after his seizures began, ten years ago. I am sure Bertie misses him, too, for he spends much time wanting reassurance from us.

So ends thirty years of Dalmatian companions. I think we shall not have another – all four of ours had different health problems, though the first, Cariadd, was the strongest and the longest-lived.

Our last walk together . . . 

 Frodo was fun, a character and a wonderful companion. He gave such love, such trust. Sleep well, my boy, in starlight.

 Frodo - Washakie Lord of the Rings: 06.12. 2001 - 23.03.2015