End of an era

Elderly Patterdale terrier, black muzzle turning grey, lies on his favourite cushion and stares wistfully into the camera.

Today I have had to say goodbye to my black Patterdale terrier, Tegid. Technically my partner’s dog, he has been pretty much my constant companion for the past thirteen and a half years.

I bought him for her birthday, back in July 2010. We’d not long lost our previous Patterdale, Mortimer, and missed having a terrier in our lives. It was around about the same time I took over the farm, so I spent a lot of time travelling between Fife and Ceredigion. To ease the move, I bought an elderly Range Rover and a box trailer from eBay, and every trip north I would take more stuff.

One such trip fell just before Barbara’s birthday, and I was struggling to think of a suitable present. Leafing through the pages of Horse and Hound magazine, which was still being delivered, addressed to my mother, despite her having died two years earlier, I stumbled upon an advertisement for Patterdale terrier puppies, ready to go. The address was Burnley in Lancashire, just off the M6 down which I would be driving the next day. I made a call, arranged to go and view.

The place turned out to be in the depths of a run down looking council estate. I worried for the safety of Range Rover and box trailer, but actually they were in no danger. The people who owned Tegid’s mother and father welcomed me in and showed me to the back garden, where a cage was filled with puppies. 

Black Patterdale terrier puppy standing on a doormat wondering if he might come in, please.

I had been intending just to have a look, so of course I ended up coming away with the friendliest of the boys, assured he was old enough to be parted from the rest of the litter and his mum. He wailed a lot on the journey south, and ended up curled on my lap as I drove. Just as well the Range Rover was an automatic, as changing gear while holding onto an unhappy puppy would not have been easy.

He settled in quickly with Machrihanish the Dachshund and Haggis the Lucky Labrador, and got better at the long car journeys too, as I continued to split my time between Scotland and Wales. As he grew, however, the differences between him and Mortimer became increasingly apparent.

Black Patterdale terrier puppy lying on a dog bed and using his yellow Labrador pal as a source of heat.

Mort hadn’t really been bothered about the sheep on the farm. He would bark at them to get out of his way, but only because he wanted at the rabbit warrens on the other side of them. Tegid, on the other hand, was a chaser. He also would not come when he was called despite all my best training. On walks over the hill at the farm, he would catch the scent of a deer or a hare and disappear. I might follow the sound of gleeful barking, but the chances of catching him were minimal. In his first year in Fife, I picked him up on separate occasions from all of the neighbouring farms, and twice from Cupar police station after he’d been handed in by some well-meaning walker. From his second year in Fife onwards, he was essentially never let off the lead. It didn’t slow him down much.

Black Patterdale terrier, mouth open as he pants to reveal white teeth and pink tongue. He is lying in thick, sticky mud and quite clearly delighted with himself.

In the early years of my taking on the farm, Haggis, Tegid and then Dogmael too, came with me as I worked. And when my books took off and I spent more time at my desk, they thought that was fine too. Tegid, like most Patterdale terriers, had two speeds – full on and flat out. He was either haring around like a loon, or upside down on the sofa with a cat on either side of him. He loved nothing so much as getting so close to the fire that he had to pant to cool down (but never relinquish his spot).

Black Patterdale terrier lies on a tartan dog bed, tortie tabbie kitten snoozing behind him. That's his reputation shot then.

As he grew older, he developed fatty lumps that looked a little awkward but gave him no pain. The vet removed one, as it threatened to push his hip out of place, but mostly he was just a lumpy dog, and then a lumpy old dog. He smelled bad, had terrible breath, was constantly begging for food or chewing things that I really didn’t want chewed. He had a dreadful habit of eating sheep shit (or indeed any shit he could find). We considered changing his name to Sherlock, so often did we have to shout ‘no shit!’ And yet for all his faults – maybe because of them – he was an admirable character.

