I can’t find any photos of Muldoon, but he was a handsome blond dog with some white spots on his face (hence his name – there’s a song called Spotty Muldoon) and he adored my mother.
Susie was an excellent mother and kept her puppies under tight control. Even when they were grown up, she was still the matriarch. If Muldoon (it was always Muldoon) misbehaved, she’d take his head in her mouth, not to hurt but to assert her authority and he meekly gave in.
However, he was quite possessive and, sadly, this led to ructions. As I’ve said before, Kipper adored my mother too and spent a lot of his time at our house, but Muldoon became jealous and one day he rounded on Kipper and growled at him. Kipper was terribly upset and never came to the house again. If my mother called at his house he was as affectionate as ever, but the close family bond was broken.
Muldoon was very handsome and very charming. “If only they made men like Muldoon…” we used to muse. At this time we had seven dogs, Simon, Huckleberry, Jessica Gee, Susie, Muldoon, Cleo and Neffi. When I took them for walks every day there were too many to manage on a lead so I took four and let the other three loose. They were quite sensible and didn’t run into the road (though not chasing cats wasn’t guaranteed). It was always me that walked the dogs, I’m not sure why that was. I suppose everyone else was too busy, and Wink lived in London by that time anyway. In the summer of 1969, I was taking my O Levels.
On the 18th of January 1970, everything changed abruptly and forever. We’d all been very ill with the ‘flu epidemic that spread through the country. Christmas was miserable. I can’t think why we bothered, but we cooked the usual turkey and ham, although no one could face food. It stayed in the fridge until it went off, and a couple of weeks later, embarrassed to put it in the dustbin, I staggered down the garden and dumped the food in the Broad.
We recovered in the end, though still didn’t feel very well. On the 17th, my father went to a Town Council committee meeting, though he wasn’t really well enough to go out. In the early hours of the next morning he had a heart attack and later, in hospital, he died.
My mother stopped eating. She lost over 2 stone in weight in the next few weeks and later she said that it was only Muldoon’s anxious love that kept her from deliberately starving herself to death. She was very strong-willed, quite capable of it. I have never quite come to terms with the fact that she chose to live for a dog and not for her fatherless teenage daughter, but there we go, that’s what she said. She never did put the weight on again, she chose to be thin – rather too thin, to tell the truth, and it did no good for her health in the long run.
I remember Muldoon as one of the most loving and faithful dogs I’ve ever known. Things changed in the next few years, but Muldoon was the constant, always at our side when things were hard.
To lighten this gloomy post, an anecdote of Muldoon’s puppyhood. I was sitting in my parents’ bedroom reading, leaning on one of the posts of their four-poster bed, sitting on the floor (I’ve already said that we mostly sat on the floor because chairs were primarily for dogs) when suddenly Muldoon got up and ran for the door. As he scuttled over my legs I felt a warm, wet sensation. Sadly, he’d been caught short. Well brought up by Susie, he knew that puddles in the house were not allowed, but he couldn’t wait, and there was a zig-zag of pee sprinkled across the carpet as he made a bolt for the door. Across the carpet and my legs, of course.