Saturday, May 19, 2012

And so farewell .

And now the Wilf the PON blog comes to an end.

A special thank you to all those who commented yesterday . The dog blog world is a place of great kindness and high civility.

Madame Bay arrives to say goodbye to Wilf. She's just too late. The vet is getting into his car as she comes through the gate. Our old housekeeper informs us, eyes brimming with tears, that she suffers from allergies. '' Very bad allergies ". We agree that the pollen count is very high this year. Dabbing her eyes Madame Bay says adieu to 'her boy', tousles his head one last time and quickly leaves.

At the cafe under the arcades the waitress asks after Wilf. When I tell her there's no more need for a half croissant she too bursts into tears. Seeing her rush tearfully inside a Dutch couple at a table by the window glare at me as if I'm some sort of monster .

In the afternoon one of the young vets stops by with some flowers and a card. On it a quote addressed to the PONs : " We are not saints but we have kept our appointment . How many people can say as much ? ". A sweet thought and a fine epitaph.

The family fellow finally sleeping next to his brother on top of the ridge. The old floor tiles from the barn laid above him. Last night a huge lightning storm. As the thunder roars and the rain pelts down ' the font ' turns to me and says " Wilfs warm and safe". 

This morning a trip to the vets with a case of champagne. Without their kindness this blog would have run a shorter course.

Now we have family and friends to see. France to explore . A trip to Maine and Nantucket next month. Then to India. A school for blind girls and a saintly woman who runs a home for stray dogs in Delhi. Maybe California in the early fall. A Cost Centre graduation.  A full house through the summer . Then, perhaps next Spring,two more PON brothers ?

We'll carry on blogging, less  frequently and on different subjects at a new blog

And so , with thanks and best wishes to all who've followed Wilf through his ups and downs, farewell .

Friday, May 18, 2012

To the very end .

A rough night. This morning Wilfs body uncooperative. Gums pale, legs leaden. Not defeated but the will to fight finally gone. He pulls himself out into the garden, settling in the shade of the orchard. His favoured spot.

Familiar, comforting sounds. The frogs in the village pond, Finches, Redstarts, Cicadas, the squabbling sparrows. I sit by him. He lets out a long ' I'm oh so tired ' sigh. Wrapped in his blanket, head buried deep into my lap, back leg sticking out at that comical angle that's always made us laugh. An overgrown puppy. Fur warm to the touch in the morning sun.

There on the cool grass a last chance for dog and master to talk. A look that says so much. '' Is this it ? Will it hurt ? We had good times didn't we ? Do you remember that seal on the beach ? ". He falls asleep then wakes with a start, body tense. '' You'll stay with me ? ". ' To the very end ' I find myself replying aloud. Of this one thing he can be sure. A conversation dog people will understand.

The morning air powerful with the scent of roses and sage. He can't keep water down. Kidneys failing. Far away over the mountains, lightning, and a distant baritone of thunder. The senior vet arrives. Wilfs tail wags. An old friend come to see him. A quick check. A nod of the head. The injection. A gentle 'Adieu' as the needle goes in. A half yawn.'The Font' cradles him. Suddenly the years flare up and are gone ; quicker than a minute . '' Good boy " said to deaf ears.

Wilfs journey completed with dignity. Laughter to the end. All dogs, all people, should go like this. Gently. Unafraid. Loved . Respected. 

Give me a couple of hours and he'll lie next to his brother, on top of the ridge, sheltered by the old oak trees. A view to the mountains . A spot where the house lights linger at night. A good place for a family hero.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spending all he can .

Angus comes back to France leaving ' the font ' and family to follow on later . To say Wilf was happy to see me would be an understatement . Ten minutes of sitting cross legged in the courtyard with a PON in my lap .

A very tough night . Later today I'll have to decide whether it was the interruption to his routine or a repeat of last weeks flare up .

Time is free , but it's priceless.
You can't own it , but you can use it.
You can't keep it , but you can spend it .

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In good hands

We have to be in London today . Wilf has been left in good hands . The house stocked with chicken , coconut ice cream and tuna.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Only in France .

Lunch over Wilf is loaded into the back of the car . A slightly uncertain  ' am I off to the vet ? ' look on his face . The vet gives Wilf a full hour of his time . Lots of tickles . The outcome ? Things just slowly shuting down . He doesn't know how ill he is , so he doesn't worry .There's no pain , so no need for pain killers . Restart the Cortisone to ease the breathing and the arthritis . Last weeks flare-up caught in time . One of those things with cancer - ' a candle sputters as it burns ' .