A few days ago he came for his usual walk, ate his breakfast with gusto, and then settled down for a bit of a snooze – the pattern of his life in later years. At supper time he polished off his food, and we all went for a little stroll around the yard as we always do. Later on, I heard him drinking, and then he came upstairs to my study, panting hard and obviously unhappy about something. I went downstairs to find that he had thrown up all the water he’d drunk, but nothing else. I let him out, he had a pee, came back in and climbed into his bed. My initial thought was he’d eaten something out in the yard that he shouldn’t have done, it had disagreed with him, and he’d be fine in the morning.

Black Patterdale terrier lying in a pile of comfy cushions on a sofa. He knows how to relax.

When I took him and Dogmael out last thing, he was still unhappy but did his business. Then promptly brought up all his dinner. He turned down his late night biscuit, but I wasn’t at that point overly worried. This is normal terrier behaviour, in my experience.

What wasn’t normal was him turning down his breakfast the next morning, and his supper. Even the wet cat food held no interest, so I took him to the vet. Blood tests revealed that his kidneys had basically packed up and his liver wasn’t working properly. There might have been something else going on, but he was thirteen and a half years old, so any kind of surgery under anaesthetic would have been extremely risky. We took the hard decision, and after one last comfortable night at home in front of the fire, he was put to sleep just after noon today, lying on my lap and swaddled in a blanket. 

Black Patterdale terrier lying on a large blue dog bed in front of a lit wood burning stove.

As I type this, eyes blurry and a lump in my throat, I keep expecting to hear the familiar thump of his feet on the stairs up to my study. It’s going to be a long time before that feeling passes. My mind keeps going back over all the things that have changed in my life these past thirteen and a half years. So much, and he was there for all of it. My constant, smelly, irritating companion. Goodbye, Tegid. You were equal parts annoying and lovable. I hope wherever you are now there are plenty of things to chase, and nobody’s shouting at you to stop.

Black Patterdale terrier curled up in his cushions on his sofa. His front leg is bandaged where the vet has taken blood samples. This is the last ever photograph I took of Tegid. Farewell, my old friend.

37 Responses to End of an era

  1. Nicola Dorrall December 4, 2023 at 8:11 pm #

    Your writing brings Tegid to life so much and he sounds like a wonderful companion who enjoyed a great life. As with many families a pet becomes as much your family as your children or partner. They bring you joy, comfort and love and in turn life becomes more meaningful. I hope your memories provide you with comfort.
    Sending you lots of love.

    • Jan Bethell December 4, 2023 at 9:13 pm #

      So sorry for you’re sad loss RIP Tegid. I well understand your loss My dearest friend Zak went over the rainbow 🌈 bridge 5 years ago now he is still loved & missed every day. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Jane Cook December 4, 2023 at 8:18 pm #

    James I’m sorry for your loss. It never gets easier to lose ones dearest non human companions. I’m glad he had he perfect terrier life with you and Barbara. It could not have been a better one. Hopefully he has met up with Truly Scrumptious and Ollie. my 2 JRS who buggered off and left me recently too. Do they have squirrels and bunnies over the rainbow. As mine never caught anything I hope so. Thank you for telling us about him. X

  3. Val December 4, 2023 at 8:43 pm #

    Awhh James I’m in absolute floods reading this, what a darling boy, we can all hard relate to the antics good and naughty, I lost my boy (Dexter, a flat coat) to sudden kidney disease a year ago and he is greatly missed. Much love to you both. X

  4. MARY PICKEN December 4, 2023 at 8:52 pm #

    So sorry for your loss. They leave such an amazingly large hole, don’t they? But he had a great life with people who loved him, and thanks the best thing to remember xx

  5. Ann Bloxwich December 4, 2023 at 8:55 pm #

    James, that is the perfect eulogy for a remarkable companion. Sending loads of love to you and Barbara, and to the rest of the companions who will no doubt miss him, too.

  6. Carol Lennie December 4, 2023 at 9:02 pm #

    Sorry you have lost Tegid. He sounds the type of dog who made an impact.

