As I’ve said, all was fine while Simon was alive, but things fell apart a bit after his death. The Sage says he remembers Simon but not Huckleberry, so that means that darling Huck must have died first. I remember that day well because I looked after him for some hours while waiting for the vet, it still brings tears to my eyes, more than forty years later.
Things went a bit awry when one of the pups that had been given away was brought back after a few weeks – which was all right, it’s quite understandable if someone can’t manage a young puppy after all and changes their mind – but they didn’t contact us, they just left him tied to the gate and he might have been there for hours, he was certainly quite upset. My mother resolved never to give away a puppy again to someone she didn’t know personally – although when she did next time, to my stepfather’s secretary, that didn’t work out either, she was out all day and she had to give him back too. And so Mummy ended up with eleven dogs. And they were…
The old stagers – Jessica Gee and Susie
The gang of three – Muldoon, Nefertiti and Cleopatra
The next generation – Valentine, Bassington and Clovis
The young ones – Sam, Simon II and Isobel
These last were born once my stepfather was on the scene, after I was married but before they were. And my mother didn’t prove equal to being the pack leader and Muldoon wasn’t bothered, and the young boys had a fight. It must have been awful for her, such a thing had never happened before. Valentine got bitten on the neck and later developed epilepsy. It was such a shame, he was a lovely dog. Rather like Huck in appearance, though his hair wasn’t as long, he had a heart-shaped white mark on his head which prompted his name.
After this, my mother kept the dogs apart as far as possible for a while – that is, in two groups – until things settled down. Weeza remembers visiting as a small child and being quite nervous in amongst the swirling mass of dogs at her shoulder height. I used to ask my mother to shut some of them in the kitchen, but she pooh-poohed that, they were all friendly and harmless and it would be good for Weeza to get used to it. It wasn’t, needless to say. She was quite wary of dogs for years.
My stepfather wasn’t that keen on dogs himself, but he loved my mother very much and willingly moved in with the lot of them upon their marriage. This was in early February (I’m not big on anniversaries, I have a feeling it might have been the 9th. Otherwise the 8th or the 4th), 1976, and I do know the year because Al was born that April, in that house. Having hated a hospital birth with Weeza, I asked my GP if he was willing to deliver my next baby and he was very pleased to. Home births were well out of fashion at that time and it was an unusual request.
Jess and Susie lived to be very old, 17 and 16 respectively, but both Valentine and Clovis died fairly young, Clovis in an accident. It wasn’t really fair to expect Wilf (my stepfather) to live long-term in my father’s house so it was put on the market. Two building plots had already been sold, a widow had to pay death duties on her husband’s estate in 1970 (Socialism gone mad? I’m not a Socialist, you tell me) and she had to raise some money.
However, by the time the house was sold and a new one bought, there were only five dogs left, Muldoon, Bassington, Isobel, Sam and Simon. But it still seemed too many to take with them, so Wink and I offered to take one each.