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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.