  7. Jacqui G. December 4, 2023 at 9:09 pm #

    Oh James, you haven’t half made me cry. I’ve only ever had one dog that was mine and mine alone, the rest have been family dogs. Rufus was a yellow Lab with ginger ears (hence his name), I got him for my 11th b’day. He was put to sleep (cancer) after 13 fun filled years. I’m 70 on my next b’day and I still quite often think about and miss that big, daft, soft lump of a dog.
    It was lovely to read about Tegid, he sounds like he was a great character that had a good life. Thank you for telling us about him x

  8. Mrs Susan OToole December 4, 2023 at 9:10 pm #

    I am so sad to read this, they truly take part of our hearts with them. Hardest thing to let them go. xxx

  9. Anna Kucharska December 4, 2023 at 9:17 pm #

    Tears…. your lovely writing about Tegid makes me think of all my wee pals who’ve passed on. So sorry.

  10. Mary Walsh December 4, 2023 at 9:31 pm #

    Oh how very sad but what a wonderful eulogy to the great Tegid. Losing a dog is one of the most painful things imaginable. My gorgeous Staffie Charley died aged 15 the most gentle of dogs, before him aged only 9 our Dalmatian who was the most mischievous dog ever, both forever missed. Now a lovable maltipoo Poppy age 9 sits curled up beside me. We never forget our furry friends and Tegid sounds as though he has given you both great memories which will last forever. X

  11. Patricia Manning December 4, 2023 at 9:33 pm #

    So sorry to hear this,you obviously love him very much,I’m sure he’s in a happy place now.xx

  12. Gus December 4, 2023 at 9:36 pm #

    So sorry to hear Always so hard to lose them.

  13. Melanie Runciman December 4, 2023 at 9:39 pm #

    So sorry James

  14. Alice December 4, 2023 at 9:44 pm #

    So sad for you. As you write about Tegid’s last day I was taken right back 5 years to our Jack Russell going in identical fashion. Me on a bus going through Newport on Tay listening to the vet on the phone telling me to bring him in the morning. Just one more night at home and a walk on the nature trail to let the news about his kidneys sink in. So hard. He too was a complete reprobate and very willfull. I loved him to bits. I took him in temporarily and he stayed 10 yrs.

  15. Geoffrey M McCorquodale December 4, 2023 at 9:44 pm #

    I never know what to say at times like this, we have lost many pets over the years and it brings a lump to my throat just thinking about it. We have a Basset who is 12 well about 2 Years ago was given 6 Months by the vet. Well the thrawn besom is still here. My wife has even put away money for when the time comes We have put down Lino and old towels, carpet runners and even build a ramp to help her get in and out the house. What i’m trying to say is we would do anything to make her time left as loving and comfortable as we can. They may never again be with us in the future, but they are forever in our hearts. My deepest sympathy.

  16. Robin December 4, 2023 at 9:46 pm #

    So sorry to read about Tegid’s passing and all power to you for being there with him at the end, rather than leaving him at the vet as so many people do.

  17. Rosemary December 4, 2023 at 9:48 pm #

    I like the picture of Tegid and the cat. The only dog my husband and I ever had was a foundling we named Molly. She loved us and all our many cats. It was in her 11th year that she came to me one evening and just lay down at my feet panting. I sat on the floor and held her in my arms, later joined by my husband and the cats. We all knew what was happening. We told her how happy she had made us and reminded her of all the happy memories she had helped make, until she closed her eyes for the last time. They are part of our families. I am so sorry.

    • Maddy December 5, 2023 at 2:07 am #

      So sorry for your loss. They bring so much into our lives, but god it hurts like hell when they go.

  18. Kathy Power December 4, 2023 at 9:55 pm #

    Aw, I’m so very sorry. I’ve loved your photographs of him.
    There have been lots of dogs I’ve loved and lost over the years and I still think of every one of them. 💔

  19. Martin Jaatun December 4, 2023 at 10:00 pm #

    Sorry for your loss – we had to put down our labrador in January, and now there’s a dog-shaped hole in my heart.

