Let me tell you about my soul-dog Fred. Fred with more lives than a cat.
Freddie was a Border Terrier we got as a puppy in the Summer of 2006 - nearly a year after I married my husband, Rob. We had a Freddie Mercury impersonator at our wedding and the name seemed apt. Fred lived up to his ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ anthem and as we worked our way through all the standard life events of a young couple, we loved the extra dimension of energy, love and adventure that Freddie brought with him.
We took him with us everywhere we could, enjoyed exploring new walks in the Hampshire countryside and taking him to our favourite (dog-friendly) beaches in Cornwall. He was always well behaved but super charismatic, drawing attention from all kinds of fellow dog lovers and getting into the odd scrape.
We still talk fondly of the time he jumped off a small cliff. In pursuit of a girl Border Terrier - Fred had followed her from the beach up the car park steps to peer down at us from above. Whilst she had made her way back down via the steps, he spotted her on the beach and with a nano-second of hesitation, took a flying leap through the air to join her. To this day I recall our slow-motion running and ‘Noooooooooooooo!!!!!!!’ as we looked up to see a starfished Border Terrier, legs akimbo, flying down onto the sand. Followed by silence as Fred splatted and fellow beach-goers looked on in disbelief. Fortunately, the sand was damp enough to soften his landing and with a quick shake, he was back to legging it after his, clearly intellectually superior, new BT girlfriend.
Fred on his favourite Cornish Beach.
We loved and adored our first fur baby but as the years passed, we looked to expand our family with children of the two-legged variety. It was not an easy journey. It was at times, heartbreaking and devastating. And Fred was there for us both, throughout. Always a reason to get on and get out. Offering full force canine, unconditional love that brought such huge comfort. Apart from the time he ate a dead frog - his breath was extremely challenging for at least a week.
As our story goes, we were incredibly fortunate. I finally fell pregnant with our first child and spent the period of that pregnancy not working, just at home with Freddie. I felt anxious that when I had the baby, I wouldn’t love them as much as I did Fred. I wanted him to be as happy, comfortable and relaxed as he could be when the baby arrived. Preparations didn’t go terribly well. Introductions to soft toys that weren’t his involved him, tenacious terrier that he was, staring and whining at the cupboard door for days. CD’s of baby noises only wound him up. It felt like he definitely had a sense something was going to change. We employed a dog-walker in the run up to the birth so he would always get his important exercise and doggy fun. It was a lady he took a pretty instant dislike to, sometimes even hiding under the bed when she came to the door.
When I was two days off due date, Freddie ran away from her on a local walk. She had been walking him in a field adjacent to a busy road - off the lead, even though she’d been asked not to. She rang me, quite cross and angry, and I headed off, with my heart in my stomach, to help come and find him. It didn’t actually take me too long to spot him. The trouble is, I was on one side of the busy road, he was on the other! He was sniffing (naturally) quite casually but seemed to sense I was there. As soon as he lifted his head up, his eyes locked with mine, his tail wagged and he began to set off across the road. Looking left to right, we were very fortunate there was not a great deal of traffic - apart from a Royal Mail van coming up the hill. The driver held it together though as a 9-month pregnant woman lurched into the road in front of his van waving her hands wildly and screaming “STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!”. Yes. That was me. I wrestled Fred up over my bump and we headed off, never to see that dog-walker again.
After I had my first daughter, Fred seemed to settle and we began to enjoy family life, the four of us. The adventures continued with walks, holidays to the beach and other various adventures. His new dog walker Sharon, was lovely. She took time to understand his little ways and he loved his walks with her. But despite our best efforts, Fred was not at all comfortable with the growing noise and energy that came with having a baby, then a toddler in the house. When I became pregnant for the second time, he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I had near constant nausea and vomiting from about 7 weeks onwards - and he did not seem happy about that, not one little bit.
A constant source of concern, it eventually became apparent that Fred was finding the role of family dog, extremely challenging. For all round welfare, we spent an agonising period of time trying to come up with a solution as to how we could make our little family set-up work. We took advice and recommendations from our vet and from various behaviourists. Eventually, we were so, so, incredibly lucky - my parents stepped in and offered to look after Freddie.
He lived with them for four years, giving the girls the space they needed to grow, and him the space to be the dog he needed to be. We spent as much time with him as we could, enrolled him in agility training (he was good! Apart from when he didn’t want to be …). Sharon moved away and we took our time in finding the right dog-walker to keep his physical and mental needs met. We found Raymond and Ange from Paws 4 Walks and he walked mainly with Raymond and his dog crew for over 11 years. As he got older and more demanding in his ways, I could only ever trust my parents or Raymond and Ange with his care. And that they did, for which we were beyond grateful.
Eventually, Freddie came back to live with us in 2015. It involved careful management, but as the children got older and understood better how to treat him, it got easier. He holidayed with us in Cornwall once more and one of my favourite family memories is when Rob travelled down with Fred after us and we met them at his favourite beach. We could see their silhouettes right at the far end of the beach. And ran to meet Fred. Oh, and Rob. Of course.
Things got easier as the girls got older.
Freddie reached the ripe age of 16. His many lives, more than a cat, had run out and we were utterly, utterly devastated to say goodbye. We had our ups and our downs but we had so, so many beautiful adventures and so much love. There is a huge Fred shaped hole in my heart and I will cherish my wonderful memories of him forever.