The vet thinks he's happy . Not, the wild, coming to terms with living happiness of a puppy . More like being wrapped in warm cotton wool . A shrinking world of misty edges. Love, trust and routine marking its boundaries.

The vet quotes a line:"Il est vrai que lui aussi doit avoir sa petite chronique" *. Over dinner ' the font ' comments that only in France could a vet quote Beckett and somehow get it right. Absolutely, life affirmingly , beautifully , right . I have to agree. It goes without saying that Wilf does too .

* " It is right that he too should have his little chronicle, his memories, his reason, and be able to recognize the good in the bad, the bad in the worst, and so grow gently old down all the unchanging days, and die one day like any other day, only shorter ".

Monday, May 14, 2012

The laughter still flowing .

For Wilf another day spent dozing in the shade of the cherry trees. Salmon for lunch and chicken for dinner . In fact two helpings of chicken for dinner. A walk to the stream .He falls asleep with his head resting on ' the fonts ' foot . A little coconut ice cream as a treat before he settles down for the night . He hears the fridge door open and is miraculously standing in the middle of the kitchen floor. Sprightly and beaming .

His breathing rougher this morning . He can't find his way to his food or the water bowl as easily as he did before last weeks scare. ' The font ' will take him to the vet today to have his lungs checked and make sure there's no pain. There's something deeply right about this unhurried journey but we want to be certain his days remain gentle. Difficult to say who's happier about this extended farewell . Dog or owner . The laughter still flowing . A small canine triumph .

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The giant paella dish .

Saturday night. The Saints Day dinner. Sainte Rolende. One of the lesser known saints . Farmers, their wives, tractors, small white vans , chairs , blankets, dogs and toddlers scattered haphazardly across the village green . In the midst of it all a fire with Willy's giant paella bubbling merrily away . We are introduced to Willy . A jovial man who inherited the giant paella dish from his father . '' Two metres forty in diameter and weighs ninety three kilos " . Angus unsure of how to respond to the proud owner of a giant paella dish makes an ' I'm amazed  '  whistling noise.

Wilf settles down next to ' the font '  . The other dogs come to say hello but quickly leave him alone . Canine understanding . Wilf discovers he likes seafood paella. A clear " why did you never tell me about squid ? " look on his face . Protracted lip smacking, then a sigh, then it's time to fall asleep .We leave when the old farmer starts to play the accordion . '' Going so soon ? " shouts Madame Bay .

This morning the procession leaves the church at six thirty . Wilf asleep at the foot of the stairs . When I open the door the sunlight falls on him. His fur glows . A great way to start a Sunday in France Profonde .

A walk in the country.

The old fellow may have bought his ticket . His bags may be packed . But he's in no rush to get to the station .

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The secret to a long, happy, life .

A day for dozing in the garden . After roast chicken and coconut ice cream we manage a late evening walk to the war memorial and fire hydrant. Wilfs attitude to life ?  " Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday ".

Friday, May 11, 2012

As it should be .

In the church the Saints statue is taken down from its niche and given its annual dusting. Across the lane , in the village hall , the lady with the beehive hairdo and the silver Ford Mondeo is setting up tables. Outside her husband and the man in the yellow day-glo yellow jacket are stacking logs. The mayor, the mayors wife , and the ever efficient town hall secretary are inspecting the oleanders in the churchyard. " The snow didn't do them any good " says the mayor. For emphasis , or possibly to help foreigners who might not understand the finer points of gardening , Madame Mayor points towards a shrivelled, clearly dead, bush. '' No good at all " she adds for good measure. We nod .

Wilf spends his day sleeping. The old fellow happily oblivious to the  preparations for the village Saints Day . He used to get up at six for the morning croissant run . Now he sleeps 'til nine . A quick breakfast of softened kibbles and chicken followed by a leisurely saunter in search of pigeon guano. The obligatory christening of the fire hydrant . Then there's time for a morning doze in the garden followed by an afternoon doze in the hallway . He joins ' the font ' in the kitchen before a pre-bedtime nap in the orchard . Exactly the way things should be . Gentle drifting . 

Old PONs instinctively know : " time is too slow for those who wait , too swift for those who fear , too long for those who grieve , too short for those who rejoice , but for those who love , time is eternity ".

Thursday, May 10, 2012

PON tenacity .

Angus is ready. ' The font ' is ready. The vet is ready. Everyone is ready apart from Wilf . He has other ideas . PON tenacity. Wilful by name ; Wilful by nature .