  20. Clo December 4, 2023 at 10:39 pm #

    Having a quiet howl here, James. What a lovely tribute to a terrific fellow. It brings to mind so many well-loved beasties who have gone before. The memories are golden. I hope you will mind yourself in the next while. It’s oh so tough and not much fun. Beaming warm thoughts across the ocean.

  21. Sharon Richardson December 4, 2023 at 11:01 pm #

    This piece is a wonderful tribute to Tegid. He sounds like quite the character. My condolences to you and Barbara.

  22. Christine Archibald December 5, 2023 at 12:53 am #

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Tegid with us. You brought him to life on the page and the photos capture his character. I am so sorry for your loss.

  23. Christine Laurenson December 5, 2023 at 4:29 am #

    So sorry, James. I’m in tears after reading that. It’s awful to lose a member of the family even the unbiddable ones, or maybe especially them. I still miss all the four-legged friends I’ve loved and lost. I’m glad that you have a supportive partner and and an extensive furry family to support you. Take care. Christine xxx

  24. Dorothy Rogerson December 5, 2023 at 4:36 am #

    So very sorry for your loss. We had a similar experience with the sudden decline in our dog, Max. It’s never easy to say goodbye to our canine friends. Sending love.

  25. Jane Dellinger December 5, 2023 at 4:42 am #

    James, so sorry to hear about Tegid. Our pets are our family. Sounds like he had a wonderful life with you and Barbara. SO hoping there really is a Rainbow Bridge!!

  26. Karen Walker December 5, 2023 at 5:48 am #

    So sorry for your loss, I did laugh out loud at the shit eating part, certain dogs just can’t get enough of it. Condolences to you and Barbara.

  27. Gail December 5, 2023 at 5:56 am #

    I miss our dogs as much as human family members (although in different ways – I’ve been blessed with not having smelly relatives, although I had one who, in her later years, would wander off when we were out). Grief can focus our thoughts on the essence of who we have lost and I hope that your memories of Tegid will bring some solace.

  28. Ellen Stewart December 5, 2023 at 7:53 am #

    A life well lived and loved till the end – what more could any dog wish for.

  29. Mrs Muriel Bradford December 5, 2023 at 8:05 am #

    So sorry for your sad loss. They leave such a huge hole in your life -and your heart when they go. He’s watching over you, their love never leaves you. Best comfort is to keep talking and remembering. Take care. X

  30. Mike Kerr December 5, 2023 at 9:43 am #

    Sorry to hear this, but that was a eulogy to be proud of. We can sit and look at our 6 year old spaniel and know what is coming but it is a reminder to live in the moment and enjoy him (despite the irritations). Hope you can remember the good times James

  31. Paul Lawton December 5, 2023 at 10:13 am #

    Very sorry for your loss, James. Tegid’s “coprophagia” habit was shared by a former dachshund of mine – so it brought back fond memories of my dog, too. Take care.

  32. Jennifer Duncan December 5, 2023 at 11:57 pm #

    So sad but take comfort that you gave Tegid such a wonderful life . He was always at your side , enjoyed the wonderful , bracing air of NE Fife (I am a Fifer) on the farm and was loved . You were with him right to the end . Cherish your memories .

  33. Brenda Dacombe December 6, 2023 at 11:13 am #

    So sorry to hear of the passing of Tegid. You wrote such a moving eulogy to him which reduced me to tears! Dogs give such devotion and unconditional love.

  34. Anjali Suzanne Angel December 9, 2023 at 8:53 pm #

    James, as soon as I saw the photo of Tegid in your newsletter, I knew something was up and dreaded reading. You give me such joy with your farming descriptions and all the love you put into your critters, I always look forward to your newsletters. Thank you for sharing Tegid’s story. He was a special doggie 💖🎈

  35. Wendy Gatt December 11, 2023 at 8:19 pm #

    Aww James, such sad news, losing a four legged friend is always hard 😢and it sounds like he was a real character. The memories you have of Tegid will remain with you always. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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