To everyones surprise the family fellow has a great day. Not a good day , a great day. It's hot. He lies on his back on the cool grass of the cherry orchard, snoring. Paws pointed skywards. The sun warming those old limbs and driving out the arthritis. At one point he wanders, unsteadily,  to the stream for a drink. Even better. He starts to eat again. Three small meals of kibbles ( soaked in water now to make them softer ) and chicken. Dog and food , miraculously , remain united. The vet stops by just as Wilf is christening the peonies. '' No problems with those kidneys " he says with a laugh.

A quick check . No pain . The kind vet ( sometimes I think he prefers animals to humans ) suggests we let things drift. The prognosis : It won't be long.  '' A candle gives off the most beautiful light as it  burns down ". French country common sense. From now on no more Cortisone or Previcox. Just the insulin twice a day and , a new treatment , Gaviscon three times a day to deal with the inflamed stomach. As he goes the vet gives me his home number . '' I'm around when he needs me ''.

There's a family of sparrows nesting in the laurel hedge. A dozen young. Argumentative and playful. Wilf settles down to sleep again while they flit and sing and play on the grass around him. New life and old in harmony . Another sunny , bone warming , day is forecast .

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Not so quickly !

It was a strong anti-emetic . Wilf lifted from the back of the car and laid , still dozing , on his bed . He sleeps soundly. Quite immovable . After breakfast we call the vet . It's a national holiday in France . We'd forgotten. The surgery closed . Open again tomorrow. An emergency vet we don't know available in a town forty kilometres away . No thanks . 

By lunchtime Wilf seems  better. Weak, but better. The amazing ' not so quickly ' miracle dog.  A small meal of kibbles and shredded chicken eaten with enthusiasm . Amid much laughter he even manages to christen the peonies . In the late afternoon a slow walk, more a plod, across the  village green to the war memorial. Those big paws sinking into the long grass. A deep sleep in the orchard until midnight. Wind rustling his fur. What determination. What zest for life. We go to bed hopeful. That roller coaster of emotions that comes with an old dog .

This morning ' the font ' has to head back to London. So many arrangements to make, people to see , certificates to get signed . Wilf wanders out to the peonies, returns and promptly brings up yesterdays food . All of it . He looks crestfallen. I'll call the vet this morning. I'd really like to put off the moment, that moment , until ' the font ' gets back on the first flight tomorrow. If I can't ...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And when we arrive at the end of our journey ?

To the vets. The cancer returning. Wilfs given an injection. This morning I'd expected to find him asleep but somehow the old fellows summoned up the strength to stand by the front door. That comical ' come on , let's get going ' impatience. 

Back bowed, legs stiff, head down, he moves off towards the church. A walk done a thousand times before. A familiar , comforting, routine. Village green, war memorial, pond.  The fire hydrant christened with a half stumbling cock of the leg. A look of male determination etched on his face. I chuckle and give encouragement. The precision of a champion.He shuffles playfully through the leaves. The slow, crinkly, sound of mischief .

We pause by the stream. Water rippling over pebbles, a distant cuckoo, chattering finches, sunlight. Frogs. Lots and lots of noisy frogs. There's no need to hurry today. A fact unspoken but understood. Some days are special. Today is special . He lies in the long grass holding his head high , slowly sniffing the air, as if to fix this moment firmly, forever,  in place .

' The font ', back from the airport, joins us. Wilf dissolves into a fluffy ball of stump wagging joy. He ambles happily back home. By the pond he stumbles. I pick him up and carry this old friend towards the gate. It won't be long now. A gentle, oh so gentle, gathering in of the light . There again Wilf has never been one to be hurried .

Monday, May 7, 2012

Coincidence ?

The second round of the Presidential elections. Seven thirty and there's already half a dozen tractors parked around the war memorial. Early rising farmers waiting to vote . At quarter to eight the mayor  arrives to open up the town hall. He looks flustered , trademark pork pie hat pushed back on his head . He can't find the front door key. A farmer lends him his mobile phone. Five minutes later Madame Mayor arrives in the very old Renault without hubcaps. She's brought the keys, a plate of honey croissants, and her eight year old granddaughter. The sleepy child still in pink pyjamas. On the dot of eight the blinds in the town hall are raised and the polling station officially opens. Madame Mayor offers the unwary a honey croissant . 

In the afternoon a brief but violent hail storm blows down from the mountains. For a few minutes the house and village carpeted in an inch of sparkling  white. As the hail beats against the roof Wilf wanders into the library . He settles down across my feet . That look all dog owners know . '' Don't think I'm frightened. I've just come in to guard you " . 

'The fonts' away . One of lifes inevitable duties . In the small hours Wilf wakes and lets out one loud howl . Not a bark, a howl . Three twenty exactly . I go downstairs by which time the phone is ringing . Coincidence?